Go for the gold

The spirit of the Alaska gold rush is at the heart and soul of this town

people panning for gold, and the Chicken town mascot
— Mike Busby photo

If the name of the town isn’t enough to make you think twice about stopping, the attractions in Chicken, Alaska, surely will. Established in 1886 as a gold mining town, Chicken is located approximately 128 kilometres northeast of Tok, Alaska, along the Taylor Highway.

The Pedro Dredge—which was used to mill gold on lower Chicken Creek from 1959 to 1967—is situated at the Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost in Chicken. The Pedro Dredge is known as the most complete bucket line gold dredge open to the public, and tours of the dredge are available throughout the summer season.

Mike Busby is the owner of Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost—which has an RV park, a restaurant, cabins and a gift store—and he said that taking visitors on tours of the Pedro Dredge and showing them how to mine for gold is one of the aspects he likes most about living in Chicken.

“I just enjoy meeting people,” said Busby, “people from all over the place.”

Busby and his wife, Lou, have lived in Chicken for 34 years and they were gold miners before they opened Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost.

“We mined in the area until 2004,” said Busby. “We mined all of the areas that the camp is now built on.”

In addition to touring the Pedro Dredge, visitors to Chicken can also see the Historic Town of Chicken and Tisha’s Schoolhouse. In the summertime, daily walking tours of this national historic site are offered through The GoldPanner Gift Shop & Chicken Creek RV Park.

What’s in a name, anyhow?

Some may wonder how the town of Chicken got its unique name. Busby said the most accepted story is that in 1902—when the town was to become incorporated—a name was needed, so the local miners gathered to choose one.

They initially decided on “Ptarmigan,” after the medium-sized upland game bird that is prevalent in the area, but the miners couldn’t agree on the correct spelling of ptarmigan so they decided to call the town Chicken.

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