Independence Mine, Hatcher Pass
Hatcher Pass: Independence Mine State Historical Park

Emerald Slopes Hid A Heart Of Gold

Robert Lee Hatcher staked the first lode gold claim in Willow Creek Valley in 1906, and a gold mining boom followed. Shut down as non-essential to the war effort in 1943, Independence Mine proved unprofitable after the war and closed for good in 1951. In a few short years, the mining operation headquartered here produced nearly $6 million worth of gold at World War II era prices, a small fraction of gold's value today.

When Independence Mine State Historical Park came into being in 1980, the manager's house became a visitor center, the assay office a museum. Some buildings were stabilized; others collapsed beneath winter snows or were removed. Preservation work on a dozen historic structures continues.

Best place to begin a walking tour is at the visitor center, which offers free brochures with maps and explanations, or just follow interpretive signs along the way. Guided tours may be available. Recreational gold panning is permitted and gold pans may be borrowed at the visitor center.

Independence Mine State Historical Park

West view: stabilized bunkhouses, a mill in ruins, mine tailings

Independence Mine State Historical Park lies 60 miles northeast of downtown Anchorage. Drive northeast on the Glenn Highway (Alaska Route 1) through Palmer to mile 49.5 and turn west on Fishhook Willow Road; continue 17.5 miles farther to Gold Cord Mine road and another mile on that road to the park. Fishhook Road pavement extends to Motherlode Lodge at mile 14. The winding road beyond the lodge is being improved but remains steep and narrow, not suitable for large vehicles or trailers.

Fishhook Road is open to mile 17.5 for winter skiing and snowmachining. Beyond the turnoff to Independence Mine State Historical Park and the Hatcher Pass Lodge, the road may be closed by snow, September to July.

To make a loop trip (summer only), continue on Fishhook Road over Hatcher Pass summit to Willow at Mile 71 of the Parks Highway; total mileage from Anchorage by way of Palmer and Willow is about 170 miles.