It is important to note that the price of gold during the 1890’s averaged $20.67 per ounce.
Bonanza Creek has been the most important of the gold-bearing creeks of the Klondike district, and was the one on which gold in large quantities was first discovered. The creek gravels of Bonanza valley have proved productive from Victoria Gulch down to the mouth of the creek—a distance of about thirteen miles. The gold is distributed along the creek in a somewhat erratic manner. Claims 25 through 36 all proved remarkably rich.
In 1898, some of these 500-foot claims yielded upwards of half a million dollars each at the rate of over $1,000 per running foot of valley, or 58 ounces per foot. The gold tenor of the gravels decreases approaching Eldorado forks, but increases again below the forks. A short stretch of the creek above Discovery claim, half a mile in length, was exceedingly rich and a fraction at the mouth of Little Skookum Gulch, about eighty feet in length, commonly known as Dick Lowe’s fraction, was reported to have yielded over $300,000.
A boulder from Bonanza Creek near Discovery, weighing 60 ounces, contained 20 ounces of gold. Additional evidence of the detrital origin of the gold is afforded by its worn character in the creeks, while the younger grains and nuggets found in the gulches are always rough and angular. Among the more important Bonanza gulches are Victoria (the most productive of the upper Bonanza gulches), O’Neil and Ready Bullion on upper Bonanza; and Big Skookum, Magnet, American, Fox, Monte Christo and Lovett gulches on lower Bonanza.
Hunker Creek is a tributary of the Klondike six miles above the mouth of Bonanza. It heads close to the Dome with Dominion Creek, and flows in a northwesterly direction. It has a length of fifteen miles, and is about equal in size to Bonanza Creek. The most important tributaries are Last Chance and Goldbottom Creeks, both of which come in from the left.
Pay gravels occur along Hunker Creek from claim No. 46 above Discovery on the right fork, down to the mouth of the valley—a distance of over twelve miles. A stretch of the creek about a mile in length, including Discovery claim and a few claims above and below it, proved very rich. In places, the yield amounted to 62 ounces per running foot of valley.
Another long stretch of almost continuously rich gravel extended from the mouth of Goldbottom down stream, a distance of a mile and a half. Good pay was also found at a number of points below this, notably on claim No. 71 below Discovery, and near the mouth of Henry Gulch on what was known as the Anderson concession. On claim No. 71, the gold mostly sank down into the bedrock, which consisted of broken andesite, and the overlying gravels were almost barren.
Andrew Hunker, an old Cariboo miner and early 40 Mile miner, found gold about 12 miles above the mouth of Hunker Creek on September 1, 1897. He took out $22.75 in two hours of panning only surface gravels. This was considered extremely rich. Hunker became one of the richest gold placer creeks in the world, next to Eldorado and Bonanza.
Hunker Creek gold occurs in bulky, rounded grains along the upper portion of the valley, and is the usual rough, flattish grains and scales farther down. Nuggets are fairly numerous in the rich stretch near Discovery claim, and also in some of the claims below Goldbottom. They are occasionally found as far down as Henry Gulch. The gold from about claim No. 45 to No. 59 below is generally darkened on the surface by iron.
On middle Hunker Creek, one of the large gold dredges recovered 11,000 ounces of gold in an eight-hour shift.
Dominion Creek is the largest, and one of the most important of the gold-bearing creeks of this district. Above Lombard Creek, the gold occurs in rough rounded grains and small nuggets. Farther down, a mixture of heavy grains—some well-worn and others quite rough and flaky—are found, along with an occasional large, well-worn nugget. Below Lower Discovery the gold becomes finer and flakier and nuggets are only occasionally found. The gold on Lower Dominion, below the mouth of Gold Run, is coarser than on portions of Upper Dominion and was probably largely derived from Gold Run Creek.
The bench or terrace gold often occurs in fairly large flat grains more uniform in size, smoother and more worn than the creek gold. The claims along the lower part of Gold Run Creek, while not equal to those on Eldorado Creek, proved exceedingly rich. A number of the best claims probably yielded over a quarter of a million dollars worth of gold.
“Hootch” Albert Fortier (he was from Quebec and got his name Hootch because he had a knack for being able to make alcohol out of nearly anything) actually found gold here in 1896, but did nothing about it until He staked Lower Discovery in May of 1897. John Brannin staked No. 1 Above on June 12. At the same time, Frank Biederman found gold on Upper Dominion and thought he was the first to find gold here. The Canadian government allowed both discovery claims and gave the creek name as Dominion.
Eldorado Creek is a small stream about seven miles in length, and from three to six feet in width at its mouth. Late in the season it carries barely a sluice head of water. The valley is flat-bottomed for three or four miles above its mouth, but narrow with the flats seldom exceeding 300 feet in width.
Eldorado Creek has proved the richest creek in the Klondike district, and one of the greatest placer creeks ever discovered. The first thirty-seven claims, with a few intervening fractions, yielded gold of an estimated value of $20-$25 million in the early days, and millions more have been added to this amount over the years.
The most productive portion of the creek extends from its mouth up to Gay Gulch a distance of about three and a half miles. The gravels on this stretch, with the exception of those on claims 18, 21, 34 and 35, were all extraordinarily rich. No. 17, at the mouth of French Gulch—reputed to be the richest claim in the whole district—yielded nearly a million and a half dollars worth of gold, and claims 5, 16 and 30 almost rivaled it in importance.
Eldorado gold is very coarse and is often angular and almost unworn. Nuggets are more plentiful than any other creek in the Klondike, and are often crystalline in form. Several nuggets, weighing in at 23 and 57 ounces, were found on the upper end of the paystreak. A 7-pound nugget was discovered on Chief Gulch. A number of specimens of unworn crystalline gold, in filiform and dendritic shapes, were found on Eldorado and other Klondike creeks.
Sulphur Creek has a length of seventeen miles, measured along the valley. Pay gravels occur fairly continuously along Sulphur Creek, from a point a short distance above the mouth of Green Gulch down to claim No. 35 below, a distance of about seven miles. The claims along this stretch were seldom exceptionally rich, and a few were barren or nearly so, but most of them yielded fair returns. Gold occurs in large angular pieces in the Upper Gulch part of the creek, and in small, flaky, rough grains farther down.
Oliver Millet, while working a claim on Eldorado, formed a theory about an ancient stream channel that formed Bonanza—he was right. In the winter of 1897-98, Millet struck gold on the white channels several hundred feet above the creek channel. Millet took out $20,000 from a 100 square foot claim and sold it for $60,000 because he was sick with scurvy. The new owner took out $500,000.
French Hill is one of the famous hill and bench gravels in the white channel that extended all the way over to Hunker Creek. On October 20, 1897, William “Cariboo Bill” Dettering, an old miner from Illinois, and his partner Joe Stacey staked the first claim. Cariboo Bill had a theory similar to Millet of Cheechako Hill about the high bench deposits. He sunk a shaft on the hill and the first pan from bedrock reportedly carried 11 ounces. They took out $13,000 and sold the claim for $40,000.
On July 23, 1897, Nathan Kresge and Nils Peterson staked Discovery Hill claim on Gold Hill. In ten days, using a rocker box and re-circulated water, Kresge took out $6,375 from a piece of ground 11×17 feet and three feet deep. Peterson moved further up the hill, sank a shaft 63 feet deep, and discovered even richer ground. By September 14, every possible claim on the hill was staked, and a few days later the Hunker Creek white channel was discovered from this proven theory.
Early Production Figures
Gold produced from this region (at approx. $20.67 an ounce):