23264 Gold Cord Rd, Palmer, AK 99645.
Highway 1 north of Palmer, Fishhook Rd towards Hatcher Pass.
Highway 3 Wasilla, Fishhook Rd (Main Street) towards Hatcher Pass.
Mid-JUN to Labor Day daily 10-18.
Day Use Parking Fee USD 5.
Guided Tour: Adults USD 5.
Guided Tour: D=45 min.
Independence Mine State Historical Park Visitor Center, 23264 Gold Cord Rd, Palmer, AK 99645, Tel: +1-907-745-3975.
Salmon Berry Travel & Tours, 515 W 4th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501, Tel: +1-907-278-3572, Fax: +1-907-278-3572. E-mail:
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1886||gold discovered southeast of Anchorage.|
|SEP-1906||first lode gold claim in the Willow Creek Valley discovered and staked by Robert Lee Hatcher.|
|1938||Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company (APC) formed.|
|1941||APC employs 204 men and produces 34,416 ounces of gold.|
|1942||the United States enter World War II.|
|1943||Independence Mine ordered to close.|
|1946||wartime ban lifted.|
|JAN-1951||Independence Mine closed.|
|1974||Independence Mine listed on the National Register of Historic Places.|
|197?||271 acres of land donated to the Alaska Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation for establishment of Independence Mine State Historical Park.|
The granite of the Talkeetna Mountains started as a mass of magma which never reached the surface, it stuck and as it was covered by thick layers of rock it cooled very slowly. This is how granite forms, the slow cooling means that the first substance to solidify is the one with the highest melting temperature, then the one with the next lower, and so on. At the same time the heat of the magma heats the surrounding rocks and the groundwater. The reason why the magma was rising was the opening of cracks, and if more cracks open while the magma is already solidified but still hot, those cracks fill with groundwater which is heated by the hot granite. The water creates underground convection circles, which transport dissolved elements from a source rock to a destination, where they recombine and form minerals. This is called hydrothermal mineralization. The main mineral of such veins is often quartz, and so the cracks filled with quartz, and the small amounts of gold formed flakes of in the quartz. If there are other metals the gold is often combined with lead, tin or copper ore, but here is only quartz and gold.
The weathering finally removed all the rocks above and the granite is now at the surface. The granite is also weathered, as are the quartz veins, but the gold is unchanged, because it is inert and does not react with other substances. The flakes which were found in the rivers below could be traced to the granite and the gold bearing veins.
Independence Mine is an underground gold mine located in the Talkeetna Mountains near Hatcher Pass above tree line. After the discovery of gold southeast of Anchorage in 1886 prospectors spread out, testing the creeks in the nearby mountains. Following the gold bearing rivers upstream they found gold scattered in quartz veins throughout the granite in the Talkeetna Mountains. Those veins were called mother lode, because they were the source of the gold. The first lode gold claim in the Willow Creek Valley was discovered and staked in September 1906 by Robert Lee Hatcher. The pass was later named after him.
Placer gold was successfully mined by individual miners, but lode mining was expensive, because it required investment in elaborate tunnels and heavy machinery. Companies merged to pool resources and reduce expenses. Finally, there were only two mines, the Alaska Free Gold (Martin) Mine on Skyscraper Mountain, and Independence Mine on Granite Mountain. In 1938 the two merged to form the Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company (APC). They held 83 mining claims and were the largest producer in the Willow Creek Mining District. These years were the heyday of gold mining in the area. In 1941, APC employed 204 men and produced 34,416 ounces of gold. The gold was worth $1.2 Million, today [MAR-2023] this would be about $66 Million. The miners town was home for 24 families.
But the end came fast and was for political reasons. In 1942, the United States entered World War II. Mining was regulated by the War Production Board, which designated gold mining as nonessential to the war effort. Independence Mine continued to operate because it also mined sheelite, a tungsten ore, and tungsten was a strategic metal. But soon the exemption was revoked and Independence Mine was ordered to close because its scheelite production was too low. When the wartime ban was lifted in 1946, there were other obstacles, like the fixed rate of $35 per ounce. The production costs grew due to postwar inflation and gold was not profitable anymore. And after only being back in operation for five years, Independence Mine was closed by APC in January 1951.
The pass was depopulated, the village became a gost town. Finally, in the 1970s the importance of the site for American history was recognized. It was entered into the National Register of Historic Places, and 271 acres of land were donated to the Alaska Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation. In 1980 the ownership was transferred to the State of Alaska.
The site is today a park called Independence Mine State Historical Park which covers the two abandoned mines, The park has a Visitor Center and museum at the Mine Managers House, which is a very good starting point, as it offers background info and brochures for a self-guided tour through the mine camp. In other words, this tour is a mining museum and an open air museum of historical mining related buildings. The museum has displays about mining, natural history and the Independence Mine history. The principles of the three gold-mining methods panning, placer mining, and underground mining are explained. The museum also has a sort of replica mine with the typical tools and machinery.
The Hardrock Trail leads to the buildings of the abandoned mining town. Beneath the Visitor Center, the Assay Office and the Bunkhouse No. 2 are open. The latter also contains a small gift shop and café. There is a free brochure explaining the history and use of 15 buildings and user can visit them on a self-guided walk. Highlight is the Water Tunnel Portal at the far end with the battery powered mine train. It's also possible to book a guided tour, which actually shows the same building, but also includes the possibility to enter some buildings which are normally not open. The tours are offered by Salmon berry Tours and take 45 minutes.
There was actually a try to reactivate the mine around 1980. A gold mining company reactivated some tunnels outside the area of the park, but closed them again after only a few years. In 1980 the gold price was between $540 and $850 per ounce. Today  it is around $2000 per ounce, and many mines were already reactivated.