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Setting the Stage

In August 1896, prospectors George Washington Carmack, Skookum Jim, and Dawson Charley discovered gold on Rabbit Creek (renamed Bonanza Creek) in the remote Klondike region of Canada's Yukon Territory. News of the Klondike discovery spread slowly over the next year until miners began to return with their fortunes. In July 1897, the S.S. Portland arrived in Seattle, Washington, with more than a ton of Klondike gold on board. This event touched off the great Klondike Gold Rush as thousands of people who dreamed of becoming wealthy began booking passage on steamers heading north from Seattle and other West Coast ports. Upon arriving at the northern end of the Inside Passage, however, these adventure-bound stampeders found no easy route leading to the still distant Klondike region. The most direct route involved climbing over either the White Pass Trail from Skagway, Alaska, or the Chilkoot Pass Trail from Dyea (pronounced Die-ee) to Bennett Lake, the headwaters of the Yukon River. Stampeders then had to build a boat to navigate 500 miles down the Yukon River. Their final destination was Dawson City, a town that developed near the gold fields. Between 1897 and 1900 more than 100,000 people, from many nations and from all walks of life, set out on the arduous journey to the Klondike. No more than 40,000 actually reached Dawson City, however, and only a few obtained the wealth that they dreamed of along the route.




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