Dawson City Yukon was the site of the famous Klondike Gold Rush in 1898. This fascinating gold rush history, makes it one of the most interesting towns to visit in the Yukon or Alaska. The Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s only lasted a few short years, but it’s legacy lives on. More than a Century later, gold mining remains an economic mainstay and has produced close to 14 million ounces of gold in the past 120 years. More recently, tourism has become the main economic driver in this gold rush town and for 2023, Dawson City was chosen by Frommer’s Travel Guide as “One of the best places to go” in the World.”
It all began with Robert Henderson, a fur trapper and part -time prospector who, in 1894, found gold in Rabbit Creek (later renamed Bonanza Creek) near the confluence of the Yukon River and the Klondike River. When he had finished prospecting this clear, shallow creek, he was certain he was close to a major find.
Two years passed, however, before he could persuade his friend, George Carmack, to go back to the area. Carmack and his native companions, Dawson Charlie and Skookum Jim, explored the area around the river the First Nations people called “Tr’ondek”—or Klondike to English tongues. The three lucky prospectors discovered gold on Bonanza Creek on August 16, 1896, marking the beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush!
A short time later, at the nearby mining camp of Fortymile, Carmack registered the claim. Within days, Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks had been staked from end to end. Carmack did not tell Henderson, who ended up missing out on the richest claims.
Thirty thousand prospectors and miners, entrepreneurs, bankers, gamblers, prostitutes and con artists from every corner of the continent came across snow-covered mountain passes and down the Yukon River to claim their fortune in the Klondike. Most who made the journey found no gold at all. But the hope of striking it rich was not all that mattered. For many of those who made the incredible expedition, the Klondike represented an escape from everyday life and adventure in a new frontier.
Dawson City grew up in the shadow of a scar-faced mountain called Midnight Dome. Here on the flats of two Klondike rivers (The Klondike & The Yukon) was a city of mud streets, churches, saloons, casinos and theatre’s. White Pass & Yukon steamers were typically berthed at riverside docks bringing a steady stream of people and supplies. These beautiful boats were part of a fleet of 250 paddlewheelers on the Yukon River.
The Klondike Gold Rush had a major impact on the local First Nations, The Han. They inhabited the land around the Yukon, Stewart and Klondike River for several thousand years and were one of the few Yukon tribes to develop permanent villages in the Yukon. Today, they are concentrated in Dawson City where they operate the Dänojà Zho Cultural Center.
Dawson City Yukon is host to a decade of centennials and anniversaries. A potpourri of cultural events take place during the annual Discovery Days Festival, which 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 1st and Goldpanners attend from around the world and compete in various panning categories.
For travellers headed north from Dawson to Inuvik or Tuktoyaktuk, take the Dempster Highway, 40 km east of Dawson City on the Klondike Highway. To get from Dawson City to Alaska, take the Top of the World Highway.”