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A Visit to the Historic Gold-mining town of Hope, Alaska

00 Hope Alaska

The village of Hope lies at the northern end of the Kenai Peninsula, on the south shore of the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet. You can reach this community by driving the 17-mile (27 km) Hope Highway, a branch off the Seward Highway, so it’s a place you need to make an effort to visit. But the drive is nice and you’ll find a pleasant town at the end of the trip.

The first gold rush in Alaska happened right here in Hope — a few years before the Klondike and Nome goldrushes.  News of the gold find in Hope reached Seattle and in 1895 some 3,000 stampeders arrived to make their fortune, many of them rowing part of the way up Cook Inlet.  With the prospectors came supporting businesses like stores, hotels, and saloons.   The Gold Rush in Hope only lasted a few years as most of the prospectors moved on to Dawson City when news of the massive Klondike gold strike reached them.   

Shop in Hope, Alaska

Shop in Hope, Alaska

The gold mining mostly dried up and Hope residents worked at other northern industries like timbering, commercial fishing, as well as some other types of mining.  Today the summer tourists support many of the local business people.

Large portions of the village were destroyed by the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and the most coastal parts of town sank several feet closer to sea level.  Today the population of Hope is only about 200 residents, but that increases dramatically in summer when outdoor enthusiasts arrive, like campers, mountain bikers, hikers, fishermen and photographers. 

Salmon run in Hope, Alaska

Salmon run in Hope, Alaska

One of the charming aspects of Hope is that many of the original buildings from the Gold Rush era still exist and are in use, including cabins, the Grocery Store/pub, and Social Hall building.  You can experience some of the Gold Rush era by panning for gold yourself (harder than it seems), or visiting the town’s small Mining Museum which is open for limited hours during the summer season.

Salmon run in Hope, Alaska

Salmon run in Hope, Alaska

This was the first time in my life I’d seen salmon migrating upstream to spawn.  Resurrection Creek, which flows through Hope, was filled thousands of pink salmon swimming upstream where they would spawn and die.  Some of the healthier fish were being caught by fishermen. 

It was amazing to see many fish there were — you could almost have walked across the creek on their backs — and how driven they were (click to enlarge some of the photos below and try to spot all the fish in them).  Many were exhausted, resting in the quiet pools beside the main channel of the creek.  Many were damaged and some were already dying, with carcasses floating in the shallows or washed up on the creek bed.  It was a sight I’ll never forget.

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)

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