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In the Mat-Su valley of Alaska near Palmer and Wasilla is a beautiful mountain pass named after miner Robert Hatcher. Hatcher’s Pass is a great skiing destination for locals during the winter, but in the summer people come for the hiking and the history. For like I said, Hatcher’s Pass was named after a miner and it was rush for gold that brought people to this beautiful area.
Alaska was truly shaped by the searchers of gold and Independence Mine State Historical Site preserves a sliver of this important time. Being able to walk around in a true mining town can give your children perspective on how miners lived. Seeing the remoteness of the location can help them understand the isolation even into the World War II years. In its peak year, 1941, APC employed 204 men, blasted nearly a dozen miles of tunnels, and produced 34,416 ounces of gold worth $1,204,560; today $17,208,000.
There is a visitor’s center with a bathroom in the mine manager’s house. We had a couple kids with us under 5, so I wasn’t able to spend as much time pursuing the historical items there. But they looked interesting. You could borrow pans to use to pan for gold or a flower scavenger hunt. The panning for gold was a bust and overall not fun, but we could have been doing it wrong.
Also, the Gold Cord Lake Trail is a great one for families and leaves from the Independence Mine parking lot. At 1.7 miles roundtrip, it has a great lake view and would be a great picnic destination. There’s no food anywhere in the area, so make sure you are bringing it with you.
A nominal parking fee applies ($5 in 2013) and the visitor’s center is closed in the winter.
Website : Independence Mine State Historical Park