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The Klondike Gold Fields


Written expressly for the Klondike Nugget by E. Leroy Pelletier.

A little over 25 months have elapsed since the Western world was thrown into a state of great excitement by the reports of the discovery of rich placer gold fields on the Yukon.

The miners returning to their various homes with big sacks of the precious dust and with still bigger stories, lent assurance to these reports, and the conditions of the financial world being peculiarly favorable, one of the greatest "stampedes" known in history resulted.

Homes were mortgaged, properties of all kinds sold at a sacrifice, and fortunes great and small - even lives - were risked in the endeavor to reach the place where gold was to be found in such quantities.

It is interesting, after this lapse of time to read the stories which caused people to tear themselves from home and all its associations and take up a life to which not one in twenty had been used, and, while most of them consist mainly of ridiculous exaggerations, yet each day brings us nearer to a realization of the fact that after all they missed the mark only a little.


And it is gratifying to know that, stripped of its filmy vestments woven from fabrications invented by returning miners whose quick transitions from poverty to opulence had turned their heads, stories manufactured by more experienced word-carpenters for the benefit of readers of sensational newspapers, willful falsehoods told for a more serious purpose by the boomer of "wild-cat" claims - to say nothing of the "official reports" of "the-man-who-happened-to-be-there," and who was supposed to know all about it - it is most gratifying to know that when all such delusions have been set aside and the mists have been cleared away by the rigors of two arctic winters, together with all the incidentals and ups and downs experienced by the average man who participated in that memorable stampede for a fortune, the hopes and disappointments, visions of wealth and hard rubs with cruel poverty, and, taking into consideration all the difficulties and hardships under which the pursuit of a pay streak must ever be made in this country - in other words, seen as it actually is, this district is considered by those best acquainted with it and most capable of judging, one of the greatest mining camps of modern times.

The writers of the articles above referred to made the most of the material at their disposal and many elaborate stories were built on a very light foundation.  And yet, had the authors known, they might have told a better story, and have based it on truth.

These tales tell of pans of dirt yielding hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars in gold, but they fail to tell of the miles and miles of ground that will pay handsomely when worked by improved methods.  They tell of Eldorado creek, but other creeks have since been discovered the aggregate output of which will far surpass that of the world famous gulch.  They tell of the richness of the creek claims, but their authors cannot foresee that within two years miles of beach claims will have been located along the banks of these same creeks, beside which, for richness, the adjoining creek claims will not compare at all.  They tell of pay streaks hundreds of feet in width the average pan from which staggers the credulity of the most gullible, but they are silent about the immense deposits of gravel every cubic yard of which will pay enormously as soon as hydraulic methods are well introduced.


And, as the sensational writer never exaggerates on one side of a question only, they told of the terrible hardships which one must face, not stating how incredibly soon enterprise would reduce these to a minimum; how transportation facilities would be increased until it was more than adequate to the requirements of the community; how methods of mining then so costly and laborious would so soon be succeeded by other methods infinitely less so; how even the terrible mosquito which flaunted a challenge in the faces of all others in the world, the Jersey breed preferred, would vanish before the numerous fires left burning by careless prospectors!

They told how the gold was "held in the relentless grasp of everlasting frost," but they did not know at that time that the same frost would relent to such an extent that it would melt and vanish before a good head of water, leaving as little trace as if it had never been, and that the pay gravel thus frozen was, by the use of hydraulic methods of mining rendered more easily worked than the cement gravel beds of California and Cariboo, and less expensive than most of the "dredging propositions" in the river beds of New Zealand.


There are single claims in this district which will yield from first to last over $1,000,000 in gold - in some cases more, notable Nos. 13 and 16 Eldorado, and Nos. 2 and 26 above on Bonanza, each of which will, I believe, produce the magnificent sum of $1,500,000 in gold.  There are probably others which will reach this figure but the writer is not well enough acquainted with them to be sure.

I have seen many pans of dirt that yielded from $200 to $500, and some that went over $1,000, but I realize that these indicate practically nothing, for they are always obtained under extraordinary circumstances.  Usually, of course, these pans are the result of scraping the bedrock in a particularly rich spot.

But a matter of much greater importance and which influences knowing ones far more than rich pockets is the great extent of gravel which will pay handsomely to work, even by the methods in vogue at present.

Eldorados are of little interest to the poor prospector, for he knows that, in the very nature of things we cannot hope that many such creeks will be found in any one district, and they are of as little interest to the capitalist, for he also knows that the present owner fully appreciates the value of the ground of which he is the fortunate possessor, and the price he will set on it will be fully as much as it is worth - so it is not to be bought.  But both are interested in knowing where they may be secure, each in his own way, a piece of ground which will yield him a competence, if not a fortune.

The season just past has been rich in results along that line.

During that period an immense amount of ground which 12 months ago was classed as "wild-cat," and which was for sale at prices which indicated that the owners had absolutely no faith in it at all, has been prospected, and the results have far surpassed the expectations of the most sanguine.


Gold Hill, which 12 months ago could have been purchased entire for $50,000, has been developed and single claims have produced that amount in gold, and it has, in the words of the miner, "hardly been prospected yet."  And, more encouraging still, we now know that this famous hill, the output of which from first to last exceeds $3,000,000, is but a portion of a continuous bed of gravel which extends, so far as known at present, from French Hill on Eldorado, to No. 49 below on Bonanza, on the left limit, a distance of over seven miles, and uniformly rich.  At No. 49 above mentioned, this gravel bed is lost, but another appears at No. 76 below on Bonanza, on the right limit, which many claim is a continuation of the one first described.  Be that as it may, the writer will venture the assertion that for the full distance of seven miles this "white pay streak" (so-called from the fact that it is composed almost entirely of white quartz gravel, boulders and ground up quartz of the variety known to Colorado miners as "bull quartz") will average $1,000 per lineal foot.

This sounds very much exaggerated no doubt to those who are unfamiliar with the ground in question, but it is fully borne out by the prospecting that has been done and the results thereof.  At Gold Hill, this pay streak is about 200 feet in width, while at Monte Cristo gulch it is fully 750 feet in width, and while it may not be so rich in spots as Gold Hill, it shows as much gold per running foot at the lower end as at either Gold Hill or French Hill, while that portion of it lying between Little Skookum gulch and Adams creek, and known as Cheechahko Hill, has so far proven the richest portion of it.


Now, when we remember that we have similar channels on Hunker, Dominion and Quartz creeks, that on Dominion having been proven up for a distance of over 15 miles, it will be seen that nature has been most considerate of the poor prospector and has distributed her treasure not only lavishly but impartially.

There are those, of course, who will take issue with me on many of the above points - many who, through some unfortunate circumstance and probably through no fault of their own, have been unsuccessful, and who are consequently discouraged and somewhat pessimistic.  And these men have my most sincere sympathy.  In many cases they have been the victims of the unjust legislation with which this country has been cursed and whose "restrictive legislation" has proven a greater drawback and hardship on the prospector than any or all of the natural disadvantages of the country.


From the foregoing, the average reader will no doubt expect me to estimate the current season's output at something like $25,000,000.  Not at all.  I hold that the truth about this country is the greatest story that can be told about it, and while told in that way the story may lack some of the elements which certain persons believe to be essential in order to "boom the camp," I am convinced that a "plain, unvarnished tale" will carry more weight with those whose opinion we most value than one embellished with statements which will ot bear the closest investigation.  If I underestimate a little it will do no harm, for the investigator always likes to find a little more than he expected, besides, exaggerations are always so palpable to the astute reader that he at once decides that the story must be taken "with a grain of salt" and he is apt to season it so much that it will not appeal to his taste at all.

So I mean to give facts as nearly as my knowledge of the country and the prevailing conditions will enable me to do, and if I err it will be in judgment and not in intent.

An attempt to estimate the output of the Klondike and Indian River districts for the season beginning October 1st, 1898, and ending October 1st, 1899, must be based on a shrewd guess at best.  And everyone has a right to guess.  From the best information at my disposal I have estimated the present season's output at between $10,000,000 and $12,000,000.

And this is a remarkable showing when all things are considered.

First, most of this gold comes from new ground - ground which one year ago was either totally unknown or only supposed to be rich.  Our richest bench claims were, as I have shown before, almost unknown a year ago, while at least two creeks which have added very materially to the gross output - Hunker and Dominion - were very uncertain quantities 12 months ago.  True, claims on these creeks were sold for large sums - more in some cases than they would bring now - but that price was not based on the showing that the creek had made, but was simply the result of the inflation of values caused by the belief and expectation that the coming "cheechahkos" would have more money than sense, and would buy anything at any price.  But, while in individual cases these prices were actually paid, other incidents show that the owners of the property in question did not really have so much faith in it.  Alex McDonald made some of his best buys on Dominion not much over a year ago, and the prices ranged from $500 to $3500 for his choicest properties on Dominon, while in one case at least a half interest in one of the best claims on Dominion was exchanged for a half of No. 7 above discovery on Moosehide.


Last season's output was somewhere about 88,000,000, and it came almost entirely from the creek claims on Bonanza and Eldorado creeks.  Had these same claims been worked to the same extent this season, the output would have been nearly if not quite double what it is, for the pay had been located on all of them - an item which occupied more than half the working season last year.  But the imposition of the exorbitant, and in many cases prohibitive royalty cased many of these heavy producers to be closed down this season, the owners hoping that within a reasonable time the "powers that be" would come to a sensible understanding of the situation and either materially reduce or altogether abolish this "source of revenue" which is having the opposite effect to that which it was expected to produce by those who are responsible for it.

When it is remembered too, that on most of the claims which have made up this sum, the pay had not been located until very late in the season, and that all the "dead work" which will ever be necessary to work these claims out had to be done the first season, and the many privations and hardships under which the men worked who produced the gold, a production of $10,000,000 is a really remarkable showing.


Bonanza creek, originally the Discovery creek of the Klondike district and its famous tributary, Eldorado, still hold the lead.  George Carmack was the discoverer of Bonanza creek and discovery claim is located above midway between the mouth and the source.  There are about 100 creek claims on bonanza creek proper above discovery and 105 claims below.  Of these, 12 claims below and 22 above were worked this season.  About 329 hillsides and bench claims out of a total of over 1500 were worked.  Total output, about $4,000,000.

Eldorado has 80 creek and about 1,000 bench claims (mostly located under the old regulations, and therefore only 100 feet square) of which about 30 creek claims and 100 bench claims produced gold.  Total, about $3,500,000.

Hunker creek, running about parallel with Bonanza and entering the Klondike about 10 miles from the mouth, is about the same length as Bonanza creek, having 60 claims in all above discovery - right and left forks included - and 81 claims below discovery and above the mouth of Last Chance.  A government concession, three miles in length, extends from Last Chance to the mouth of Hunker which would, if staked in 500-foot claims, make the total number of creek claims below discovery 111.  Of these about 20 above and 12 below were worked.  About 600 hillside and beach claims have been located on Hunter creek and its principal tributary, Last Chance, of which nearly 200 produced gold this season.  Take output, about $1,500,000.

Of the tributaries of the above mentioned creeks, but few produced any amount worth mentioning.  Victorial gulch, at No. 43 above on Bonanza creek, has several rich paying claims and a few have also been opened up on Ready Bullion, a tributary at No. 76 above Skookum (3 above), Adams (6), Magnet (19), American (20), Fox (25), Monte Cristo (27), Boulder (36), "49 Gulch" 40, and Lovett (86) below, all have from one to three rich claims near the mouth, where the "white pay streak" crosses, but none of them have produced any very large amount this season owing to the fact that they were all indifferently worked.  These properties will make an axcellent showing next season no doubt.

On Hunker tributaries the same is true.  Last Chance and Gold Bottom the latter being the first creek in the Klondike district from which gold was actually sluiced, and whose discoverer, Robert Henderson, is really entitled to the distinction of being known as "The discoverer of the Klondike") are the only creeks on which pay dirt has been uncovered so far.  There are a few fine claims on Gold Bottom.

Within the past few months an old channel has been traced from near discovery on Hunker, along the left limit all the way down to the mouth, and another from about No. 15 above discovery to the mouth on the left limit of Last Chance.

The claims on these two new pay streaks are being opened up very fast and next season they promise to rival those on the White channel of Bonanza.  The old channel on Hunker is higher above either creek level than that of Bonanza, being about 300 feet above, while the bedrock of Gold Hill is but 175 feet above the creek level.  The gravel on the Bonanza bed is 115 feet in depth in the deepest places, while that of Hunker and Last Chance seldom exceeds 60 feet.  The Hunker channel, while very rich, is not so rich as that of Bonanza nor is the pay streak of such extent in width.

Hunker is developing several benches of the later formation and at an elevation of from 40 to 60 feet above creek level, which compare very favorably with the best on Bonanza, while in the still later formation of "slide" benches and hillside claims, she promises to surpass Bonanza.

In all honesty, it must be said that Dominion creek did not meet the expectations of her most ardent admirers.  This was not because Dominion creek was not an exceptionally good creek, but because too much was expected from it.

Dominion is a good sample of some of the richest creeks which in the natural course of things we may hope to discover in this country, excellent ground, and every claim will yield a handsome sum, but not an Eldorado.  Being shallow, averaging about 18 feet to bedrock, and the gravel a very fine wash, it is perhaps the cheapest ground we have in the immediate district to work.  Scarcity of wood for fuel and the lack of enough large timber for sluice lumber is the chief drawback, as it is with all creeks on the southern side of the divide.

We hear a good deal about "four feet of pay" on Dominion, but I have failed to find it.  In fact, the pay is confined to a very thin strip of gravel near or on bedrock, and four inches is more common than four feet.  At the same time the pay is very good indeed through this strip, and the pay streak will average fully 200 feet in width between discoveries and wider below lower discovery.  Lower discovery on dominion creek is one of the best hydraulic propositions in the world at the present time, and ten or twenty miles of the creek claims could be purchased very reasonably.  There are 26 creek claims above upper discovery, 50 claims between upper and lower discoveries and 250 below lower discovery.  Of these about 50 were producers this season.  From upper discovery to 120 below lower discovery, a distance of about 15 miles, an old channel follows the left limit, somewhat broken in places, but very rich where intact.  About 100 claims were opened up on this strip this summer.  Unlike the old channels which skirt along Hunker and Bonanza, this one is not very far abov ethe present creek level - averaging about 20 feet - and as the gravel bed is shallow, averaging about 10 feet or less, it is all "summer ground," and therefore will be very economically worked.  The total output of Dominion will be about $2,500,000.

For the benefit of purchasers I will mention that the "Dominion muddle" for which the administration of Thomas Fawcett was responsible and which arose through allowing two discoveries on the same creek, and staking to be done both up and down from each, thus causing the claims between discoveries to overlap and those below lower discovery to become hopelessly (for the original locators) confused, has at last been settled up so that titles are quite safe.

Those between discoveries were settled in the courts and in the case of those below lower the minister of the interior emulated the monkey with the cheese - confiscated the whole for the government.

Sulphur creek has been rather "backward" in coming forward" principally owing to the fact that the muck is very deep - averaging about 35 feet - and the creek bed very wide, making it difficult to locate the pay streak.  This creek was the victim of the "lay man" this season, also many persons who had taken lays there and finding the conditions as above stated, becoming disgusted and leaving the creek.  This cause a stampede of nearly all the lay men on the creek, with the result that the creek had a "black eye" for the greater part of the season and was practically deserted.  Sulphur enters Dominion creek at No. 280 below lower and has 90 claims above discovery and 130 below.  No. 116 is at the mouth, however, the rest being staked on what is really Indian river or a continuation of Dominion, which is the main fork of Indian river.  Of these but 35 in all were worked seriously and on only about 10 were the dumps sluiced.  Those claims on which serious work was done made a remarkably good showing and prices of sulphur claims have more than doubled since the clean-up, having now reached a point almost as high as when at the zenith of her boom a year ago.

Though hillside claims have been located all along Sulphur and some prospecting done at intervals no pay so far has been fuond on any of them.  Total output estimated at $250,000.

Gold Run is a tributary of Dominion, coming in at No. 228 below discovery, but it is quite pretentious enough to be entitled to a place amongst the larger creeks.  Staked in March, 1898, it was not prospected until the autumn of that year and only seven claims were worked seriously.  These were numbers 22, 23, 24, 34, 37, 41 and 48.  These claims all made an excellent showing, and Gold Run properties in the locality indicated now command a price equal to tht of best dominion claims.  The pay is much the same as that of Dominion, being confined for the most party to a narrow strip on bedrock.  The hillside claims have not been sufficiently prospected as yet to make an estimate as to their value possible.  Total output probably $60,000.

Quartz creek has been prospected off and on for the past 10 years, nearly every one of the early prospectors having followed the bars of Indian river as far as Quartz creek and then tried the creek bed.  But it remained for this season to demonstrate that this creek also has an accompanying old channel on which have already been found some rich benches.  Those lying between Canon and Calder creeks on the right limit of Quartz are very rich, and it is as certain that those on the same bench below Calder will prove as rich when developed next season.  The output amounted to only a few thousands of dollars this season owing to the fact that very little more than prospecting and "dead work" was done.

Of the smaller tributaries of the large creeks on the south side of the divide, little can be said.  Recently pay has been found on the benches on Cariboo creek, a tributary of Dominion, at 27 below upper, but nothing has ever been found in the creek, though claims sold for a high price a year ago, many entertaining very sanguine hopes for its future.  Little Blanche, the most promising tributary of Quartz, has not been thoroughly proven yet though ground sluicing has been done all summer on Nos. 10 and 11 with excellent results.  None of the Sulphur tributaries have proven rich as yet.

There is some very good summer ground on Eureka creek, a tributary of Indian river, on the opposite side to Dominion and Quartz, but owing to its great distance from the base of supplies little more than representation work has been done so far.

A good deal of prospecting is being done on the various hydraulic concessions on Indian river and Australia creek, but with what results I have not been able to learn to my satisfaction, though I have great confidence in some of them.

Of the other creeks which were located during the period when anything in the shape of a gulch was stampeded in the hope that the ground thereon would be saleable at some price, little is known as almost no prospecting has been done on any of them.  Others have been so indifferently prospected as to leave them in a worse position than before a pick had been applied at all, for, while 10 holes suck to bedrock will not in most cases prove the value of a claim, one shaft sunk on a new creek without results is often sufficient to damn it permanently.

The closing to location of three of our principal creeks - Bonanza, Eldorado and Quartz, with their many miles of tributaries, all of which look promising, has greatly discouraged legitimate prospecting not only on these creeks, but on Hunker, Dominion and Sulphur, for the prospector does not know at what moment the creek on which he is working will be closed and his work count for naught.

To this cause may be attributed the fact that the white channel of Bonanza creek has not been traced definitely below No. 49, for it is believed by all who are familiar with it to continue to the Yukon or Klondike, and the uncovering of it would add several miles of rich "poor man's ground" to the district.

Source:  The Klondike Nugget, November 1, 1899.




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