National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Seattle Post Intelligencer Klondike Edition, July 17, 1897, facsimile
Seattle Post Intelligencer Klondike Edition, July 17, 1897, facsimile

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 in 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. Stampeders faced their greatest hardships on the Chilkoot Trail out of Dyea and the White Pass Trail out of Skagway. There were murders and suicides, disease and malnutrition, and death from hypothermia, avalanche, and, some said heartbreak. During the first year of the rush an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 goldseekers spent an average of three months packing their outfits up the trails and over the passes to the lakes. The distance from tidewater to the lakes was only about 35 miles, but each individual trudged hundreds of miles back and forth along the trails, moving gear from cache to cache. Once the prospectors had hauled their full array of gear to the lakes, they built or bought boats to float the remaining 550 or so miles downriver to Dawson City and the Klondike mining district where an almost limitless supply of gold nuggets was said to be ready for the taking.

The purpose of this State of the Park report for Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is to assess the overall condition of the park's priority resources and values, to communicate complex park condition information to visitors and the American public in a clear and simple way, and to inform visitors and other stakeholders about stewardship actions being taken by park staff to maintain or improve the condition of priority park resources for future generations. The State of the Park report uses a standardized approach to focus attention on the priority resources and values of the park based on the park's purpose and significance, as described in the park's Foundation Document. The report:

  • Provides to visitors and the American public a snapshot of the status and trend in the condition of a park's priority resources and values.
  • Summarizes and communicates complex scientific, scholarly, and park operations factual information and expert opinion using non-technical language and a visual format.
  • Highlights park stewardship activities and accomplishments to maintain or improve the state of the park.
  • Identifies key issues and challenges facing the park to inform park management planning.

The process of identifying priority park resources by park staff and partners, tracking their condition, organizing and synthesizing data and information, and communicating the results will be closely coordinated with the park planning process, including natural and cultural resource condition assessments and Resource Stewardship Strategy development. The term "priority resources" is used to identify the fundamental and other important resources and values for the park, based on a park's purpose and significance within the National Park System, as documented in the park's foundation document and other planning documents. This report summarizes and communicates the overall condition of priority park resources and values based on the available scientific and scholarly information and expert opinion, irrespective of the ability of the park superintendent or the National Park Service to influence it.

The purpose of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is to preserve in public ownership for the benefit and inspiration of the people of the United States, the historic structures, trails, artifacts and landscapes and stories associated with the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.

Significance statements express why the park unit's resources and values are important enough to warrant national park unit designation. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is significant because the park:

  • Commemorates a great human drama that caught the attention of the world, and transformed the demographics, culture, and environment of Alaska and the Yukon.
  • Preserves an integral link in a ribbon of sites that connects the places, events, and resources of the Gold Rush, extending across the international border from Seattle to Dawson and beyond.
  • Provides outstanding and diverse opportunities for visitors to retrace the steps of the gold rush stampeders, and in so doing, gain personal insight into the motivations, adversities, impacts and significance of the event.
  • Fosters preservation of the resources within two National Historical Landmarks of two principal American boomtowns of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897–1898, the most popular routes to the Klondike gold fields, and the most vivid reminders of the struggle and determination of the stampeders.
  • Fosters an understanding of the physical and biological processes and associated unique flora and fauna of the Northern Lynn Canal, where subarctic, alpine, coastal, and boreal ecosystems converge within the Taiya and Skagway river valleys.

The United States and Canada officially recognized the Chilkoot Trail as part of the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park in 1998. Included in the designation are the Thirty Mile Heritage section of the Yukon River, Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada (Dawson City) and the Seattle and Alaska Units of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Since the 1960s, the Chilkoot Trail has been cooperatively managed by both nations. The Trail Center in Skagway is jointly operated by Parks Canada and the U.S. National Park Service. The 33-mile Chilkoot Trail from Dyea, Alaska, to Bennett, British Colombia, is staffed en route by rangers and wardens in the respective countries.

Map of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Map of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

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