Family brings gold mining to the public in Chicken
A Summer 2015 Yukon Prospector Web Extra.
Chicken is an odd little town sitting halfway (at about mile 66.5) on the Taylor highway. Like most towns in the northwest, its existence is owed to the all-powerful yellow metal: gold. While many have capitalized on the precious metal, there’s one family turning Chicken from a dusty pit-stop into a full-blown destination.
Mike Busby has been coming to Alaska since 1972. An avid jack-of-all-trades, he originally ventured north with the National Outdoor Leadership School. It wasn’t until 1975 that he was introduced to mining, through a friend's devices.
“My friend Ernie Wolff was doing some surveying, and he asked me to come along with him, and I said sure. Then he left me there,” Mike says.
It was Wolff’s plan from the beginning he later learned. The mining camp was shorthanded. So began a 30-year career in the industry. For Mike, the challenge of mining and the variety of skills needed to be successful were what drew him in. “I love everything it’s about,” he says. “It’s like a huge puzzle.”
Mike eventually bought claims on Myer’s Fork, around Chicken, and mined them for a number of years. Then, ten years ago, he grew tired of the industry, and decided instead to open his claims to the public. And with that the Chicken Gold Camp was born.
Now, folks from all over the world can come to the area and satiate their gold fever. So far, Mike says visitors have pulled out around 200 oz from his claims. In 2015, a Swedish couple went home with 4oz after 2 weeks work with a high banker—a sort of miniature factory that you shovel dirt into. At 2015 prices, that’s a haul worth about CAD $5,700.
It’s a family run business, and the Busby’s bust their humps to make it happen during the summer. Mike says his wife Lou wakes up at 5:30 am to bake “the world’s best scones” for the camp. He gets up around the same time, same with their daughter Josea, and their son-in-law. None of them will stop working until well after 10 pm.
And gold mining isn’t the only thing the Busby’s are doing to enliven the area. Josea is also the organizer of the legendary Chickenstock. An annual summer bluegrass festival that draws about 900 people to the area in the summer. It’s now in its tenth year. It’s a family-friendly event that brings in bands from all over Alaska and it keeps Chicken’s unique joie de vivre alive.
“This year we dropped 1,500 peeps marshmallows over the crowd,” says Josea. Like her father, Josea says she loves the area, and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
A pair of visitors overhearing the conversation chipped in, obviously appreciating what the Busby’s are doing. “This is one of the best family’s in the world,” they said. “There’s no other place like [this].”
If you’re interested in doing a bit of recreational mining, check out the camp’s website here.
You can also follow them on Facebook, and check out the proud people who’ve joined the “1 oz club”.
Photos and Story by