What Was the Klondike Gold Rush?

The Last Grand Adventure

Gold! In 1896, gold was found in the Klondike area of the Yukon. 100,000 hopeful miners arrived in Alaska and the Yukon hoping to strike it rich. Alaska Native and First Nations communities struggled to hold onto their culture, land, and way of life. A wave of gold seekers sailed from Seattle and other west coast port cities, heading north in search of gold.

Which Route to Take?

There were several routes to the Klondike. Those who could afford it took the easy route by boat, around Alaska and up the Yukon river. Some stampeders tried walking the entire way via an overland route, sometimes taking up to two years to arrive. Others who tried crossing the glaciers near Yakutat and Valdez often got lost or went snow blind.

The cheapest, most direct routes were via the White Pass and Chilkoot Trails. They had to hike over the Coast Range mountains to reach the head of the Yukon River. From there they traveled over 500 miles by river on handmade boats to reach the gold fields. These trails were full of hardships: murders and suicides, disease and malnutrition, and deaths from hypothermia, avalanche, and possibly even heartbreak. Pack animals could not be used easily on the steep slopes leading to the pass, so stampeders had to carry everything on their backs. Eventually a tram was built.

By summer of 1898, many of the stampeders were broke and started for home. The next year gold was discovered at Nome, Alaska, and many miners moved to the new fields. The great Klondike Gold Rush ended as suddenly as it had begun. Towns, such as Dawson City and Skagway, began to decline, and in other cases, disappear.

Source: What Was the Klondike Gold Rush?
National Park Service

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