Independence Creek Camp

Deering Travel Blog

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The bunkhouses on either side of the kitchen

After five days in Kotzebue we relocated to our first camp on Independence Creek which was about forty miles south from the village of Deering and on the eastern edge of the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Snow was rapidly melting and the creek flowing as chunks of ice broke away. The land was primarily rolling hills of tundra and occasional stands of spruce trees. Creeks were lined with willow bushes which were bare, but after summer bloom would become thick enough to conceal moose and grizzly bears.


The camp had originally been established in the early 1900's and consisted of two bunkhouses, several storage sheds, a small shack serving as the kitchen and dining room, and of course, an outhouse.

A Cessna 206 delivers supplies from Kotzebue.
A new addition provided hot showers and a washer and dryer.



A small diesel generator produced electricity and was only operated two or three hours each day to conserve precious fuel. Dilapidated mining equipment, machinery, and empty fuel drums cluttered the area and provided insight to the extent that man has struggled in his quest for gold. A short and very rough gravel airstrip allowed a bush plane to fly in supplies from Kotzebue several times each week. Drums of fuel also arrived by airplane; diesel, gasoline, and jet-fuel. The ability of Alaskan bush pilots to land and take off from the shortest length of somewhat flat ground was absolutely mind boggling.


To my disappointment, the geologists on this contract would be searching for zinc and copper instead of gold.

Tools for panning.
I had high hopes of mastering the methods and techniques of using the new gold pan which I had purchased at Wal-Mart in Wasilla for about $4. Who better to learn from, than real geologists, the skills of where to look and just what to look for; those subtle clues that could lead to unimaginable fortunes. I spent several days swishing and swirling my black pan in the icy cold, finger-numbing, creeks... to no avail.


Around the middle of June, as the summer solstice approached, I constructed a crude sundial to track the shadow of the midnight sun. I drove a length of steel rod into the ground, then each hour, on the hour, placed a wooden match stick at the shadows end. I used three different sized stones; small for ones, medium for fives, and a larger size for tens to mark the time.

It was easy to estimate the time between each hour. One shadow width just happened to equal five minutes. It worked brilliantly with piles of little stones sweeping in a graceful arc from one to ten p.m. Then it got away from me. The steel rod stood too high above the ground so that the shadows for the wee hours would have been on the outhouse wall, about thirty yards away.


The geologists probed creekbeds and outcrops in the surrounding hills to collect promising rock and soil samples which were sent to laboratories for further analysis. Besides their usual tools of picks, rock hammers, probes, and magnifying glasses, they carried shot-guns. The barren tundra can be very deceptive and a grizzly, moose, or wolf can silently and suddenly appear from nowhere.


Most of the crew's bear encounters had been at a safe distance, except for Eric's.

Eric heading to a hospital in Anchorage.
He thrashed along a creek-bed (near Aniak) making deliberate noises to announce his presence to warn away such predators, so when he noticed nearby alders begin to rustle, expected to see a ptarmigan take flight. Instead, he was stunned to see a brown bear (grizzly) rise on its hind legs less then twenty feet away and charge him. Before Eric had time to react, or even realize what was happening, the bear had knocked him to the ground and trampled over him in its own terrified escape. Claws left Eric with a facial cut that took eight stitches, numerous puncture wounds to the torso, and one Alaskan bear encounter that he will never forget.

sylviandavid says:
Wow.... you tell a good story..... Eric really give that bear a fright didn't he??? ...
Posted on: May 05, 2008
alitoronto says:
WOW what a story!
Posted on: Apr 03, 2008
doug says:
crazy, i've gotta head up there.
Posted on: Sep 14, 2007
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The bunkhouses on either side of t…
The bunkhouses on either side of …
A Cessna 206 delivers supplies fro…
A Cessna 206 delivers supplies fr…
Tools for panning.
Tools for panning.
Eric heading to a hospital in Anch…
Eric heading to a hospital in Anc…
Joe working on an Alaskan suntan.
Joe working on an Alaskan suntan.
Red fox
Red fox
Last of the ice
Last of the ice
photo by: rotorhead85