Addison Powell

Exploring Alaska, 1902

Addison Powell, resting his chin in hand second from the left, with friends and a large nugget of copper found on Nugget Creek, in the Wrangell Mountains, summer of 1902. [Photos are from Addison Powell’s book, Trailing and Camping in Alaska, Wessels & Bissell, 1909]


Addison Powell’s 1909 Book, subtitled Ten Years Spent in Exploring, Hunting and Prospecting in Alaska • 1898-1908 

Addison Powell, Summer, 1902, selected excerpts from chapter XXI: We, the passengers of the steamer Santa Ana, enjoyed a ride on Prince William Sound, during the balmy days of the spring of 1902. Alaska's spring does not come "creeping," as described in our old school books, but with soft-footed fleetness, it laughingly bursts upon and overwhelmingly envelops you. 

On that summer's trip into the interior I fell into company with several men, among whom were the Miles brothers, who were going in to photograph scenery, Indians and immense copper properties…. We crossed the Copper River and spent several weeks camping at the base of Mt. Wrangell, puffing from its top great clouds of smoke and steam. 

We bartered with the Indians and photographed them; and camped on the bank of the Kuskalina River, where the colossal monument of Mount Blackburn was plainly visible. Here an anticline afforded so much interest to the prospector, with its lime and copper deposits, that I remained to prospect, and bade goodbye to the others, who proceeded on their way.

After prospecting a week I mounted my saddle-horse, and with the packhorse following, started for the Nizina country. For a week I camped at the Big Springs, near the Kenekott glacier — a prong of the Wrangell system of glaciers, extending far back among the mountains. It was five miles wide and continued that far below my camp. It would repay any admirer of sublimity capable of roughing it, to travel thousands of miles to see it, and when the rail- road is built into the Bonanza copper mine nearby, it will be one of the greatest at tractions for all northern tourists. It is a canyon filled with clear blue ice, and possesses yawning crevasses and frowning precipices. 

With all this coldness so near, the weather was warm, the birds sang in the nearby trees, flowers bloomed and the horses fed on luxuriant bunchgrass. A few scattering spruce trees grew on the adjoining foothills, and high pinnacled mountains formed the background to the northwest, where variegated mineral ledges and dykes always will tantalize all prospectors who chance to camp in this picturesque locality. I prospected there, dug holes and returned to camp tired, but mentally interested and keen for the experiences of the morrow. 

Just across that glacier was where Clarence Warner and "Arizona Jack" Smith discovered the greatest copper deposit ever naturally disclosed to the eyes of man. Seeing a green area high on the mountain, they climbed until nearly exhausted to reach it, and at last stood speechless when they found that patch of verdancy to be copper chalcocite and bornite — any prospector would have been speechless at such a discovery. 

For days I traveled alone, ate ptarmigan, and was often rain-chilled. On my return I again fell into company with the photographing party, and on Nugget Creek we were photographed beside a large nugget of pure copper metal that evidently weighed many tons. ~•~

[From Trailing and Camping in Alaska, by Addison Powell, Northern Light Media, 2018]