Juneau, Gastineau Channel

Juneau, Gastineau Channel

by | Mar 29, 2019

Juneau is located on Gastineau Channel in the Coast Mountains and is the capital city of Alaska. The community originated in 1880 as a mining camp called “Harrisburg”, named for Richard H. Harris, who with Joseph Juneau discovered gold on Gold Creek and staked the beach as a townsite. The mining camp was also called Rockwell by the U.S. Navy in 1881 for Commander Charles Henry Rockwell, who was sent with a detachment of men to the gold camp to maintain order. Because of the confusion over many names, the miners met in 1881 and officially named the town for Joseph Juneau.

The Auke (A’akw Kwáan) and Taku tribes inhabited the area for thousands of years. The A’akw Kwáan had a village and burying ground at Indian Point, in Auke Bay. The land and the sea provided an abundance of food and natural resources. Although the Russians had an extensive colony in Alaska from 1784 to 1867, and they conducted fur trading with Alaskan Natives of the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak, and Sitka, they did not establish any settlements near Juneau. The first European to explore Gastineau Channel was Joseph Whidbey, master of the Discovery during the Vancouver Expedition of 1791 to 1795. He and his party explored the southern end of Gastineau Channel in 1794, but thick ice prevented them from proceeding north. Gold miners began migrating up the Pacific Coast after the California gold rush in 1849. In 1867, the Russian Alaska Territory was sold to the United States. In 1880, Sitka mining engineer George Pilz offered a reward to any local Native in Alaska who could lead him to gold-bearing ore. Chief Kowee (Tlingit Kaawa.ée) arrived with some gold ore, and several prospectors were sent to investigate. Pilz sent Joe Juneau and Richard Harris to the Gastineau Channel, directing them to Snow Slide Gulch (the head of Gold Creek), and there they found gold nuggets. Major mining operations soon developed in the Juneau mining district including Lemon Creek, Treadwell Mine, Alaska-Juneau Mine, and Alaska-Gastineau Mine.

In 1931, federal funds were authorized for construction of the Federal and Territorial Building to house administrators of the Alaska Territory. Alaska gained statehood in 1959 with Juneau as the capital, but very soon proposals were made to move the capital to the larger population centers of either Anchorage or Fairbanks. In the 1970s, voters passed a plan to move the capital to Willow, a town 70 miles (110 km) north of Anchorage to prevent either Anchorage or Fairbanks from having undue political influence. Alaskans later voted against spending the money and Juneau remains the capital today. Read more here and here. Explore more of Juneau here:

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