Location: On Taylor Highway 5, approximately 66 miles north of Alaska Hwy 1 from Tetlin Junction, 108 miles southwest of Dawson City via Top of the World Hwy. Population 30 - 50 (summer), 15 (winter)
Chicken is a community founded on gold mining and is one of the few surviving gold rush towns in Alaska. Gold was discovered in the Chicken area at Franklin on the 40-Mile River in 1886 and on Chicken Creek in 1894, prior to the famous Klondike gold rush. At the present time there are still several active gold mines in the Chicken vicinity. The gold taken from this area comes from cat mining, suction, dredging, and for the tourist there is gold panning in pay dirt direct from mining operations.
The Town of Chicken is on the Alaska Register of Historical Sites, the National Register of Historical Places, and includes many buildings from the turn of the century. By 1900, Chicken served approximately 400 miners who lived on their claims and mined the surrounding creeks. Everything including the mail had to be brought in from Eagle on the Yukon River by horses in the summer and horse-drawn sleds in the winter, a 10-day round trip. The old-timers wanted to call the town “Ptarmigan” but could not agree on the spelling, so the name Chicken was born.
In the late 1940s, FE Gold Company (Fairbanks Exploration) drilled for gold on Chicken Creek and felt there was enough to establish a ‘remote’ mining camp. The company bought claims from the local miners and purchased all the buildings in the community, including the road house, which was built to house and feed weary travelers who walked the Valdez-Eagle Trail, the 1903 general store, the schoolhouse that was built in 1905 as the Chicken Creek Hotel, and approximately 10 other buildings which are now on the National Register of Historical Places. These buildings were used by the mining company as a base of operation, known as the FE Camp. The Company actively mined on Chicken Creek each summer from 1959 to l967. The buildings were locked in the fall of l967 with the anticipation of returning as usual the next spring, but the company never reopened the mine. This part of Chicken remains a ghost town and is private property, with daily walking tours available. The Pedro Gold Dredge, which was used in this operation, was dismantled in Fairbanks and trucked to Chicken in l959. After reassembly, dredging began at the mouth of Chicken Creek and worked up the creek for three miles. The massive dredge is now located on private property where it can be viewed.
Facts from a local resident: “We don’t have a telephone. Mail comes by plane every Tuesday and Friday, weather permitting. Kids do correspondence for school and we medivac to Fairbanks in medical emergencies. We’ve got lots of wild animals in the area, not counting the bar patrons: black bears, grizzlies, caribou, weasels, lynx, wolves. The list is long. Moose are a common sight. The old grump left. We don’t have sales tax and we haven’t counted the hats in the bar for years.”
Local services include a bar, cafe, espresso and ice cream bar, mercantile, gift shop, gas station, post office and an RV campground with tent spaces, cabin and kayak rentals. Try your luck at free gold panning or get your local gold already in vials, as nuggets or jewelry. For those interested in local history there are prehistoric bones, rocks, mining artifacts and photographs of local people and articles of interest with a brief history on display at one of the local stores.
The Chicken Gold Camp hosts their annual Chickenstock Music Festival on Father’s Day weekend in mid-June, with about a dozen predominately bluegrass and folk performers. Plenty of fresh cooked food, local micro-brews and free camping is available on the 20-acre grounds with a weekend ticket purchase. Enjoy contests and kids' events, like an airdrop of chicken "peeps" with prizes. Dancing is often led by the enthusistic costumed chickens. Check out Chickenstock on the web at www.chickengold.com or on Facebook at Chickenstock-Music-Festival.