McConnell Creek is about 6 miles long and flows south-southeast into the Ingenika River. It has carved its present channel in the bottom of an older valley, the sides of which slope very gently upwards to the mountain ranges that parallel the creek at a distance of several miles. Thus, for about 2 1/2 miles from its mouth it flows through a narrow rock canyon, and for the remainder of its course meanders over the terraced gravel floor of a rock-walled trench some 2,000 feet wide and 200 or 300 feet deep.
Gold was discovered at the mouth of McConnell Creek by Mr. P. Jensen of Hazelton in 1899. Returning in 1906, he located the Discovery claim 3 1/4 miles above the mouth of the creek. This led to a rush of staking in 1907-8. In 1931 Brown and Associates of Tulsa, Oklahoma, staked several claims. Rumors of their finding coarse gold in bedrock started another rush in 1932. Only Jensen remained to work his claims almost continuously from 1906 until about 1944.
In 1964, Columbia Placers Ltd. acquired the property bordering the entire 7 1/2 mile length of the McConnell Creek valley from McConnell Lake southward to the Ingenika River, a one-mile length of the Ingenika River below the mouth of McConnell Creek and 1/2 mile length of Snowslide Creek east of its entrance into the valley. During 1960 & 1961 sampling of the lower benches by backhoe pits and panning indicated 7,820,000 cubic yards yielding an average $1.35 per cubic yard. After further sampling and churn drilling, Columbia Placers Limited abandoned the properties which it held under lease in March, 1968.
Description Of The Deposit
Mr. P. Jensen produced the bulk of the gold taken from the creek. There is no record of the gold he mined prior to 1931, however, it has been stated that he took out 220 ounces in a single season. In the period 1931 to 1941 there is an official record of 1,100 ounces having been produced.
Most placer mining has been done on the gravel benches bordering the creek for about 2 miles above the canyon. The gravel is reported to rest on compact concrete-like silt or, according to others, on a few feet of boulder clay, which in turn rests on the silt. The silt is probably a deposit formed in a former lake. A shaft sunk by P. Jensen about 2 miles above the canyon is reported to have encountered about 138 feet of this material without reaching bedrock. Judging by the shaft dump, the base of the gravel there approximates creek level. The gravel may not be more than about 25 feet thick, because it does not as a rule extend to more than that height above the creek. It was deposited in rapidly flowing water in channels that continually shifted from side to side. It is a poorly sorted, commonly a cross-bedded mixture of well-rounded boulders, cobbles, pebbles, and sand interspersed with layers and lenses of sand. The boulders range in size up to several feet or more in diameter. The gold is erratically but widely distributed in various layers from the surface down to the silt or boulder clay but, so far as can be ascertained, does not occur in the silt. Mining operations did not encounter bedrock anywhere along the creek, and it is not known whether gold was concentrated there. A little gold has been found in nearly all the tributary creeks.
The gold occurs as small, rounded grains, or as larger, generally flattened nuggets. It is accompanied by abundant black sand and occasional flakes of platinum. Unfavourable operating features include the apparent erratic distribution of the gold, the numerous large boulders in the gravel, and the very low gradient of the creek.
The gold was formerly widely dispersed through great quantities of glacial debris that doubtless formerly lay in the McConnell Creek Valley. Post-glacial streams have gradually cleared the valley of much of this debris, leaving behind most of the relatively heavy gold, which, during the process, continually worked its way downward towards the silt base, the valley acting as though it were a gigantic sluice-box.
The Pleistocene ice-sheet moved about east-southeast across the McConnell Creek Valley, and appears to have been incapable of transporting significant quantities of rock debris more than 15 miles. Thus, a possible ultimate source of the gold now found in the creek lay in the north end of the McConnell Range, or its counterpart north of Thorne Creek, or in the adjacent drift-covered areas. These source deposits, however, did not necessarily contain commercial concentrations of gold.