The Klondike Gold Rush may be history, but Dawson City still draws adventurers from far and wide. We spend time there on our new North to the Yukon trip.
For eons, the area, three thousand miles north of Vancouver, was the heart of the homeland of the hunter-gatherer Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and their ancestors. The confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers served as a fishing camp, important summer gathering spot, and a base for moose hunting.
Across the Klondike River, the small settlement of Dawson City became Yukon’s first capital in 1898. The Klondike Gold Rush brought a rapid influx of 40,000 pick-and-shovel miners, prospectors, storekeepers, bankers, gamblers, prostitutes, and adventurers.
Dawson City now has a population of 1,375 and is Yukon’s second largest town. Its rugged frontier spirit continues to flourish through the lively atmosphere you won’t find elsewhere. Period buildings, boardwalks, and dirt roads may have you wondering if you’ve stepped back into that era.
1. Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre. There’s no better way to start your visit than by a walk through the history and culture of the First Nations People of the Klondike. The exhibit shares the history, artifacts, and cultural objects from lives and events that have shaped their story.
2. Dawson City Museum. Get a feel for the town with a stroll through its stories of adventure, mystery, and survival. The galleries and exhibits will take you on a journey from the original settlement to the eclectic town that exists today.
3. Midnight Dome. Ride up to the mountain top for a panoramic view of the region. From here you can see 360 degrees and take in the beauty of the Yukon River, Klondike Valley, and Ogilvie Mountain Range in the distance. The ultimate time to visit is during the Summer Solstice when you can watch the sun circle right around the peak and never set!
4. Downtown Hotel. The Sourdough Saloon, famous for its swinging doors and turn-of-the century décor, is home to the famous Sourtoe Cocktail. Certificates are issued if you join the Sourtoe Club!
5. Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall. Enjoy a night at the saloon in Canada’s first licensed gambling hall, recreated in the unique Klondike period style and offering cancan entertainment.
6. Jack London Cabin and Museum. Through archives and photographs, this quaint museum immortalizes the adventures of this famous author who wrote about the far north before, during, and after the Klondike Gold Rush. Half the original logs were located and reclaimed to build a replica inside the museum.
7. Robert Service Cabin. This rustic, two-room, log cabin with a double-door and front porch is example of an early miner’s cabin from the gold rush period. Robert Service was a bank clerk by trade whose employer sent him to the Yukon for a period of time. Poetry was a sideline but his poems, like The Shooting of Dan McGrew, and The Cremation of Sam McGee, made him famous around the world.
8. Aurora Borealis. Viewing the brilliant dancing lights some Indigenous people refer to as dancing spirits, is an extraordinary experience. They can be seen in Dawson beginning at the end of August, pending clear weather conditions. With a bit of luck, they may grace us while we’re there.
9. Cemeteries. Get a glimpse into the dynamic cultural past through Dawson’s diverse cemeteries. There are also ten memorial sites for characters such as The Saint of Dawson, The Iron Man, and The King of the Klondike.
10. Klondike Gold Rush History. The Goldrush changed the land and its people forever. The evidence of gold fever, is all around. There’s an historic dredge, sternwheeler, and just in case you want to try your luck, plenty of opportunities to go panning for gold. Who knows? You may be the next one to strike it lucky!
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