A Little History
The historic AJ mine site is right in the middle of present day downtown Juneau, one of the first big gold-rush towns in Alaska.
In 1880, Chief Kowee, showed prospectors Joe Juneau and Richard Harris the presence of gold in what is now named Gold Creek in Silver Bow Basin. A first rush of about 40 miners brought trading posts, saloons and missionaries. Within a year, the tent camp became a small town and was the first town founded after Alaska's purchase from Russia.
The strike sparked the Juneau gold rush which resulted in the development of many placer and lode mines including the largest (of their time) gold mines in the world: the Treadwell complex of lode mines on Douglas Island (across the channel from Juneau) and the AJ lode mine, in Juneau itself. The steep, wet, timber-covered, mountain setting provided low cost hydro power, transportation, and lumber and made mining here profitable in the early 20th century.
The Treadwell Complex was one of the most technologically advanced mines of its day. Up to 2,000 people worked at the mine before a collapse allowed the rising tide to flood the tunnels in 1917. All operations at the Treadwell complex ceased by 1922. As the Treadwell mine declined and closed, the AJ mine rose in prominence.
The Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company began operations near Juneau in 1912, and the AJ mill itself began operation in 1917. At the Mill ore was sorted, crushed, and treated to extract gold. Electric-powered engines hauled trains of 40 ore cars along the main haulage route from the mine two miles away in Silver Bow Basin to the AJ mill, the steepest in the world. Ore fell between levels. Water came via flume from Gold Creek and in winter, the steam power plant pumped sea water from Gastineau Channel. After years of losses and labor problems, the mine became profitable in the mid-1920s: with over 600 workers it set production records and became the largest operation of its kind in the world. Through the decade, it was the main economic engine of Juneau, though fishing, canneries, transportation services and a sawmill contributed to Juneau's growth through the early 1900s. In the 1930s with over 1,000 workers, the mine produced 12,000 tons of ore per day and operated 24 hours a day, 363 days a year (only closed on Christmas Day and the 4th of July). This success was an important factor in softening the impact of the Great Depression on Juneau. The mine continued operation until it was closed by federal order in 1944, since gold was considered non-essential for the war effort. In total, over 90 million tons of ore were mined, producing millions of ounces of gold. Mining was replaced by the expansion of government during the war and afterwards, when Alaska became the 49th state in January 1959.
Noted for its innovations, the AJ mill crushed almost 100 million tons of ore that produced 3½ million ounces of gold, worth billions today, making Juneau the lode mining capital of the world. Most of the AJ mine buildings were burned by vandals and little can be seen by visitors these days because of the growth of alders. Some ruins can be viewed from the Mount Roberts Tram, and the Old Steam Plant (large silver building with a red roof) still stands on the hill side of South Franklin street. As late as 2010 one of the hydropower plants built to power the AJ was still in use. Mill tailings or waste rock built the airport, Egan Drive, and around one-third of downtown Juneau.
Juneau's prospecting heritage and incredible scenery began drawing visitors in the early 1900s. As a popular cruise ship port and a favorite destination among adventure travelers, Alaska's capital continues to draw visitors from around the world today.
The GZ has been created to look like the entrance to an old mine. Do not fear you won’t need your helmet lantern or pick axe, and you can leave the canary at home.
The cache container is a small 6"x5"x3" Lock and Lock type container which has been cammoed. Cache is hidden approximately 4 feet off the ground. Inside is a log, and a variety of goodies that should appease all ages of cacher.
A note on trackables and the trackables inventory... This cache is frequented in the summers mainly by cruise ship passengers and visitors to our fair city. Having traveled and cruised ourselves, we understand that an Internet connection may be difficult (or expensive) to come by when traveling. The inventory will probably not be accurate during the busy summer season. We will do an inventory update before the first ship of the season arrives, and another after the last has left for the year.
Congrats to daveidaknz who was the First to Find!
And a special congrats to Bill and Heather who were the FCSPTF (First Cruise Ship Passenger To Find), and the recipients of the “Golden Treasure”
Finally, if you enjoyed our cache, we would appreciate your consideration of giving it a favorite point! A big thank you to MinionBrigade for our 100th favorite point.