Birch Creek was the namesake for the Birch Creek mining district, the forerunner of the Circle mining district. The creek originally was called Too-whun-na by the local Indians, which translates to water-lake-river. It was subsequently given the name Birch Creek by traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Yukon in the mid-1800’s. Although the initial gold discovery in the district was on Birch Creek, the rich deposits in the Mastodon and Deadwood Creek areas quickly drew the early miners away from the lower grade deposits on Birch Creek.
Birch Creek is approximately 560 km long and empties into the Yukon River some 50 km below Fort Yukon. The headwaters were, most likely, captured from a west-flowing drainage, perhaps the headwaters of the ancestral Chatanika River. Upper Birch Creek resembles a gigantic fish hook, flowing west, south, east, and north as it parallels the lower Yukon River for 240 km.
The broad flood plain of the upper and middle stretches of Birch Creek is composed predominantly of pebble to cobble gravel that contains a few boulders of primarily quartz and quartzite. Panned concentrates are low in magnetite and ilmenite, but they are rich in garnet.
Aside from the discovery period, little mining was done on Birch Creek until the 1980’s. During the spring of 1894 about a half ounce of gold per man per day was being taken from the discovery site on Pitka’s Bar. Mining operations using heavy equipment with modern high-volume sluiceboxes have been active along the upper part of Birch Creek.
Nuggets recovered were generally less than 1 ounce. Gold in small quantities can still be panned from just about anywhere along the upper 160 km of the creek. Several flakes per pan, however, is probably not economic, although the volume of gravel is large.