1897, a steamer with Klondike prospectors aboard landed
in Seattle. The ship carried almost three tons of gold
and word of the Klondike spread immediately to all
corners of the globe.
of adventurers tried to reach the junction of the
Klondike and Yukon rivers during the next three years.
They came from around the world -- driven by a passion
for gold and the untold riches which the Klondike
promised. But the real challenge was not mining the gold,
it was getting to Dawson City. Most of the adventurers
left from Seattle and made their way north by steamship.
Some journeyed all the way to Dawson on the water: by
steamer to the mouth of the Yukon on the Bering Sea, and
on smaller boats up the river to the Klondike. Most began
their overland journey in Skagway, Alaska. Here they were
met by the most incredible collection of thugs and con
men ever assembled in one place. Those who escaped the
clutches of Skagway had to climb the ice steps of the
Chilcoot Pass over and over again, carrying a ton of
supplies and crossing into Canada, where they had to
build boats and rafts to take them down the Yukon River
system, passing through treacherous rapids and swift
canyons, to Dawson City.
who made it to Dawson found the prime spots on the creeks
already claimed. Many turned around and returned home.
Some stayed to take advantage of the Klondike Gold Rush
by setting up businesses, hotels, restaurants, theaters,
dance halls and all of the other amenities which made
Dawson known as the "Paris of the North" during the four
years when 30,000 people lived in the frontier
City was the largest city north of San Francisco. The
successful gold miners spent fortunes on grand living in
the hotels, dance halls, saloons and other
establishments, including those which offered the
services of young ladies who were specially imported to
the gold rush capital.
accouterments of civilization were available in Dawson.
There were local daily newspapers. Arizona Charlie
Meadows built the Palace Grand Theatre which offered
high-class entertainment by world famous artists. "Fresh"
eggs were rafted down the Yukon. Champagne flowed in the
Eldorado Hotel and boatloads of whiskey arrived before
freeze-up each year.
1903, more than $96 million in gold had been taken out of
the creeks. Ten years after the discovery of gold, the
rush was over. There were a few millionaires and many who
left with unfulfilled dreams.
Klondike Gold Rush is remembered as the greatest
adventure of them all. It was a brief, exciting period of
history that continues to live through memory and
existing reminders of the gold rush period in Dawson
City, Whitehorse, Skagway and places in between.
history of the Yukon since the end of the Klondike Gold
Rush in 1903 is a story of ups and downs, decline and
revival. The miners of Dawson City continued to take gold
out of the Klondike gold field, switching to hydraulic
mining which washed earth down from the hillsides. Then
huge dredges traveled along the creek beds sweeping all
in their paths, extracting what gold remained after the
gold rush was over. These dredges, operated mainly by the
Consolidated Gold Co., created the long tailing piles
that remain today. Gold dredging was finally concluded in
the 1960s when gold prices dropped and dredging became
uneconomical. The population of Dawson City declined over
the years. By 1960, there were 350 permanent
kinds of minerals supported the economy of the Yukon.
Silver mines at Elsa, near Mayo, were an important
factor. Later, the lead/zinc mine at Faro added to the
importance of Whitehorse as the commercial center of the
it was the Second World War that brought new people and
money to the Yukon with the construction of the Alaska
Highway in 1942. Thousands of army engineers and
construction workers flooded through the Yukon to build
and maintain the highway as a military roadway to Alaska.
Whitehorse quickly eclipsed Dawson City as the Yukon's
major city. The Yukon territorial government was moved to
Whitehorse in 1953. Whitehorse had become the trading and
transportation center of the territory, with Canadian
Army and Air Force bases and the train connection with
Skagway, Alaska. While the military bases are no longer
here, Whitehorse has expanded over the years and is now a
modern, bustling commercial and government center.
the end of the war, the Alaska Highway was opened for
public traffic and brought the first highway tourists to
the Yukon. By the early 1960s, tourism had become a
growing focus for Yukoners. The Yukon and Canadian
governments realized that Dawson City provided a
priceless heritage that should be preserved. With its
decline in population, Dawson's original buildings had
been abandoned and left to deteriorate. While some
buildings remained from the gold rush era, several fires
had swept through the community and quick action was
required to preserve those structures that
to See & Do
The Palace Grand Theatre was restored to its original
glory in 1962. The paddle-wheeler "SS Keno" was
moved down the river from Whitehorse, to become a
historical museum on the banks of the Yukon. Dawson was
declared a National Historic Site and the National Parks
Service was placed in charge of the restoration of
significant Dawson buildings and gold mining sites.
Virtually the whole town and several places outside of
Dawson are historic sites, and the work continues
car or RV will be useful in getting around the historic
gold rush areas close to Dawson City. Aside from the
downtown area, the most fascinating sights are slightly
out of town, around Bonanza, Hunker, and Bear creeks.
These old mining camps and the large dredge on Bonanza
Creek (where it all began) take you back to the "Days of
'98" and the most incredible and last great gold rush on
best place to go, as soon as you arrive, is the Visitor
Information Centre on Front Street. This office has the
answers for all of the questions you may have, from hotel
rates to guided tours of the gold fields and the
departure times of the daily river cruises. Here you'll
find a useful map of the downtown area.
are guided walking tours leaving from the information
centre each day. Other guided tours take you by mini-bus
to the historic gold fields. Panning for gold (helped by
a bit of friendly cheating) is a popular activity.
of several walking trails leads to the old Native
community of Moosehide, downstream from Dawson. Should
you visit this abandoned village, please respect private
property. Another trail leads up the Midnight Dome for
spectacular views of Dawson City, the Yukon Valley and
City is a one-of-a-kind experience. 286 KM (165 miles)
south of the Arctic Circle, at the confluence of the
Klondike and Yukon rivers, Dawson remains a living
reminder of the greatest gold rush of all time: the 1898
an immersion in history, Dawson has no equal with its
dusty, sometimes muddy streets, boardwalks, sagging gold
rush-era buildings, restored national historic sites,
authentic 1890s gambling casino, working gold claims on
the historic creeks, and the more recently constructed
hotels, stores, and restaurants with false fronts. Over
the past thirty years, Dawson City has been carefully
preserved and restored and is, for our money, the
outstanding tourist destination of the north. To catch
the full excitement and romance of Dawson City, you
should read Pierre Berton's book Klondike,
published by McLelland and Stewart, the definitive book
on the Klondike Gold Rush. It's available at bookstores
in Dawson and Whitehorse and throughout the U.S. and
viewed from Midnight Dome -- the round mountain
which rises behind Dawson City---the townsite is a large,
orderly grid. It was surveyed by William Ogilvie to
accommodate the 30,000 people who lived here during the
short gold rush period. Today, 1,600 people live in or
near Dawson City, some of them mining for gold more than
90 years after the discovery. Dawson City was declared a
national historic site in the early 1960s and significant
buildings and gold mining sites have been restored. These
locations are open for public viewing from June through
mid-September. Accommodations and food are expensive in
Dawson City, and visitors should plan ahead for the
higher-than-average costs of a stay in Dawson.
city's Visitor's Reception Centre is operated by
the Klondike Visitors Association, a community group. The
centre is located at Front and King streets, downtown.
This building is a re-creation of an old Northern
Commercial Co. store. This is the location for complete
information on the Klondike area and the starting point
for walking tours. The office is open daily from mid-May
to Mid September. For advance information, call (403)
The Dempster Highway and Northwest Territories Information Center is found in the B.Y.N. Building,
across Front Street from the town visitor centre. The
building was the former home of the British Yukon
Navigation Company. The infocenter is open daily from 9
a.m. to 9 p.m. from June to September.
City Airport is located on the Klondike Highway,
south of town. The government ferry crosses the Yukon
River from Front Street, connecting with the Top Of The
World Highway. This is a free ferry, operating daily
through the summer months.