Written by MilwVon on 02 Oct, 2010
Independence Mine State Historical ParkPalmer, AKIndependence Mine State Historic Park is a restored area from the gold mining lifestyle of the 1940’s in the Mat-Su Valley. It is generally speaking, a walking tour of the gold mine camp including bunkhouses and other buildings that…Read More
Independence Mine State Historical ParkPalmer, AKIndependence Mine State Historic Park is a restored area from the gold mining lifestyle of the 1940’s in the Mat-Su Valley. It is generally speaking, a walking tour of the gold mine camp including bunkhouses and other buildings that supported the small community. Guided tours have been available in past years, as well as an interpretive visitors center and museum.Unfortunately earlier this year the following announcement came from the Alaska Parks Department:"Independence Mine State Historic Park Visitor Center Book Store and Guided Tours Closed .Alaska State Parks announces that for the summer of 2010, the Independence Mine State Historic Park Visitor Center book store and tours will not be available to the public. The park will still be open for self-guided tours and hiking." The closure was the result of funding issues in the State Parks system, and the lack of adequate volunteer support to keep up the services throughout the summer.As it turned out, we simply did not have the time to get to Independence Mine, which was a major disappointment. Even a "drive-by" was not possible given our late start out of Seward for our two day return drive to Fairbanks. For more information check out the State’s website: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/indmine.htm .Palmer Musk Ox FarmMatanuska Valley, AK(907) 745-4151www.muskoxfarm.orgThe Musk Ox Farm located in Palmer is an old 1930’s farmhouse, working to preserve the history of this ancestor to the prehistoric mammals that roamed the planet thousands of years ago. Today, some of the finest wool (called qiviut) is made from their fur. These huge furry beasts just look like they are from the stone age. In addition to learning about the musk ox and farming in the Mat-Su Valley, you can buy gifts including hand-knit itemsThis local attraction keeps "summer hours" with tours scheduled daily June 1 through September 30 with tours offered every 30 minutes from 10a until 5p. Outside of this window of opportunity, visitors are encouraged to call in advance to arrange an off-season tour. While tour prices are a very affordable $8 for adults, $7 for seniors (age 65+) and $6 for the youngsters (ages 5-12), be prepared to pay a premium for the off-season option as prices start at $30 for one or two guests, plus $12 for each additional person on the tour. If you happen to have a larger group (15 or more) you can get the better admission rate of $7/person.They are a participating merchant in the Northern Lights discount coupon book with a 2:1 offering. Check out their website for more information on the farm, tour hours and to see photos.Reindeer FarmPalmer, AK807-745-4000www.reindeerfarm.comDo you know the difference between a caribou and reindeer? The reindeer can fly. LOL! Sorry, just passing on some Athabascan humor.Actually they are one in the same animal although "reindeer" is often used to refer to domesticated caribou. Throughout Alaska you can find petting zoos and other attractions with caribou that you can get up close and personal with. I have seen them at Santa’s place in North Pole (Alaska) as well as the Athabascan Indian Village near Fairbanks. I was also VERY up close and personal at the 2010 Fur Rondy when as a member of "the media" I was inside the barricades to photograph the "Running With the Reindeer" event. What a hoot that was.The Williams Reindeer Farm is another location in Alaska where visitors can see these beautiful animals at a very close range. Located just south of Palmer on the Old Glenn Highway, the Reindeer Farm is one of the lesser known animal farms in the Mat-Su Valley. We were only aware of them through their advertisement and coupon in the Northern Lights book. At $7 per person for adults and $5 for kids ages 3 to 11, this seems to be a nice value especially since they provided the guests with grain to feed the reindeer . . . no nickel & diming you with those quarter gumball vending machines.Like most attractions in Alaska, they are open May 1 through mid September. Their daily hours are 10a to 6p. Close
Written by Wildcat Dianne on 25 Aug, 2010
Larissa has this friend named Ed who she takes hikes with sometimes. Ed is originally from Michigan but moved to Alaska after falling in love with the place while stationed there during a stint in the Air Force. Ed invited Larissa and I…Read More
Larissa has this friend named Ed who she takes hikes with sometimes. Ed is originally from Michigan but moved to Alaska after falling in love with the place while stationed there during a stint in the Air Force. Ed invited Larissa and I for a trip to Hatcher Pass near Palmer for the day, and we met him at his house on the other side of Anchorage. On the way to Ed's house, I went to look for my camera in my backpack and realized I didn't put it back in my pack after editing pictures I had taken the day before in Girdwood. We were going to a Musk Ox farm along with a trip to some of the most beautiful scenery in Alaska, and I forgot my camera! AUGGHHHH! I mentally beat my head on Larissa's dashboard and hoped that I would find a disposable camera along the way if we stopped at a store. But that didn't happen, and I am forced to do the last three entries of this journal without photos until Larissa sends me copies she took with her camera.
Larissa and I met Ed, who is a big outdoorsman who likes to hike and big game hunt, at his house, and we were warmly greeted by Ed and his dog Katie, an overweight 10-year-old Australian Shepherd. HMM! I used to go on adventures with another overweight 10-year-old dog named Katie in Idaho. Will this Katie be as rambunctious as my late great Katie was or would she be a mellower Katie?
So Larissa, Ed, Katie and I got in to his truck for the 40-mile trip to the Matanaska-Sustina Valley which is known as the Mat-Su Valley by Alaskans and is home to the towns of Palmer and Wasilla (yes that Wasilla where what's her name comes from). Along the way we get to know each other, and I find out that Ed likes to go big game hunting in some of the most remote areas of Alaska. "Great!", I think to myself, I am going to be stuck in the truck with Alaska's answer to Ted Nugent all day, but being a hunter aside, Ed turned out to be a really nice guy and the entire day with him was the best time of my entire trip with or without the camera.
Larissa, Ed, Katie, and I arrived in Palmer about an hour after leaving Anchorage, and we went to a Subway to get lunch for our picnic. Turned out we would not be able to go to Hatcher Pass, the 12-mile mountain pass in the Talkeetna Mountains, because snow was still blocking the road leading up to it. Oh well, we would be going to the Musk Ox Farm and to the Independence Gold Mine, a pre-WWII gold mine that is now listed in the 1974 National Register of Historic Places.
Palmer is the jumping off point to these places, and it's history dates from way before the white folks discovered it. The area in the Mat-su Valley near Palmer was settled by the Athabascan and Dena'na tribes. When the Russians arrived in Alaska in 1741 and discovered the Mat-Su Valley, they established a fur trade with the Natives. After the United States bought Alaska from the Russians in 1767, many Russians left Palmer but the fur trade continued with Alaska's new owners.
Palmer is named for George W. Palmer, a pioneer to Alaska who built a trading post on the Matanaska River in the late 19th century. It was also at this time, the US Government takes interest in the rich coal reserves near Palmer, but mining the coal didn't take place until 1914 after the construction of the Alaska Railroad was completed. Palmer's Post Office opened in 1917.During the Great Depression in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Matanaska Colony by sending 203 families from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to the Mat-Su Valley to establish homesteads near Palmer. The families were given 40 acres of land to farm, but most of the farms were unsuccessful, but several of the families stayed in Palmer and their descendants still live in the area today.
Larissa, Ed, Katie, and I got our sandwiches from Subway and took them to a scenic part of the Matanaska River where we ate them hearing the sound of the rolling rapids going downriver. Stay tuned for my next journal on the Musk Ox farm near Palmer.