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Placer geology of the Stewart River (115N&O) and part of the Dawson (116B&C) map areas, west-central Yukon, Canada

Placer gold deposits are widespread throughout the largely unglaciated Stewart River and southern part of the Dawson map areas. These deposits include the world famous Klondike goldfields, the historic Fortymile and Sixty Mile goldfields, and well known placers along Black Hills, Scroggie, Thistle and Kirkman creeks. Although the deposits have been mined for over 100 years and have produced an estimate 311 tonnes of gold, they still account for about 85% of Yukon's annual placer gold production.
The placer deposits are classified into three levels of gravel with four main units: high-level gravel, which usually forms prominent, continuous high-level terraces and is subdivided into the White Channel Gravel (which is locally subdivided into a lower White Gravel and an upper Yellow Gravel unit) and Klondike Gravel; intermediate-level gravel, which mostly forms relatively small, irregularly distributed intermediate to low-level terraces; and low-level gravel, which represents alluvium along present day creeks, gulches and rivers. The White Channel Gravel, is up to 46 m thick and characterized by a predominance of quartz clasts (which are generally more abundant in the White Gravel than in the Yellow Gravel). It is considered Early Pliocene to earliest Late Pliocene in age (~5 to 3 Ma). The Klondike Gravel, not considered an economical placer, is up to 53 m thick and is distinguished by chert clasts derived from the Ogilvie Mountains, located northeast of the map areas. It was deposited as glaciofluvial outwash during the end of the initial and most widespread of the pre-Reid glaciations, and is probably latest Early Pliocene to earliest Late Pliocene (~3 Ma). The intermediate-level gravel, the least important economically, is up to 9 m thick. The low-level gravel, historically the most important gold-bearing unit, is 5 m thick in creeks and up to 20 m thick in rivers. The intermediate-level and low-level gravel have similar amounts of quartz, igneous and metamorphic rock particles, although locally, the low-level gravel contains sedimentary rock particles. The intermediate-level gravel is thought to be Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene (~3 Ma to 750 Ka) in age and the low-level gravel is considered Late Pleistocene to Holocene in age. Practically all of the placers are fluvial in origin and were deposited primarily in braided streams that flowed parallel to the present day streams along which the deposits occur.
Gold recovered from the various levels of gravel is detrital in origin and was mainly derived from early Mesozoic auriferous quartz veins. The concentration of gold in the gravel is related to a hierarchy of physical scales: at the lithofacies scale (metres), bed roughness determined sites of gold deposition; at the element scale (tens of metres), gravel bars were preferentially enriched in gold; at the reach scale (hundreds of metres), stream gradient was an important factor; at the system scale (hundreds of kilometres), braided river environments transported large amounts of gold; and at the sequence scale (thousands of kilometres), economic placers formed initially in the high-level White Channel Gravel and later in the intermediate- and low-level gravel.

Data and Resources

Release Date
Homepage URL
Temporal Coverage
Wednesday, December 31, 1969 - 16:00
Public Access Level
Energy, Mines and Resources
Publication type
Additional Info: 

Document Type



115N, 115O, 116B, 116C

Year Published


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