Rockhounding the Chatanika River

It’s a gorgeous fall Sunday afternoon, Rachelle and I are sitting on a blanket along the banks of the Chatanika River approximately 40 miles northwest of Fairbanks. A jar of salmon and a pile of crackers sits between us as we listen to the river and take in the absolute beauty of day. This was our first time coming to this spot but the gravel banks of the river looked promising as we passed it both on a recent caribou hunting trip and a camping trip we made for Fourth of July.

The location where the Chatanika River crosses the Steese Highway is a campground. At the back of the campground the road opens up into a large gravel area on the inside bend of the river. A perfect spot for a fire and perhaps in slightly warmer weather, a dip in the cool crystal clear river. We walked along the bank at the water’s edge as far as we could without getting our boots wet. We were there to do a little rockhounding. Previous trips out to places along the Tanana River, the Elliott Highway, and other locations had yielded quite a collection of quartz, agate, jade, jasper, and other beautiful stones. Some of which have made it through our rock tumbler and are now part of a collection of smooth and shiny gems. Some will become jewelry while others will just simply be shown off.

Back to the Upper Chatanika River though. As we walked along the river we found plenty of quartz. It ranged from bright white to smoky to clear with many large pieces. There were also a few pieces of jasper and we did manage to find a single small agate. Since this spot is popular in mid summer, it’s likely that much of the better stuff had been picked up but we did come home with a bucket of nice finds that will find their way through the tumbler soon. We can’t wait to see how they come out and what new life they will take on.

Even though the Upper Chatanika River location wasn’t the most productive site we’ve searched, the beauty and peacefulness of the location, not to mention the amazing drive made it an absolutely perfect day.

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