History & Culture
THE LAST GRAND ADVENTURE
With cries of "Gold! Gold! in the Klondike!" there unfolded in the Yukon and Alaska a brief but fascinating adventure, which has captured the imagination of people around the world ever since. In August 1896 when Skookum Jim Mason, Dawson Charlie and George Washington Carmack found gold in a tributary of the Klondike River in Canada's Yukon Territory, they had no idea they they would set off one of the greatest gold rushes in history. Beginning in 1897, an army of hopeful goldseekers, unaware that most of the good Klondike claims were already staked, boarded ships and Seattle and other Pacific port cities and headed north toward the vision of riches to be had for the taking.
All through the summer and on into the winter of 1897-98, stampeders poured into the newly created Alaskan tent and shack towns of Skagway and Dyea - the jumping off points for the 600-mile trek to the goldfields.
Skagway, at the head of the White Pass Trail, was founded by a former steamboat captain named William Moore. His small homestead was inundated with some 10,000 transient residents struggling to get their required year's worth of gear and supplies over the Coast Range and down the Yukon River headwaters at lakes Lindeman and Bennett. Dyea, three miles away at the head of Taiya Inlet, experienced the same frantic boomtown activity as goldseekers poured ashore and picked their way up the Chilkoot Trail into Canada.
Did You Know?
Over 100,000 people started off for the Klondike gold fields, but less than 30,000 actually made it to the gold fields in Dawson City, Yukon Territory. The difficulties of the Chilkoot and White Pass trails forced many to turn back.