The Circle mining district in east-central Alaska is one of the richest placer gold districts in the State, with an estimated total production of 1 million troy ounces since placer mining began in the district.
Deadwood Creek is one of the most productive in the district. Locally in 1894, the creek was rather unflatteringly called “Hog’ em” Creek as a result of the greedy nature of the creek discoverer, who attempted to take up an unfairly large part of the richest deposits by filing separate claims for all his many family members as well as fictitious people. Although not officially adopted, “Hog’em” seemed an appropriate name to the early miners on the creek, and it was used almost exclusively during the early days in the district. It was known for awhile as Deadwood Gulch, and Deadwood Creek eventually became its accepted name.
There were 47 claims on Deadwood Creek by 1896, and 110 men working 8 of those claims produced approximately 5,000 ounces of gold during that year. Yields of 2 to 3 ounces “to the shovel” were not uncommon, that is 2 to 3 ounces of gold could be recovered from the gravel shoveled into a sluice-box by one man in a 10-hour day.
Mining on Deadwood Creek has been nearly continuous since the original gold discovery. Initially, the placers were mined by drifting and shallow opencuts. The drift mines were commonly worked during the winter. Hydraulic mining was the primary mining method after 1909. A dredge with 4 foot buckets, and capable of digging 5 m below water level, operated during the 1937-38 season.
Mining in the 1930’s revealed that the paystreak in the gravel of Deadwood Creek was as much as 130 metres in width and included an additional 80 metres on the benches. In areas of quartzite bedrock, gold was found as deep as 1 m in cracks and crevices. On the second highest bench, gold was concentrated in the lower 1 m of gravel and upper 1 m of bedrock. Gold was flaky and fine, averaging 5 to 6 mg, and some nuggets weighed as much as 0.5 ounce.
Within Deadwood Creek, nuggets as much as 6 ounces were recovered. The apparent lack of a systematic change in the fineness of gold along Deadwood Creek indicates that the creek has a complex history of gold accumulation. The gold was derived from diverse and widely separated bedrock sources including bench deposits.