The gold rush is one of the defining moments in Alaskan history. Throughout the 1860s to the early 1900s, the gold rush attracted multitudes to the cold Alaskan mountains.
After Russia sold Alaska, American prospectors, traders, and workers came to the new territory in search of a better life. In 1880 prospectors found gold in what is now Juneau, the capital city named after one of the founding prospectors. This event led to a rush of gold and mineral explorations in the north.
Discoveries of gold in the Yukon area further attracted prospectors, and discoveries of gold in the Klondike River led to the now famous Klondike gold rush of 1896. Droves of prospectors from Seattle and San Francisco came in waves, braving the cold in their search for gold.
Prospectors passed by land using trails at Chilkkoot, White Pass, Dyea, Dalton, and Valdez, while some chose to use the river trail at Stikine. Whether by land or water, the Alaskan climate was punishing to the new settlers.
Discoveries of gold in the Bering Coast, Anvil Creek, Nome Beach, and several other places led to settlements being abandoned and moving to where the gold was more promising.
Though most of the prospectors came for gold, Alaska is rich in several other minerals. Deposits of copper, tin, mercury, silver, and platinum have also been found. The mining of coal and marble strengthened the industry providing more workers with jobs and opportunities.
The shift to mining oil and gas, occurred in the late 1960s and continued on to the present. In the 1980s, Alaska provided almost 20 percent of oil production in the United States, and until today Alaska produces close to 600,000 barrels of oil a day.
Many industries now abound in Alaska, but the Alaskan gold rush was the spark that first started everything.