The Klondike Gold Rush

On wandering around Seattle I came across Klondike Gold Rush Museum which charted the history of the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park and . The Klondike gold rush changed the northern regions of the North American forever. Thousands of people left their homes around the world to converse on an isolated watershed in Canada s Yukon territory. Klondikers, as they came to be known, departed from ports in Seattle and Vancouver and ventured 1,000 miles north to the tiny coastal towns of Skagway and Dyea. They made their way over the Chilkoot or White pass trails to the headwaters of the Yukon river. On the shorts of Lake Benenett and Lindeman, Klondikers then built boats to float the 550 miles to the boomtown of Dawson city, where the Klondike and Yukon rivers flowed past some of the richest gold fields ever discovered.

Klondike Gold Fields Map (Source: http://www.nps.gov/klgo/forkids/the-story-of-the-klondike-goldrush-pg-2.htm) After thousands of miles of travel, most Klondikers would discover they were too late; prospectors already in the region had staked all the productive ground years before. Many pushed on or simply went home, outer stayed and became entrepreneurs making a living selling goods or room and board to stampeders. The hold rush so heavily population the north that Dawson remains the capital of the Yukon Territory until the early 1950s. Klondikers spoke glowingly of this adventure the rest of their lives. Poet Robert Service recalled a wide and wild land, an untamed country, and a place that could be neither easily conquered nor forgotten.

On August 16, 1896, a Native Tagish/Tlingit man named Skookum Jim Mason along with his brother in law George Washington Carmack and nephew Dawson Charlie found gold on a tributary of the Klondike river that would become known as Bonanza Creek. A claim filed the next day in Fortymile 50 miles downriver, triggered a stampede among prospectors already in the remote Interior. Within months, all claims along the Bonanza and neighbouring tributaries had been staked. But word that the area was staked out wouldn t reach the outside world before thousands of peoples from all over the world headed north.

(Source: http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/hegg&CISOPTR=120&CISOBOX=1&REC=3 ) The wild lands weren t empty when prospectors and adventurers arrived. Native people had lived here for thousands of years, Tlingit people lived on the coast near Skagway and Dyea; Tagish First Nations people lived in the area of Carcross and along the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. The Tlingit lived off the bounty of the land and waters fishing for salm on andhalibut. Berries and herbs were plentiful and were gathered for food and medicine. Strong trees provider the materials for homes and canoes. The Tagish had better access to mammals like Caribou and moose for hides, and lynx, beaver and weasel for furs. Trde routes across the mountains, like the Chilkoot trail, provided vital goods to both cultures. By the early 1800s Tlingits also successfully traded with Europeans and Americans. The fur trade focused attention on trade routes, but the Tlingit s kept non-natives from using the Chilkoot and Chikat passes until 1880 when internal strike broke out.

Stampeders on the Chilkoot Pass 1898 (Source: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chilkoot_pass_summit_1898.png) Taking advantage of the situation, the U.S military convinced the Tlingits to allow non-Natives access to the Chilkoot trail, which settled the matters. That year also marked the beginning of the arrangement between white prospectors and Tlingit packers. This had a negative consequence however. Contact with early prospectors, and later the gold rush stampeders, stressed both the Native cultures and the ecological balance of the environment. Roughly ¾ of all Stampeders came through Seattle, thanks to the Seattle Camber of Commerce, which advertised heavily throughout the US. A century later, travellers till flock to Seattle to follow their dreams north but in search of different riches magnificent forests, icy glaciers and deep fjords, the realm of bears, wolves, whales and salmon. Those who were about to embark on the journey north who didn t know how to live in the wilderness risked starvation. Concerned about the lack of supplies and provision for the incoming hordes, the North West mounted Police posted an order in February 1898 that required every miner entering Canada to bring with them enough provisions to last a year. Seattle merchants found their own gold mine in supplying the stampers, and happily provided the large supplies to people. Some gold seekers paid Seattle merchants more than $1,000 (around $22,000 today) to outfit them with what they would need. Se attle is thought to have made around $25million in the first year from this trade. Once they had their supplies, gold-seekers headed north. The majority of the stampeders traveled through Alaska s Inside Passage in overcrowded vessels of questionable seaworthiness, without any of the navigational aids today s adventurers take for

grant th hundred th usand people who set out for the goldfields most chose one of two rugged routes Many landed in Skagway, gateway to the White Pass trail. Others made it to Dyea, further up the canal at the delta of the Taiya ri er.takeoff point for the Chilkoot Trail, a long established Tlingit trade route to the interior.

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August 16, 1896: Gold Discovered on the Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike river, by Skookum Jim Mason, Dawson Charlie and George Washington Carmack. Autumn 1896:Rush for the Klondike gold by those in nearby Fortymile and Circule and others already within Northern Canada and Alaska. July 14, 1897: SS Exelsior lands in San Francisco with miners who had struck it rich in the gold fields. July 17, 1897: SS Portland docked at Seattle preceeded by a reporter on a tug boat, claiming more than a ton of gold on boar d . Within days, all possible passage north was booked. Autumn of 1897:Stampeders rush to the towns of Skagway and Dyea. Skagway s population booms from 5 to 5,000 in one month. Today, it is home to around 850 people. Winter of 1897-98: An estimated 20,000 stampeders spend the winter at Bennett, and 10,000 at Lindeman, building boats and waiting for the Yukon River to thaw and break up. May 29, 1898: Yukon river breaks up within 48 hours, more than 7,000 vessels leave Bennett for Dawson. Summer of 1898: An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people arrive at Dawson and the Klondike goldfields. August of 1898: Most stampeders give up and head home after finding all the gold bearing lands been claimed. The next gold rush, to Atlin, British Columbia begins. Autumn of 1898: First gold rush to Nome begins, signaling the final end of the Klondike gold rush. Some stampeders return to the Eagle area to stake claims initially passed over. May 1898-1900: The White Pass and Yukon Route railroad is built in two years from Skagway to White Hose. Its completion heralds the demise of the Chilkoot Trail and the towns of Dyea and Bennett.

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White Pass Trail
Skagway was the first choice for many stampeders as it was the departure point for the White Pass trail. Now largely reclaimed by the forest. In the early 1890s, Captain Moore and his son Ben, built several business ventures hoping to capitalize on a gold rush they predicted to happen. They built a wharf and a saw mill , ad widened a trail up to White Pass, as a possible alternative to the Chilkoot trail. Hoping to cash in on the rush north, Moore promoted the White Pass Trail as a better choice for stampeders. But after only two months of abuse in the first summer, the trail became a muddy, rocky nightmare and head to be closed until repairs cold make it passable. Because the White Pass Trail was not as steep as the Chilkoot Trail, stampeders tried to use packhorses to carry their goods, and themselves, but the awful condition of the trail took its toll on the stampeders and their animals.

Stampeders on the White Pass Trail (Source: http://www.tc.gov.yk.ca/digitization/public/search_detail.php?imageId=60526#)

White Pass and Yukon route railroad
Begin in 1898 as an alternate route to the rugged White Pass Trail from Skagway to Bennett, the White Pass and Yukon route railroad was completed in just two years. By then the stampede had peaked, yet the railroad would continue to supply miners and mining operations for years to come. The building of the White Pass and Yukon Route, the first railroad in Alaska, and th e northernmost in North America at the time, is one of the worlds greatest engineering feats of its time.

The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad (Source: http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/hegg&CISOPTR=510&CISOBOX=1&REC=9 )

Chilkoot Trail
Choosing not to gamble on the White Pass trail, tens of thousands of stampeders tackled the Chilkoot trail out of nearby Dyea; of those only an estimated 30,000 made It over the pass. The brutally steep, final 800 foot climb to the summit was a nightmare. Stampeders traversed with all their equipment and supplies . What would have been a 33 mile hike from Dyea over the summit to Bennett became more like a thousand mile strenuous trek. Many gave up. Others were spooked from using it after the deadly avalanche a smile south of the summit 1898.

Chilkoot Trail (Source: http://www.tentativeplans.com/2009/08/chilkoot-trail.html) Once the stampeders had reached Lake Bennett, they still hada long way to go. Most arrived too late, the lakes had iced over and would have to wait out winter.

Trees became lumber and everyone became a boatman. Every type of craft imaginable was cobbled together to carry the prospective miners to the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers. As soon as the ice broke up on May 29, 1898, the exodus began. Within 48 hours, more than 7,000 vessels left Bennett for Dawson. Many who set out would lose their lives when their makeshift boats hit the Yukon s treacherous rapids near Whitehorse and further down river at Five Fingers. The North West Mounted Police tried to save lives with checkpoints and boat registrations, but the Yukon would claimed many of the inexperienced and careless. Even today, boat captains cruise the river carefully each spring, testing to see where sandbars may have shifted and remember where shipwrecks lurk. In the years during and following the gold rush, river boats reigned as the queens of the river, navigating shoals and rapids to bring almost all of the goods and passengers to the Yukon.

Veins of Gold Tintina Trench
Riverboat passengers heading for gold in the 1890s might not have noticed the deep valley running along the river, but drivers on the Klondike Highway today can see it clearly from the road as it nears Dawson City from Whitehorse. Exciting geologically, it sthe source of the vast mineral wealth of the Yukon. It s why there was gold in these hills. Twos sides of fault move alongside each other here, shaking the earth and grinding up rocks over the last 85 million years, ultimately forming the trench and valley. Rocks on the northeast side are old; sedimentary rocks 1,000 million to 300 million years old. Rocks on the southwest side of the trench are mostly young, 350 to 20 million years old, mainly igneous and metamorphic.

Tintina Trench (Source: http://picasaweb.google.com/PennyXE/Cccts2010DempsterTour02#)

On the southern plate, in the vicinity of present day Dawson City near the junction of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, rich veins of quartz held one of the largest concentrations of gold in the world, unused for millions of years before being noticed by prospectors in the late nineteenth century.

Dawson City Paris of the North
After word got out that fold was found in the hills and valleys on t he tributaries of the Klondike River, Fortymile trader Joe Ladue quickly travelled to the site and founded the city of Dawson. He made his fortune from the miners, rather than the mines. A tent city sprang up where the Klondike flowed into the Yukon River and Dawson city boomed. By 1989, 30,00 to 40,000 people had arrived. Most of the Klondike stampeders didn t reach the town of Dawson City until two years after the strike, and by then all of the good claims had long since been staked. Fueled by the wealth of gold coming out of the hills, elaborate hotels, theatres, and dance halls were built in Dawson. The town at the heart of the flurry became a permanent home to many of those first entrepreneurs and their families. By 1902, only about 5,000 people stayed behind after gold rushes drew everyone to Nome and Fairbanks, but the town remained the capital of the Yukon Territory until 1953.

Dawson City
(Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dawson_City_and_the_Klondike_River,_YT,_about_1898.jpg )

For many who finally made it to Dawson in 1897-98, it was too late all the claims had been staked. Many gave up and went home via the Yukon River to St. Michael on the Alaska coast to catch a vessel south. Others fanned out into the countryside of floated down the Yukon River to Fortymile, where gold has been

found in 186, or onto Eagle and Circle to try their luck prospecting for gold. Some went onto Nome, carried long with the next stampede. The Klondikers who chose to stay worked claims for others by taking out a lease to mine for gold on someone else s claim. But it was a hard, cold, isolated life. In the summer, placer miners swirled gravels from river beds, in pans with water. Since gold is heavier than gravel, it sinks to the bottom as the rest washes out. The yield of a claim was often measured in how much gold remained in the pan. While some yielded only specks, others reported as much as $10,000 worth of gold in one pan, although this would have been rare. The huge quantitates of goldbrought out of the Klondike during the gold rush has to be washed out of stream beds, dug out of bedrocks, or dredged by the bucketful s from gravel beds. Since some rich veins were buried under permafrost, miners built fires to melt the ice so they could dig down the to frozen pay dirt . Mounds of earth, dug by hand, piled up beside the tunnels to sit until spring when water was running and the gold could be washed out of the dirt. Some struck gold, some gave up. Most departed by paddle wheeler down the Yukon river and over the Coast Mountains the way they came. Captains skillfully navigate passed sandbars that shift year to year, and rocky outcrops with ominous names like Shipwreck Rock. The five-to-six knot current sweeps around steep cliffs that drop into the water, then past remnants of forest singed by massive wildfires that scarred the landscape. This wild land, little changed from the days of the stampeders, attracts few residents to tough out the long, cold winters.

Klondike Gold Mining (Source: http://www.juggle.com/klondike-gold-rush)

Klondike Gold Rush Miners (Source: http://klondikegoldrushwa.areaparks.com/parkinfo.html?pid=16838)

The Wilderness
The river slips past a wilderness that s been home to the Tron dek Hwech en for thousands of years. Prior to the gold rush of 1898, the Tr on dek Hwech en fished for Salmon on the Klondike and Yukon rivers, and to preserve their traditions during the stampede, Chief Issac moved the community two miles downriver to Moosehide Village. Descendants still gather there today for the bi-annual Moosehide Gathering. Eight miles beyond the Canadian border, the tiny community of Eagle, Alaska comes into view. A haven for prospectors in 1897, the town is named for the bald eagles that once nested on the bluff. Its traditional Han name, T awdlin, means where the currents strike the bluff . The Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve protects a wild length of the Yukon River and the entire88 mile Charley river basin.

Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve Map (Source: http://mappery.com/Yukon-Charley-Rivers-National-Preserve-Map)

From it s headwaters in the Coast Mountains of Canada, the Yukon River flows 2,300 miles in a wide arc to the Bering Sea.The river flows near northwest through Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve for128 miles. As it enters the preserve near Eagle, the river runs past high buffs and heavily forested hills. Yukon-Charley is home to 20% of the United State s population of peregrine falcons, once an endangered species. Peregrines nest and rear their young in this area of the wild, undeveloped land. Here bears and wolves roam near rustic cabins and eagles fly high over historic sites, reminders of the importance of the Yukon River during the 1898 gold rush.

The Charley River (Source: http://www.ak.nrcs.usda.gov/soils/YukonCharley/YukonCharley.html)

The Yukon River (Source:http://www.ak.nrcs.usda.gov/soils/YukonCharley/YukonCharley.html)

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