Happy Creek

Mine, Inactive

Commodities and mineralogy

Main commodities Au
Other commodities Ag; Cr; Hg; Sn; Th; U; W; Zr
Ore minerals cassiterite; chromite; cinnabar; gold; ilmenite; lead-antimony sulfosalts; magnetite; monazite; realgar; scheelite
Gangue minerals fluorapatite; zircon

Geographic location

Quadrangle map, 1:250,000-scale ID
Quadrangle map, 1:63,360-scale B-5
Latitude 62.38152
Longitude -158.02984
Nearby scientific data Find additional scientific data near this location
Location and accuracy The Happy Creek Mine includes the entire length of Happy Creek, a west-flowing, 3-mile-long stream that begins on the west flank of Chicken Mountain and drains into Willow Creek. The coordinates are for the center of the stream which is at an elevation of about 600 feet in about the center of the S1/2 section 32, T. 27 N., R. 47 W., of the Seward Meridian. The location is accurate. Happy Creek is locality 25 of Cobb (1972 [MF 363]); also described in Cobb (1976 [OFR 76-576]).

Geologic setting

Geologic description

The Happy Creek alluvial placer deposit is on the western flank of Chicken Mountain in the Iditarod mining district (Bundtzen and others, 1992). The placer deposit consists of both ancestral fluvial gravels on terraces and alluvial placer gravels in and near modern Happy Creek (Bundtzen and others, 1992; Miller and Bundtzen, 1994; Miller, Bundtzen, and Gray, 2005). The upper Happy Creek alluvial placer is transitional into residual placer deposits on the Upgrade, Trail, and other claims (ID107) on the steep west flank of Chicken Mountain.
Rich placer deposits mined early in the 20th Century were in discontinuous layers of sand and gravel on weathered bedrock underneath about 5 to 16 feet of unconsolidated colluvium and alluvium. The gold was fine-grained, little worn, and often showed crystal faces (Maddren, 1911). In later years, miners mined 12 to 32 feet of the poorly consolidated bedrock below the alluvium. In the 1970s, most of the gold recovered by the Fullerton brothers was about 200 mesh in size and was in nearly equant grains.
In addition to native gold, the heavy minerals found in concentrate from Happy Creek include chromite, ilmenite, magnetite, zircon, cinnabar, fluorapatite, scheelite, argentiferous Pb-Sb sulfosalts, monazite, realgar, and probably cassiterite (Cobb, 1974 and 1976 [OFR 76-576]; Bundtzen and others, 1987). Zircon-rich concentrate from Happy Creek contained up to 7,300 parts per million (ppm) uranium and 130 ppm thorium (White and Killeen, 1953). The gold is from 862 to 884 fine. The mineralized gold-bearing quartz stockwork in intrusive rocks on Chicken Mountain are almost certainly the lode source of the gold mined in the placers of Happy Creek (Cobb, 1974; Bundtzen and others, 1992).
Based on examination of published and unpublished records, Bundtzen and others (1992) estimated that Happy Creek produced at least 127,486 ounces of gold and 17,210 ounces of silver, mainly from 1910 to 1984.
Geologic map unit (-158.032245974879, 62.3808342587315)
Mineral deposit model Placer Au deposit (Cox and Singer, 1986; model 39a).
Mineral deposit model number 39a
Age of mineralization Probably Tertiary and Quaternary, by analogy with other placer deposits in Interior Alaska (Hopkins and others, 1971).

Production and reserves

Workings or exploration Gold was first mined on the Summit claim in upper Happy Creek in August and September of 1910 (Maddren, 1911). Mining was by hand methods. The creek was mined nearly continuously from 1910 until 1966. A shortage of water and problems in mining the deeply weathered granite bedrock led operators to temporarily abandon the creek in the 1920s. In about 1929, Happy Creek was leased to the partnership of Andrew Olson, Tony Lindstrom, and Alex Palmgren who successfully mined it using a dragline feeding an elevated sluice box. Over the years, the size of the draglines increased. Olson and partners mined with a 1.5 cubic yard dragline; in 1970s, the Fullerton brothers mined with a 4.0 cubic yard dragline in the 1980s. In 1967, the U.S. Bureau of Mines in cooperation with the USGS drilled shallow auger holes in upper Happy Creek to test residual placers and explore for disseminated lode mineralization at the head of Happy Creek (Kimball, 1969).
Indication of production Yes
Production notes
Placer gold was produced nearly continuous from 1910 to about 1967; production resumed in 1975 and continued until 1984 (John and Richard Fullerton, oral communication, 1986). No production has been recorded since 1984. Production at the head of the creek was from residual or semi-residual deposits; the bedrock there consists of granitic slabs and disintegrated monzonite gruss (Cobb, 1974 and 1976 [OFR 76-576]). Production from fluvial gravels dominate in the lower end of the creek. The Fullerton Mining Company operated by John and Richard Fullerton conducted a highly successful mining operation from 1975 to 1984 and accounted for a significant percentage of total gold output. They used a portable elevated sluice box was fed by a large dragline.
Based on examination of published and unpublished records, Bundtzen and others (1992) estimated that Happy Creek produced at least 127,486 ounces of gold and 17,210 ounces of silver, mainly from 1910 to 1984.


MRDS Number A015048; A015064; D002697


Bundtzen, T.K., Cox, B.C., and Veach, N.C., 1987, Heavy mineral provenance studies in the Iditarod and Innoko districts, western Alaska: Process Mineralogy VII, The Metallurgical Society, p. 221-246.
Reporters T.K. Bundtzen (Pacific Rim Geological Consulting, Inc.), M.L. Miller (U.S. Geological Survey); and C.C. Hawley (Hawley Resource Group)
Last report date 5/20/2003