First Back-Country Excursion
Written by: Martin Schneider
Last week I went on my first back-country excursion with the Kenai Fjords Cultural Resources division. Our crew included my archaeological supervisors, Seasonal Technician Sean Sullivan and Team Lead Patrick Lewis, as well as geologists from regional NPS headquarters in Anchorage and an explosives expert from California. Our task was to explore and survey three abandoned historic lode gold mines in the Nuka Bay area. During the early to mid-20th Century, Nuka Bay was home to numerous gold mining operations and some of the most profitable mines in the Kenai Peninsula. Many of these mines ceased operation during the Second World War. In the 80 years since their closure, individuals claimed ownership of these mines, restarted mining operations, and disturbed many of the mine’s historic features and artifacts in the process. We hiked for miles through overgrown brush and forested areas to access these mines. Next month contractors will arrive at all three sites and remove objects and non-historic structures that date back to the 1970s and 80s. An essential part of our trip was flagging objects and structures for removal, historical objects and areas that were off-limits. In addition, as we hiked to these sites, we flagged every 50 meters, mapping out a trail for the contractors to cut with heavy machinery. We flagged this path, keeping in mind potential damage to trees and animal life, avoiding streams and as many old-growth trees as possible.