Area: 12.5 square miles
Population: 3,505 (2000 census)
County: Nome (CA)
Nome is built on a bench of gently sloping coastline on the shores of the Bering Sea, 540 air miles west of Fairbanks, 510 air miles northwest of Anchorage, and only seven jet minutes from Siberia.
Nome is probably best known for being the end point of the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The race commemorates an historic event - the arrival of serum that halted a diphtheria epidemic in 1925.
Nome also claims to be the largest gold pan in the world.
The town, with a population of 3,700, is the center of commerce for Northwestern Alaska and has schools, churches, a hospital, bank, air charter services, hotels, bars, a number of stores and shops, as well as Alaska's oldest newspaper (the Nome Nugget), cable television, government offices and RCA communications.
You will find mild summer temperatures ranging from 40 to 70 degrees. However, frost is possible during any month of the year, though it is unlikely in July and August. Like other permafrost—permanently frozen ground—the installation and maintenance of sewer and water facilities is difficult (Nome has both).
You'll notice that the entire seaward population of the city is protected by a 3350-foot-long sea wall of granite boulders. These huge rocks were trucked in from Cape Nome, 13 miles distant, at a cost of more than one million dollars.
Discovery of the precious yellow metal on Anvil Creek in 1898 brought thousands of prospectors and miners to Nome. Living in tents the first year, this mass of humanity stretched 20 miles long and 100 feet wide in a gigantic "City" on the beach.
Gold discoveries in the Nome area had been reported as far back as 1865 by Western Union surveyors seeking a route across Alaska and the Bering Sea. But it was a $1500-to-the-pan gold strike on tiny Anvil Creek by three Scandinavian's—Jafet Lindeberg, Erik Lindblom, and John Brynteson—that caused the mass exodus of thousands of restless miners from the gold camps of the north to the new "Eldorado."
Almost overnight an isolated stretch of tundra fronting the beach was transformed into a rip-roaring, tent-and-log cabin city of 20,000 prospectors, gamblers, claim jumpers, saloon keepers, and prostitutes.
The gold-bearing creeks had been almost completely staked, when some entrepreneur discovered the "golden sands of Nome." With nothing more than shovels, buckets, rockers and wheelbarrows, thousands of idle miners descended upon the beaches. Two months later the golden sands had yielded one million dollars in gold (at $16 an ounce).
One party of cheechakos (newcomers) who inquired about the best places to find gold were instructed by old timers to go to the top of a distant hill and sink shafts. (Everyone knew the only place to find gold was in the streambeds and on the beaches.) After much backbreaking labor, these seven chechakos—by now the laughing stock of Nome—sank shafts, hit paydirt and took out $750,000 in one season.
Rackets and racketeers were rampant in the early gold camps. There were almost as many con men at work separating the gold from the miners as there were miners extracting yellow metal from their diggings. Judge Arthur H. Noyes of North Dakota, appointed to administer a newly formed judicial district created to settle the hundreds of claim disputes which plagued Nome, immediately put all contested claims into receivership. This wily racketeer then proceeded to exploit the claims and freeze out the miners. It required two appeals to the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco and two U.S. Marshals to jail Noyes and his henchmen and restore order. The story is vividly accounted in Rex Beach's famous novel, "The Spoilers."
A narrow-gauge railroad and telephone line from Nome to Anvil Creek was built in 1900. By 1902 the more easily reached claims were exhausted and large mining companies with better equipment took over the mining operations.
The early mining camps gradually stabilized and became a city, building and expanding steadily until a disastrous fire in 1934 destroyed most of Nome. Rebuilding began immediately and blossomed into what is now the present town.
Nome Visitors Bureau
Box 251, Nome, AK 99762.