The 1980 Nelchina Gold Rush

a pick and shovel

Norman’s mother in California saw the story on the news.

Monday, February 25, 1980—the US Geological Survey people are going to announce the location of a gold discovery in the Nelchina basin tomorrow morning—the gold rush is on! We found out the gold is near the Nelchina Glacier. Dan’s brother, Denny had done some scouting in Anchorage and gained some other information that was helpful to us. The plan we had, Dan was going to fly us out and land us with his ski plane on the glacier.

Tuesday, February 26, 1980—Mike and I loaded our gear in the plane and we had some claim stakes. Dan stayed and helped with the measuring while Mike and I walked about 13 miles on snowshoes. That night, Dan flew in. It was getting quite dark and maybe -20°. Dan had Henry along and Henry was throwing out our duffle bags and sleeping bags and more stakes. When this stuff landed in the snow, it would get buried, so Mike and I hurried to where the drop area was and pulled everything on top of the snow that we could find. The star reflection on the snow gave us enough light that we could find them once they were up on top of the snow. There was one bundle of stakes we couldn’t find, but we did find our sleeping bags and grub. We dug another snow cave, this one smaller, for two people. Mike fixed supper that night. We didn’t have too bad a night, it was cool, but it was alright.

Wednesday, February 27, 1980—Dan flew in the next morning, and we staked six, forty acre claims. Then National Geographic and NBC News from Los Angeles California took pictures of us from their helicopter. My mother in California saw our pictures on the TV news. There was one helicopter (we didn’t see this happen, but were told later) tried to land and one skid went through the snow crust and damaged the helicopter. Then there was a light snowfall, but Dan was able to beat the darkness and fly us out to the Nelchina Lodge.

Saturday, March 1, 1980—worked on year end bookwork. Got gear ready to go back to Nelchina Glacier. David Harding from NPR Radio in Anchorage interviewed all of us here at Nelchina Lodge about the gold rush.

Sunday, March 2, 1980—got up very early and Dan flew Henry and me to the Nelchina Glacier and we re-staked these claims and staked six more. It was a long day on snowshoes. At one time, I was walking ahead pulling a hundred foot steel tape. Henry was behind me and as I’m snowshoeing along, I suddenly hear the sound of running water. This is not good! I hollered at Henry and I very carefully walked backwards on my snowshoes. The Nelchina River runs out of the glacier winter and summer and I had walked right over where it was flowing. I had no idea how far it was to water, but I wasn’t going to stay and find out!

Monday, March 3, 1980—we filled out the papers to file on the 12 claims. Dan, Mike and I went to Glennallen to file the claims.

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