Independence Mine State Historical Park is located in the beautiful Hatcher Pass. From Anchorage the drive is a little over an hour, but it is well worth it. On your way you pass the Knik River, the Little Susitna, Hatcher Pass Lodge and countless peaks! In addition, there are many great hikes to be found in Hatcher Pass, not to mention great skiing and sledding in the winter!
The first time we visited Independence Mine was in October of last year. The snow was high and only the lower parking lot was open. The snow went up to Jasper’s waist in some areas, and I was postholing quite often. I’m not going to lie, it was difficult pulling my 36 lb child up that snow packed road on the sled. However, it was well worth it! Besides a few skiers, our group was the only one at the mine that day. We had a snack at the pavilion and explored the snow covered town. Some of our group even built a snowman. We ended the trip with an amazing sled ride down the entire road, from the upper parking lot to the lower! This was the best sled ride I have ever experienced and I highly recommend it if you have the chance!
This time, in late June there is still snow to be found.We had initially started out the day planning to hike to April Bowl. However, the gate to the Willow-Fishhook Road was still closed. I later found that it often doesn’t open until July 4th!
However, the road to the upper parking lot was open and the visitor center is as well! The visitor center is a small museum dedicated to the history of Independence Mine. There is not much for children at this visitors center, but the woman working there inducted Jasper into the Alaska State Park Junior Rangers. Jasper loved this!
Here, at the visitors center guided tours are offered. We have never taken one of these, choosing to do the self-guided tour instead. In addition to the visitors center, there is two other structures you can enter. One of them being a small gift shop where you can buy books or coffee (and hot chocolate to Jasper’s delight).
The first claims in the area date back to 1897. However, the town that once resided at what is now Independence Mine State Historical Park was at it’s height in the 1930’s and 40’s. Only a handful of structures remain standing of what was once a town of 22 families, over 200 mine workers, and enough children to warrant a territorial school. However, 140,000 ounces of gold were recovered before the mine was closed for good in 1951, letting the sight stand as “second most productive hardrock gold mine in Alaska.” The sight was then reopened as Independence Mine State Historical Park in the 1980’s.
Even without the beautiful surrounding of valleys hollowed out by glaciers and alpine peaks, the sight is an interesting view. A waterfall cascades down through collapsed buildings and half-rotten mine tracks. Jasper was enthralled with the old mine cars that we found, and let’s not forget that there was a generous amount of snow for the end of June.
For more information about Independence Mine and directions to the sight visit: www.travelalaska.com.