Located right next door to the El Dorado Gold Mine is a Native culture-themed park which has a couple of museums, a small tour train and a playground. The entire park is located just a half mile from downtown.
Pan for gold and study the workings of the mine as it appeared a century ago, while riding on the open-sided Tanana Valley Railroad.
Housed in the old city hall, this museum features displays, exhibits and artifacts tracing the 200 year history of the city. Admission is $1. Located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Cushman Street.
A huge gold dredge that is a monster piece of machinery, the No. 8 dug gold out of the hills until 1959. It is now open for visitors.
Golden Heart Plaza
Located next to the log cabin visitor center is the Golden Heart Plaza, a pleasant riverside park in the center of the city. An impressive bronze statue, the "Unknown First Family", depicts an Athabascan family in the middle of the plaza.
If you are in Fairbanks around the period of the summer solstice of June 21, view the midnight sun from Eagle Summit.
Everything from gold nugget jewelry to moose nugget swizzle sticks can be found within a few blocks' radius of the Fairbanks Visitors Center (550 1st Avenue; 907-456-5774).
This shop sells Native crafts on consignment: Mukluks, porcupine quill earrings, ivory, soapstone carvings, birch-bark baskets, and more. (537 2nd Avenue; 907-456-2323).
Home of the original salmon sausage and salmon hot dog and some great smoked salmon, Santa's Smokehouse is located at 2400 Davis Road; 907-456-3885.
This home-based business specializes in designing and creating hand-sewn snowmen, wall hangings and beadwork. Located at 690 Hardrock Road.
Larry is an Alaskan watercolor artist. Visit his gallery and enjoy browsing through the paintings of landscapes, flowers, churches, boats and harbors and old buildings around Alaska. You can find him at 410 Sockeye.
A wide variety of paddling opportunities are found in the Fairbanks area. Leisurely afternoon paddles and overnight trips are offered. Canoes can be rented for $30 a day at several places, 7 Bridges Boats and Bikes (Tel: 479-0751) being the most convenient.
For a variety of short and long hikes, head to the Chena River State Recreation Area. The area is accessible by public transportation. If you are feeling especially vigorous, the best trail for an extended backpacking trip is the magnificent Pinnell Mountain Trail at Mile 85.5 and Mile 107.3 of Steese Hwy.
Angel Rocks Trail is a 3.5 mile loop trail leading to Angel Rocks, a large granite outcropping near the northern border of the Chena River State Recreation Area. It is a moderate day hike with the rocks sitting less than 2 miles from the road.
Going to the Arctic Circle and cruising the Chena River on an authentic 1800's Sternwheeler boat. Learn about these adventures on AlaskaShoreExperts.com.
Take a self-guided 2 mile nature hike on the Creamer's Field Trail. It winds through what is a bird lover's paradise. In its former life it was a dairy farm, hence its name. More than 100 species of birds pass through each year.
Encompassing approximately 500,000 acres and located about 35 miles west of Fairbanks between the communities of Minto and Nenana, the refuge was established in 1988. It was established to ensure the protection of habitat and the conservation of fish and wildlife. The many ponds, stream channels and various wetland and upland vegetation provide excellent habitats for waterfowl, big game and furbearers, as well as many species of fish. Minto Flats' duck nesting areas produce 150,000 or more ducks annually. It also sustains one of the largest trumpeter swan breeding populations in North America. Sandhill cranes and loons nest in the area in large numbers. Bald eagles nest in the flats and peregrine falcons have historically nested near the refuge. During the winter, grouse and ptarmigan are in abundance and small owls are common.
Historically, mammals have been supported in large numbers by Minto Flats, especially moose and black bear. Healthy populations of furbearing mammals inhabit the flats. These include the red fox, mink, wolverine, lynx, muskrat, river otter and beaver. The marten, a small member of the weasel family and is normally a dry land dweller, is also found in abundant numbers on the flats.
History of Fairbanks
The Athabascan native people lived, fished and hunted along the shores of the Yukon and Tanana rivers thousands of years before the actual birth of the city.
Little was known about Alaska and even less about the interior when the Territory was purchased from Russia in 1867. It wasn't until 1885 that a successful two year expedition into the interior was completed by Lt. Henry Allen, spanning 1,500 miles. He was the first white man many of the Native Alaskans had ever seen. It would be 13 years before other white men explored Alaska's interior and another five before the birth of Fairbanks.
Fairbanks was founded in 1901 when E.T. Barnett was forging up the Tanana River with 130 tons of supplies for the Tanacross goldfields. The river was too shallow for the heavily laden boat and Barnett convinced the captain to try the Chena River. When this river also proved to be too shallow, the captain left Barnett, his wife and his supplies ashore at what is today the corner of 1st Avenue and Cushman. St. Barnett then established a trading post on the spot.
The following year, Felix Pedro, an Italian prospector, discovered gold 12 miles north of Barnett's trading post. A boomtown soon sprang to life, and by 1908, a population of more than 18,000 was residing in the area. It soon became apparent that because of the permafrost, gold wasn't as easy to retrieve as the people initially thought. By 1920, Fairbanks had a population of a little more than 1000. After the Alaska Railroad reached Fairbanks in 1923, a renewed interest in gold mining by large companies with more generous budgets to spend on materials and machinery consequently meant that more than $200 million in gold had been extracted from the mining district. With the eventual decline in the region's mining activity, Fairbanks' growth slowed until the next boom with World War II and the construction of the Alcan Highway. But it wasn't until the discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay in 1968 and the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline that, as the principal gateway to the North Slope, Fairbanks burst at its seams.
Fairbanks has had several more boom and bust periods since, but the residents always seem to endure. That endurance has become the city's trademark.
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