Although much more complex than the basic placer mining operations that preceded it on Coal Creek, the Coal Creek dredge and camp are representative of a simple dredging operation. Unlike the Fairbanks Exploration Company, which invested $10 million before dredging began and which brought eight dredges into the Fairbanks area, Gold Placers, Inc., was initially a one-dredge operation, and complex pumping and ditch building were not employed.
Ernest Patty, who had founded the School of Mines at the University of Alaska, and Gen. A. D. McRae of Vancouver formed Gold Placers, Inc., in 1934. They brought a dredge, diesel tractor, and hydraulic mining equipment into Coal Creek, barging them to the mouth of the creek and taking them overland in winter. By 1936 they had also set up a dredge on Woodchopper Creek, a neighboring drainage, and had built an airstrip on Coal Creek. They employed forty men at Coal Creek and thirty on Woodchopper.
The camp at Coal Creek, originally located about 6 miles from the mouth of the creek, consisted mostly of wanigans, or one-story, wood-framed buildings on skids for easy moving. About a dozen buildings remain: bunkhouses and mess hall, office and assay shop. The machine shop burned in 1951 and was replaced with a quonset hut.
The dredge was designed by mining engineer Charles Janin of San Francisco; it was constructed by the Walter W. Johnson Company of Oakland. The dredge was then disassembled and shipped via Skagway, down the Yukon River, and nearly 7 miles up Coal Creek where it was reassembled in 1935. The 4-cubic-foot buckets, powered by a diesel motor, moved the dredge downstream, chewing up the gravel streambed as it went. The camp followed. The camp is now located about 3½ miles from the mouth, and the dredge, which was last operated in 1975, is about a mile from the mouth.