Come explore Dawson City Yukon in the heart of the Klondike
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Dawson City Yukon

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Dawson City probably has more things for visitors to see and do than any town  in the Yukon or Alaska.

One of the more interesting activities is a quiet stroll up and down the old wooden walkways on a cool, misty morning. For it is then that the Dawson spirit seems most lively.

Dawson City, Yukon is host to a decade of centennials and anniversaries. A potpourri of special events take place during the annual Discovery Days  Festival that celebrates the Discovery of Gold in 1896. Visit the Commissioner's Residence and the Boyhood Home of Pierre Berton. The Yukon Gold Panning Championships are hosted on July 1 stand Goldpanners attend from around the world and compete in various panning categories.

Dawson City Map (PDF)

History of Dawson City

It all began with Robert Henderson, a fur trapper and part-time prospector who, in 1894, found gold in Rabbit Creek (later renamed Bonanza) not far from where the Klondike River empties into the Yukon. When he had prospected this  clear, shallow stream, he was certain he was close to a major find.

Two years passed, however, before he could persuade his friend, George Washington Carmack, to go into the area. Carmack and his native companions, Dawson Charley and Skookum Jim, explored the area around the river the Indians called "Tr'ondek"—or Klondike to English tongues. The three lucky prospectors discovered gold on Bonanza Creek on August 17, 1896.

A short time later, at the nearby mining camp of Fortymile, Carmack registered the discovery claim. Within days, Bonanza and Eldorado creeks had been staked  from end to end. Carmack forgot to tell poor Henderson, who missed out entirely  on the richest claims.

Thirty thousand (some say fifty) pick-and-shovel miners, prospectors, storekeepers,  saloon keepers, bankers, gamblers, prostitutes and con men from every corner  of the continent poured through snow-choked mountain passes and down the Yukon River to stake their claim to fortune on creeks with names like Eldorado,  Bonanza, Last Chance and Too Much Gold.

Most seekers found no gold at all. But the prospect of sudden riches was not all that mattered. For many of those who made the incredible journey,  the Klondike represented escape from the humdrum, the adventure of a new frontier.

The town grew up in the shadow of a scar-faced mountain called Midnight Dome.  Here on the flats of two riverbanks was a city of trampled mud streets, saloons,  churches, gambling houses and theatrical shows. Wharves and warehouses lined the river's shore. White Pass & Yukon steamers could usually be found  berthed at riverside docks, part of a fleet of 250 paddlewheelers, which plied the Yukon River.

In early-day Dawson, gold dust could buy almost anything. One grizzled old  prospector is reputed to have bought a dance-hall queen for her weight in  gold.

Traders, who packed tons of freight over difficult trails, priced their merchandise  at whatever they felt the traffic would bear. Condensed milk sold for $3 a  can; eggs, $18 a dozen, sugar, $100 a sack; butter, $10 for a two-pound can. A bowl of soup in a restaurant cost a dollar and a pint of French champagne sold for $30. A Seattle paper sold for $10, and its buyer rented it out for  $2.50 a reading.

By 1904, an estimated $100 million in gold had been shipped from the Klondike.  No one really knows how much gold was found, however, because lots of it was never registered.

At its height, Dawson City had a population of 35,000, but the "stampede"  of `98 died out almost as quickly as it began. Stories of a new gold discovery  at a place called Nome began filtering into the Klondike. As thousands of prospectors and miners rushed westward, Dawson as many towns before her became  a ghost town.

Unlike many gold camps, Dawson was never swept aside or buried in the onrush of civilization. When its dream was over, the town stood still.

Many of the old landmarks disappeared one by one in disasters such as fire or the callousness of man. But what remains provides a unique travel experience for those with a sense of history and adventure.

"A symphony in honky-tonk that played itself out in four frenzied years."  That's the way one famous early-day writer chose to describe the gold rush city of Dawson.

Some of the old landmarks, like the Palace Grand theatre, have been reconstructed. Others, such as the Old Post Office, have been restored, since many sites in Dawson City have been designated of National Historic significance by the  Canadian government. Restoration and maintenance of numerous gold rush buildings and at least one mining complex is being carried out by Parks Canada.

Some of the town's firms like the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, have opened their doors every business day for almost a century. In the bank, gold still is weighed and handled here, but not in the same quantities as it was when Dawson revelled in her prime.

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