When we first arrived in Alaska back in May, one of our first stops was in Fairbanks to get a few kinks on our camper worked out. While we were waiting for the camper to get finished, we did a little exploring through the city. One of our finds was the Riverboat Discovery Tour and the Gold Dredge 8 Tour. We did not have time to do the tours that day but both agreed that the next time we went to Fairbanks they would be the first things we did.
As May left us pretty rapidly, June started to breeze by too. Finally after about 6 weeks we had a couple days off where we could make our much anticipated trip to Fairbanks to do some grocery shopping and to finally do the tours we had been talking about since the last time we were there.
We were completely surprised to see all 700+ tourists arrive and slowly board the boat. Yep 700 people!
The tour itself is about 3 hours long. The thing that makes the Riverboat so special is that its a 900 passenger sternwheeler, The captain makes his way up the river and a float plane takes off in front of the boat and lands right next to us. The pilot of the plane explains to everyone how important the role of planes are in remote Alaska and tells a few stories of the village life which we got to experience later on in the tour. The riverboat starts to travel up river some more and stops on the shore of the Chena River at Trailbraker Kennels, where Susan Butcher, a four-time Iditarod champion lived. Her daughters who live there now and take care of the business showed us how they train the puppies to be mushers from the day they are born. She also showed us how they keep up training them in the summer time when they cannot take the sleds out. (They hook them up to a four wheeler and have them pull that instead of the sled.)
We eventually made it up the river to our last stopping point of the tour before heading back down river. We docked at the shore and all 700+ of us got off the boat and headed to a walking tour of an Athabascan Indian village. We were told how the natives survived and adapted to village life and got to explore the village and go inside the cabins.
The Riverboat trip was definitely a must do if you ever get a chance to go to Fairbanks. We both thought the tour could of went on for much longer than 3 hours, but we enjoyed everything we learned and experience on the trip.
The Gold Dredge 8 tour was next. It is through the same company as the Riverboat Discovery Tour and is only about a 2 hour trip vs the 3 hour boat tour. The Gold Dredge 8 is just as it sounds, a gold dredge machine 🙂
Alaska is known for gold. So of course we wanted to get some hands on experience and a little history lesson on gold dredging. At the beginning of the tour we were given a brief speech on the the 800 mile Alaska pipeline.
Here is a link to some of the specs on the pipeline, pretty amazing facts. http://www.alyeska-pipe.com/TAPS/PipelineFacts
After our brief lesson on the pipeline, we all board a small open air train and head on up the tracks towards the dredge. When we arrive we were greeted with a pouch of dirt to go gold panning!
We find some seats and start to sift through our dirt piles and after about 15 minutes we struck gold! Together Lucas and I walked away with about $63 dollars in gold. 🙂 Not to bad considering most people were only finding about $12 in gold each!
While we were waiting for the others to finish panning and getting their gold weighed we walked around the shops and stumbled upon a 19oz gold nugget on display, worth $75,000 and even got to hold it along with Arctic Fox, Wolverine, Beaver, Marmot and Weasel pelts.
We could not of asked for a better day to be tourists in Fairbanks. Both tours were equally great and left us going home with tons of new information on the Athabaskan Indian culture, facts about the notorious Alyeska Pipeline, learned how important the roles of gold dredging and bush planes are in Alaska and left with some gold of our own.