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Steve Herschbach
02-13-2013, 10:08 AM
Well, I almost bought a few more claims. These ones have history galore and I have set foot on them.

Back in the last gold rush in the 1970s the Fortymile country was a hotbed of dredging activity. A very rich strike was made on the South Fork of the 40 Mile River at the mouth of Napoleon Creek. Hundreds of ounces of nugget gold were recovered that no doubt sourced out of Napoleon, known for it's large gold.

Later, two groups of miners attempted to dredge through the ice on the river on the same ground. They fought constantly, and finally one of the only genuine miner shot the other miner murders actually happened. Two young prospectors bushwhacked and killed the other two miners back in 1977 http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1346&dat=19780628&id=yJJNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=yvoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2508,8260156

The ground was hit hard by 8" and larger dredges and pretty much mined out. The ground went idle and changed hands over the years. Finally it was staked again in 2009 by a non-miner smart enough to go out and find what open ground he could. More power to him. Now three of his claims are up for sale - the infamous claims at the mouth of Napoleon Creek.

And I almost bought them. I see the ads posted at http://www.detectorprospector.com/mining-claims-for-sale/alaska-mining-claims-for-sale-or-lease.htm first and yes I do look at them hard! These were so cheap I had to really think it over and so called the owner and held them off the market a few days.

They are state river bottom claims in the middle of BLM administered Wild & Scenic land. This means you need an APMA from the state to dredge and permits from BLM to camp onshore. No big deal and the gov people are fine to work with but it is a pile of paper. Access is from the bridge a few miles upstream by jet boat or overland by a couple ATV trails.

My interest was decent access and a bunch of river ground. No doubt all the good stuff is gone but there are probably places that got missed. The main thing is the 8" dredges of the day put most of the small gold back in the river. A good fine gold recovery system should eke out wages. This would not be get rich ground. This would be getting leftovers ground. Like maybe a gram or two an hour on -20 mesh with an 8" dredge - but do not hold me to that.

Still, I thought, love the area, and for $6000 a claim I figured I could get my money back easy enough. Then my fantasies subsided and I realized I have enough ground to keep me busy for years already. Even then I was tempted to buy them as an investment. Be a good place to lease to wannabe miners looking more for the experience than a ton of gold. There is a least a chance of making a buck or two, not because the ground is hot, but because the price of gold is what it is.

Anyway, this sounds like a sales pitch but I have no vested interest in the ground. It just really is an interesting spot and I wanted to tell the story behind it. If you have your head screwed on straight it could be a good spot for somebody and affordable enough. Probably could debate that $6000 is too much for a worked out claim but I have a $6000 metal detector so it does not seem like much to me. If somebody buys it (I am sure someone will) I would like to keep up with what happens as I am just over the hill. Be fun to have somebody get it and do real well so I can kick myself in the butt later!

I took the photo below back around 2001 standing at mouth of Napoleon looking downstream.

Mining Claims For Sale in Alaska (http://www.detectorprospector.com/mining-claims-for-sale/alaska-mining-claims-for-sale-or-lease.htm)


02-13-2013, 10:55 AM
Boy... you are dredging up old memories here Steve! I remember that shooting all to well! Was not a good winter for our little town.

Those guys were not dredging, they were just sniping under the ice in the bedrock.

I have a friend who was sinking holes up Napoleon cr that same winter. He was subpoenaed to testify in court. He was so disgusted and shaken by the outcome that he left the Fortymile and never came back.

02-13-2013, 11:29 AM
Thanks for sharing the story. Interesting stuff.

02-13-2013, 12:11 PM
Thanks for the cool story Steve, and thanks for giving someone a chance at those claims.

All the best,


bill-costa rica
02-13-2013, 03:15 PM
in 1978 or 79 there was a family from Arkansas working the mouth of napoleon creek. they had a 6 inch and a 10 inch and were doing ok. they had been there for a few years. they were the same guys who staked the river bottom and tried to charge everyone a %. it was all wild and scenic blm land then and they said no it was a navigable river and belonged to the state. they ended up being right. they staked a lot of ground and sold a bunch also. where I was working I was doing ok. another guy knew what I was getting so he bought the ground where I was working. the next year I had to find new ground. the south fork used to be a crazy place. that coming from me says a lot. I think now it should have calmed down a bit. and for 6000 if I was still working up there I would give it some serious thought. now I have tropical fever and can’t work in cold water anymore. kinda like Steve is getting .


02-13-2013, 06:09 PM
I have worked the river there. If someone here buys them, i can put you on a minor paystreak. But I imagine the Bill (upstream) will add them to his ground.

Judd on one side, Bill on the other. Both are top quality neighbors.

02-13-2013, 07:01 PM
Gold! The Smell of It Draws a New Breed of Prospector to Alaska's Perilous Bush

By Frank W. Martin (http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20074968,00.html)

November 05, 1979 Vol. 12 No. 19
Gold! The Smell of It Draws a New Breed of Prospector to Alaska's Perilous Bush

By Frank W. Martin

Three days before Christmas in 1977, with seven 9-mm. bullets in his body and his life in its final hour, D. N. Bowers was brought into the little town of Chicken in the Fortymile Country of Alaska. As he lay dying in the arms of townsmen, Bowers told a gruesome story. He and his partner, "Polack Joe" Hajec, had been sluicing for gold at the junction of Napoleon Creek and Fortymile River. Suddenly, he said, they were set upon by armed claim jumpers. One of them unloaded his pistol into Bowers; another pumped two rifle shots into Hajec's back, killing him instantly. Word of the attack took wind like an arctic storm, and every gold miner in the state knew exactly what it meant: Prospecting in Alaska had once again become a deadly serious business. As one miner puts it, flourishing a .357 Magnum: "I'm not worried about animals. It's the two-legged clowns you have to watch."

02-16-2013, 06:10 AM

Thanks for the story, I have been looking for info about this area for a while now. I was wondering why this rich land was so cheep, and with your post I found out why. Question about the depth of the river in these parts, I have a boat a old firber glass V bottom with a 90 on it. Would it make it on the SF of the 40 mile river? If so how far could I make it? Could I pass Napoleon Creek? All the boats I see have jet units or Fan boats all with flat bottoms. I dont want to drive 10 + hrs to find out, thanks to anyone who can help me out with this.

Steve Herschbach
02-16-2013, 06:58 AM
Well you say rich land - what made you think that? You would not believe how many places there are that are close to worked out and still going these days only because of the high price of gold. This is from a miners perspective worked out ground. But seems like everything is these days - good virgin ground is getting rare.

You might get a little ways with your boat at flood level but that sounds like a good way to get into trouble. These are shallow rivers, like only 2-3 feet and in some places rocks and such. Guys with flat bottom boats and jets beat them up. Your fiberglass boat hasn't got a chance.

Consider this. In life you usually get what you pay for. In mining claims, that is kind of true, except I would say that very often you get a lot less than you were hoping for. Ground is not worth the gold in it. Ground is worth what is left in your pocket after you mine and pay expenses.

There are claims for sale right now in Alaska you could not give to me. The cost of mining them is going to be more than you get out of them. Not to say there is not gold on them, it is just that the cost to get the ounce exceeds what the ounce sells for.

These claims have gold so it is all about volume. A guy playing around with even a 6" dredge will be getting gold but not enough to really pay for the effort. 8" maybe it might be worth some time but it will just be wages at best. I wonder how big a rig a guy can actually get permitted to run on a river these days? A large enough dredge, like a 12" with a very good recovery system might do well on the river; it really is all about volume. But the bigger you go the more chance you are going to run into issues from of all things, people canoeing down the river.

02-16-2013, 05:18 PM
Steve is right about the fiberglass boat. You will never get it out of there. Even with a flatbottom aluminum boat and jet outboard you'll still hit a few cause the yearly flood changes things. Your first solo trip to Napoleon is likely to be expensive and educational. I have run it for years and parts of it still scare me. And there's a good "boulder patch" right in front of Napoleon that will pucker you up quite nicely.

I ran an 8" thru there. Found gold, too. But there is better ground available, so I moved on. 6-10" dredge is easily permitted there. A 12" is possible but needs much more paperwork. Most everyone runs an 8 or 10".

02-17-2013, 07:45 AM
Steve The word rich came from the Ad, I was joking about the being rich part. (SMILE) I guess it is back to the drawing board, I new something was left out or I should say forgotten in the ad about the permit for camping, larger dredges and so on. I feel kinda of bad about blowing these peoples ad's up, but on the other hand with out knowing about the 8" dredge that cleaned most of the land, or how deep the river was and so on, I saved a lot of money and head aches from doing a little digging around on this site. Steve Thanks for the upfront unbiased info you shared with all of us on here, I hate to see you leave as well as everyone else that has saved me a ton of money with there info about all my questions, like my first post I am green as grass, but I have learned a lot from everyone who is part of this site. I hate to see it go.
Micropedes1 thank you for telling me about the mouth of Napoleon, and about the endless paper work that comes with a larger dredge.

Steve Herschbach
02-17-2013, 10:35 AM
You did not blow the ad up at all. The ground will sell, it is just not what you are looking for. Every mining claim ad has a huge amount left out on permitting, etc. They are just ads after all.

Sorry to say but unless you are just doing some little two week dredging thing somewhere you will be getting an APMA and about 30+ pages of paperwork to do anything substantial in Alaska. My application and attached paperwork for my little gig this summer must be over 100 pages at this point. And still more to file this week.

03-02-2013, 01:00 AM
To everyone that has helped me just a heads up, " I thank you dearly" Steve and the rest of the crew you have saved me 1,000's of dollars as a green horn. You cant put a price tag on the info you have shared to everyone on this form. Call me bias, the Alaskan miners through out keep one rule "Stay together" and I want to share everyone that value because with out this website I would be broke, and would of lost my house, truck and so on, I think everyone here gets my point. I am looking for a mentor, someone who can teach someone like myself the in's and out's of getting started, (what to look for, type of land, so on.) If anyone here has the skill to mentor, or to deal with a greenhorn and all his questions please feel free to PM me. Once again Steve and the crew THANK YOU!!!