Klondike Gold Rush
Overview
The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was an attempt by an estimated 100,000 people to travel to the Klondike region
Klondike, Yukon
The Klondike is a region of the Yukon in northwest Canada, east of the Alaska border. It lies around the Klondike River, a small river that enters the Yukon from the east at Dawson....

 the Yukon
Yukon
Yukon is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories. It was named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon means "Great River" in Gwich’in....

 in north-western Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 between 1897 and 1899 in the hope of successfully prospecting
Prospecting
Prospecting is the physical search for minerals, fossils, precious metals or mineral specimens, and is also known as fossicking.Prospecting is a small-scale form of mineral exploration which is an organised, large scale effort undertaken by mineral resource companies to find commercially viable ore...

 for gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

. Gold was discovered in large quantities in the Klondike on 16 August 1896 and when news of the finds reached Seattle and San Francisco in July 1897 it triggered a "stampede
Gold rush
A gold rush is a period of feverish migration of workers to an area that has had a dramatic discovery of gold. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.In the 19th and early...

" of would-be prospectors to the gold creeks.
Encyclopedia
The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was an attempt by an estimated 100,000 people to travel to the Klondike region
Klondike, Yukon
The Klondike is a region of the Yukon in northwest Canada, east of the Alaska border. It lies around the Klondike River, a small river that enters the Yukon from the east at Dawson....

 the Yukon
Yukon
Yukon is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories. It was named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon means "Great River" in Gwich’in....

 in north-western Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 between 1897 and 1899 in the hope of successfully prospecting
Prospecting
Prospecting is the physical search for minerals, fossils, precious metals or mineral specimens, and is also known as fossicking.Prospecting is a small-scale form of mineral exploration which is an organised, large scale effort undertaken by mineral resource companies to find commercially viable ore...

 for gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

. Gold was discovered in large quantities in the Klondike on 16 August 1896 and when news of the finds reached Seattle and San Francisco in July 1897 it triggered a "stampede
Gold rush
A gold rush is a period of feverish migration of workers to an area that has had a dramatic discovery of gold. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.In the 19th and early...

" of would-be prospectors to the gold creeks. The journey to Klondike was arduous and involved travelling long distances and crossing difficult mountain passes, frequently while carrying heavy loads. Some miners discovered very rich deposits of gold and became immensely wealthy, but the majority arrived after the best of the gold fields had been claimed and only around 4,000 ultimately struck gold. The Klondike gold rush concluded in 1899, after gold was discovered in Nome
Nome Gold Rush
-Beach:Claim jumping was mostly a problem before the beach gold was found, since it could not be claimed and there was plenty of it. As a matter of fact, the beach gold seems to have been more important than the claimed gold in the creeks. The mining of Nome beach is a good example of gold rushes...

, prompting an exodus from the Klondike. The Klondike gold rush was immortalized by the photographs of the prospectors ascending the Chilkoot Pass
Chilkoot Pass
Chilkoot Pass is a high mountain pass through the Boundary Ranges of the Coast Mountains in the U.S. state of Alaska and British Columbia, Canada. It is the highest point along the Chilkoot Trail that leads from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett Lake, British Columbia...

, by books like The Call of the Wild
The Call of the Wild
The Call of the Wild is a novel by American writer Jack London. The plot concerns a previously domesticated dog named Buck, whose primordial instincts return after a series of events leads to his serving as a sled dog in the Yukon during the 19th-century Klondike Gold Rush, in which sled dogs...

, and films such as The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush is a 1925 silent film comedy written, produced, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin in his Little Tramp role. The film also stars Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, Malcolm Waite....

.

Prospectors had begun to mine gold in the Yukon from the 1880s onwards and when rich deposits of gold was discovered along the Klondike River
Klondike River
The Klondike River is a tributary of the Yukon River in Canada that gave its name to the Klondike Gold Rush. The Klondike River has its source in the Ogilvie Mountains and flows into the Yukon River at Dawson City....

 in 1896 it prompted great local excitement. The remoteness of the region and the extreme winter climate prevented news from reaching the outside world until the following spring, when the initial Klondike stampede was triggered by the arrival of over US$1,139,000 (equivalent to US$1,000 million in 2010 terms) in gold in the north-western American ports in July 1897. Newspaper reports of the gold and the successful miners fuelled a nation-wide hysteria: many left their jobs and set off for the Klondike, hoping to make a fortune as miners. They were joined by businessmen, outfitters, writers and photographers. Reaching the gold fields was challenging. The majority of prospectors landed at the ports of Dyea and Skagway in South-east Alaska. They could then take either the Chilkoot or the White Pass
White Pass
White Pass is a mountain pass through the Boundary Ranges of the Coast Mountains on the border of the U.S. state of Alaska and the province of British Columbia, Canada...

 trails to the Yukon River
Yukon River
The Yukon River is a major watercourse of northwestern North America. The source of the river is located in British Columbia, Canada. The next portion lies in, and gives its name to Yukon Territory. The lower half of the river lies in the U.S. state of Alaska. The river is long and empties into...

 and from there sail down-stream to the Klondike in self-made boats. Each prospector was required to bring a year's supply of food with them by the Canadian authorities and many had to carry this ton of supplies in stages over the passes. The advent of winter meant that most prospectors did not arrive in the gold fields until early summer 1898. Only between 30,000 to 40,000 of the stampeders successfully arrived in the Klondike.

It was not easy to mine for gold in the Klondike. It was hard to predict where gold might be discovered, and the permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

 made digging and working the ore difficult and costly. Prospectors could lodge mining claims relatively easily under Canadian law, but most of the best gold creeks had been staked out by early 1898, leaving little good land for the first wave of stampeders. Some miners bought and sold claims, building up huge investments. Boom towns sprang up along the coast at Dyea and Skagway to accommodate the influx of prospectors and Dawson City was founded in the Klondike at the heart of the gold creeks. From a population of 500 in 1896, by spring 1898 the hastily constructed wooden town contained around 30,000 people. Poorly built, isolated and located on a mud flat, Dawson City had poor sanitary standards and suffered from epidemics and fires. The wealthiest prospectors lived a life of conspicuous consumption, gambling and drinking heavily in the town's saloons and dancing halls, despite the high prices. The Native Hän people
Han people
Han people may refer to:* Han Chinese , the majority ethnic group of China.* Han , an indigenous people of North America.* Koreans , whose ethnicity can also be called "Han" in the Korean language....

 who had lived along the Klondike before the discovery of gold suffered extensively during the rush, being moved into a reserve
Indian reserve
In Canada, an Indian reserve is specified by the Indian Act as a "tract of land, the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty, that has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of a band." The Act also specifies that land reserved for the use and benefit of a band which is not...

 to make way for the stampeders; many died as a result.

Some prospectors, unable to make a living in the Klondike, started to return home as early as the summer of 1898. The newspapers began to turn against the Klondike and the hysteria that had encouraged so many to travel there waned. Dawson City was rebuilt following a serious fire in April 1899, becoming more sedate and conservative. When news arrived in the summer of 1899 that gold had been discovered in Nome in north-west Alaska, many prospectors left the Klondike for the new gold fields, marking the end of the Klondike gold rush. The boom towns in the Klondike declined and the population of Dawson City fell away. Heavier equipment was brought in to mine the remaining gold reserves, but production diminished after 1903; nonetheless, an estimated total of 1250000 pounds (566,990.5 kg) of gold had been taken from the Klondike area by 2005. Today the Klondike gold rush continues to draw tourists to the region and is remembered in numerous novels, poems, photographs and films.

Background

The indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast
The Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, their descendants, and many ethnic groups who identify with those historical peoples. They are now situated within the Canadian Province of British Columbia and the U.S...

 in north-west America had traded in copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 nuggets prior to the European expansion; most of the tribes were aware that gold existed in region but the metal was not valued by them. The Russians
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 and the Hudson Bay Company had both explored the Yukon in the first half of the 19th century, but ignored the rumours of gold in favour of fur trading
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

, which offered more immediate profits. In the second half of the 19th century, however, American prospectors began to spread into the peninsula. Making deals with the Native Tlingit and Tagish tribes, the early prospectors succeeded in opening up the important routes of Chilkoot and White Pass to reach the Yukon valley between 1870–90. Here they encountered the Hän people
Han people
Han people may refer to:* Han Chinese , the majority ethnic group of China.* Han , an indigenous people of North America.* Koreans , whose ethnicity can also be called "Han" in the Korean language....

, semi-nomadic hunters and fishermen who lived along the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. The Hän did not appear to know about the extent of the gold ore in the region.

In 1883, Ed Schieffelin
Ed Schieffelin
Edward Lawrence Schieffelin was an Indian scout and prospector who discovered silver in the Arizona Territory, which led to the founding of Tombstone, Arizona. He partnered with his brother Al and mining engineer Richard Gird in a handshake deal that produced millions of dollars in wealth for all...

 identified gold deposits along the Yukon River, and an expedition up the Fortymile River
Fortymile River
The Fortymile River is a river in Alaska and the Yukon. Prior to the Klondike Gold Rush, there was considerable mining activity along this tributary of the Yukon River. In the 1970s, there was an asbestos mine at Clinton Creek in the Yukon. When gold was discovered on the Fortymille River in 1886,...

, although it cost one member his life, returned having discovered considerable amounts of gold. By the late 1880s several hundred miners were working their way along the Yukon valley and on both sides of the Klondike, living in small mining camps and trading with the Hän.

Discovery

On August 16, 1896, an American prospector named George Carmack
George Carmack
George Washington Carmack was a Contra Costa County, California-born prospector in the Yukon. He was originally credited with the discovery of gold that set off the Klondike Gold Rush on August 16, 1896...

, his Tagish wife Kate Carmack
Kate Carmack
Shaaw Tláa, also known as Kate Carmack was a Tagish First Nation woman born near Bennett Lake. She lived with her parents, and seven sisters and brothers, near Carcross, Yukon. Her father, Kaachgaawáa, was the head of the Tlingit crow clan, while her mother, Gus’dutéen, was a member of the Tagish...

, her brother Skookum Jim and their nephew Dawson Charlie
Dawson Charlie
Dawson Charlie or K̲áa Goox̱ [qʰáː kuːχ] was a Canadian Tagish/Tlingit First Nation person and one of the co-discoverers of gold that led to the Klondike Gold Rush located in the Yukon territory of Northwest Canada. He was the nephew of Skookum Jim Mason and accompanied him on his search for his...

 were travelling south of the Klondike River. Following a suggestion from Robert Henderson, another prospector, they began looking for gold on Bonanza Creek
Bonanza Creek
Bonanza Creek is a watercourse in Yukon Territory, Canada. It runs for about from King Solomon's Dome to the Klondike River. In the last years of the 19th century and the early 20th century, Bonanza Creek was the center of the Klondike Gold Rush, which attracted tens of thousands of prospectors to...

, then called Rabbit Creek, one of the Klondike's tributaries. It is not clear who actually discovered the gold: Carmack later claimed he found it, while Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie later argued that Jim had been responsible. In any event, gold was present along the river in huge quantities.

Carmack measured out four claims, strips of ground that could later be legally mined by the owner, along the river, including two for himself—one as the initial claim, the second as a reward for having discovered the gold—and one each for Jim and Charlie. Jim later stated that Carmack's extra claim was really his and had only been staked in Carmack's name because the group felt that others would be reluctant to recognize a claim made by an Indian. The claims were registered next day at the police post at the mouth of the Fortymile River and news spread rapidly from there to other mining camps in the Yukon River valley.

By the end of August, all of Bonanza Creek had been claimed by miners. A prospector then advanced up into one of the creeks feeding into Bonanza, later to be named Eldorado Creek. He discovered new sources of gold there, which would prove to be even richer than those on Bonanza. Claims began to be sold between miners and speculators for considerable sums. Just before Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

, word of the gold finds finally reached Circle City
Circle, Alaska
Circle is a census-designated place in Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Alaska, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 100....

, the nearest large settlement in Alaska.[Picture] Despite the winter, many prospectors immediately left for the Yukon by dog-sled, eager to reach the region before the best claims were taken.

The outside world was still largely unaware of the news and although Canadian officials had managed to send a message to their superiors in Ottawa
Ottawa
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

 about the gold finds and the rapidly increasing influx of prospectors, the government did not give the matter much attention, apparently due to administrative delays. The ice prevented river traffic over the winter and it was not until June 1897 that the first boats left the area, carrying the freshly mined gold and the full story of the discoveries.

Beginning of the stampede

The Klondike stampede
Stampede
A stampede is an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the herd collectively begins running with no clear direction or purpose....

 was an attempt by an estimated 100,000 people to reach the Klondike gold fields, of whom only around 30,000 to 40,000 successfully arrived. It formed the height of the Klondike gold rush from the summer of 1897 until summer of 1898 and began on 15 July in San Francisco and two days later at Seattle when the first of the early prospectors returned from the Klondike, bringing with them large amounts of gold. The press reported that a total of $1,139,000 (equivalent to $1,000 million) had been brought in by these ships, although this proved to be an underestimate. The migration caught so much attention that it was joined not only by would-be prospectors but also businessmen, outfitters, writers and photographers.

Various factors lay behind this sudden mass response. Economically, the news had reached the United States at the height of a series of financial recessions and bank failures in the 1890s. The gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

 meant that paper currencies were tied to the worldwide production of gold; shortages towards the end of the 19th century meant that gold dollars were rapidly increasing in value ahead of paper currencies and being hoarded
Hoarding
Hoarding or caching is a general term for a behavior that leads people or animals to accumulate food or other items in anticipation of future need or scarcity.-Animal behavior:...

. This had contributed to the financial panics of 1893
Panic of 1893
The Panic of 1893 was a serious economic depression in the United States that began in 1893. Similar to the Panic of 1873, this panic was marked by the collapse of railroad overbuilding and shaky railroad financing which set off a series of bank failures...

 and 1896
Panic of 1896
The Panic of 1896 was an acute economic depression in the United States that was less serious than other panics of the era precipitated by a drop in silver reserves and market concerns on the effects it would have on the gold standard. Deflation of commodities prices drove the stock market to new...

, which caused widespread unemployment and financial uncertainty. There was a huge, unresolved demand for gold across the developed world that the Klondike offered to fulfil, while for individuals the region promised higher wages or financial security. Psychologically, the Klondike, as historian Pierre Berton describes, was "just far enough away to be romantic and just close enough to be accessible". Furthermore, the Pacific ports closest to the gold strikes were desperate to encourage trade and travel to the region. The mass journalism of the period promoted the event and the human interest stories that lay behind it and a worldwide publicity campaign engineered largely by Erastus Brainerd
Erastus Brainerd
Erastus Brainerd was an American journalist and art museum curator. During the Yukon Gold Rush, he was the publicist who "sold the idea that Seattle was the Gateway to Alaska and the only such portal"....

, a Seattle newspaper man, helped establish the city as the premier supply centre and the departure point for the gold fields.
The prospectors came from many nationalities, though an estimated 60 to 80 percent of those that arrived in Dawson City were Americans or recent immigrants to America. Most had no experience in the mining industry, being clerks or salesmen. Mass resignations of staff to join the gold rush became notorious. In Seattle, these losses included the mayor, twelve police and a significant percentage of the city's streetcar drivers. Some of those who joined the gold rush were already famous: John McGraw
John McGraw (governor)
John Harte McGraw was the second Governor of Washington state.- Biography :McGraw was born in Penobscot County, Maine. After running away from home in Maine, McGraw made his way west and ended up in Seattle, taking a job as one of four officers in the Seattle Police Department...

, the former governor of Washington joined; the prominent lawyer, footballer and rower A. Balliot left for the Yukon; Frederick Burnham
Frederick Russell Burnham
Frederick Russell Burnham, DSO was an American scout and world traveling adventurer known for his service to the British Army in colonial Africa and for teaching woodcraft to Robert Baden-Powell, thus becoming one of the inspirations for the founding of the international Scouting Movement.Burnham...

, a well-known American scout
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 and explorer arrived from Africa, only to be called back to take part in the Second Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

. Among those, who documented the rush, were the Swedish born photographer Eric Hegg
Eric A. Hegg
Eric A. Hegg was a Swedish-American photographer famous for his portrayals of the life and people in Skagway, Bennett and Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush 1897–1901...

, who took some of the iconic pictures of Chilkoot Pass, and the reporter Tappan Adney, who would later write a first-hand history of the stampede. Jack London
Jack London
John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...

, later a famous American writer, left to find gold but made his money during the rush mostly by working for prospectors along the way.

Seattle and San Francisco competed fiercely for business during the rush, with Seattle finally winning the larger share of trade.
Indeed, one of the first to join the gold rush was William D. Wood, the mayor of Seattle, who resigned and formed a company to transport prospectors to the Klondike. The publicity around the gold rush led to a flurry of branded goods being put onto the market. Clothing, equipment, food and medicines were all sold as "Klondike" goods, allegedly particularly designed for the north-west. Guidebooks of a more or less serious nature were published, giving advice about the routes, equipment, mining and capital necessary for the enterprise. The newspapers of the time termed this phenomenon "Klondicitis".

Routes to the Klondike

In the late 19th century there were two established routes to the interior of Yukon: either up Yukon River by river boat from its delta in the Bering Sea
Bering Sea
The Bering Sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves....

 or across land from the South-east Alaskan ports of Dyea and Skagway to the head of Yukon and down the river by boat or canoe. Other routes were of a more improvised nature based on old fur trader’s routes and routes for previous smaller gold rushes in Alaska or Canada. Travel in general was made difficult by both the geography and climate. The region was mountainous, and the rivers winding and sometimes impassable; the short summers could be hot, while from October to June, during the long winters, temperatures could drop to –50 °C and less.

The help for the travellers to carry their supplies varied; some had brought dogs, horses, mules or oxen, while others had to rely on carrying their equipment on their backs or on sleds pulled by hand. Shortly after the stampede began in 1897, the Canadian authorities had introduced rules requiring anyone entering Yukon territory to bring with them a year's supply of food; typically this weighed around 1150 pounds (521.6 kg). By the time camping equipment, tools and other essentials were included, a typical traveller was transporting as much as a ton in weight. Unsurprisingly the price of draft animals spiralled; at Dyea, even poor quality horses could sell for as much as $700 ($19,000), or be rented out for $40 ($1,100) a day.

Routes by water

From Seattle or San Francisco, prospectors could travel by sea up the coast to the ports of Alaska. The sudden increase in demand encouraged a range of vessels to be pressed into use to carry the gold rush travellers and their cargo
Cargo
Cargo is goods or produce transported, generally for commercial gain, by ship, aircraft, train, van or truck. In modern times, containers are used in most intermodal long-haul cargo transport.-Marine:...

. Many dangerously unsafe vessels were put into service including older ships, paddlewheelers
Paddle steamer
A paddle steamer is a steamship or riverboat, powered by a steam engine, using paddle wheels to propel it through the water. In antiquity, Paddle wheelers followed the development of poles, oars and sails, where the first uses were wheelers driven by animals or humans...

, fishing boats, barge
Barge
A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges are not self-propelled and need to be towed by tugboats or pushed by towboats...

s and coal ships still full of coal dust. All were overloaded and many sank. Prices increased sharply. At the start of the rush, a ticket from Seattle to the port of Dyea
Dyea, Alaska
Dyea is a former town in the U.S. state of Alaska. A few people live on individual small homesteads in the valley; however, it is largely abandoned. It is located at the convergence of the Taiya River and Taiya Inlet on the south side of the Chilkoot Pass within the limits of the Municipality of...

 cost $40 ($1,100) for a cabin, premiums of $100 ($2,700), however, were soon paid and the steamship companies hesitated to post their rates in advance since they could go up on a daily basis.

It was possible to sail all the way to the Klondike, first from Seattle across the northern Pacific to the Alaskan coast. From St. Michael, at the Yukon River delta, a river boat could then take the prospectors the rest of the way up the river to Dawson, often guided by one of the Native Koyukon people who lived near St. Michael. Although this all-water route was expensive and long, 4700 miles (7,563.9 km) in total, it had the attraction of speed and avoiding overland travel. In 1897, 1,800 travellers attempted this route but the vast majority were caught along the rivers when the region iced over in October. Only 43 successfully reached the Klondike before winter and of those 35 had to return, having thrown away their equipment en route to reach their destination in time. The remainder mostly found themselves stranded in isolated camps and settlements along the ice-covered rivers in desperate circumstances.

South-east Alaskan trails

Most of the prospectors landed at the South-east Alaskan towns of Dyea
Dyea, Alaska
Dyea is a former town in the U.S. state of Alaska. A few people live on individual small homesteads in the valley; however, it is largely abandoned. It is located at the convergence of the Taiya River and Taiya Inlet on the south side of the Chilkoot Pass within the limits of the Municipality of...

 and Skagway
Skagway, Alaska
Skagway is a first-class borough in Alaska, on the Alaska Panhandle. It was formerly a city first incorporated in 1900 that was re-incorporated as a borough on June 25, 2007. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city was 862...

, both located at the head of the natural Lynn Canal
Lynn Canal
Lynn Canal is an inlet into the mainland of southeast Alaska.Lynn Canal runs about from the inlets of the Chilkat River south to Chatham Strait and Stephens Passage...

. From there, they would need to travel 30 miles (48.3 km) over the mountain ranges into Canada's Yukon Territory, and then down the river network to the Klondike itself. Along the trails tent camps sprung up where prospectors had to stop, either to eat or sleep or at obstacles such as the icy lakes at the head of the Yukon.

Those who landed at Skagway needed to make their way over the White Pass
White Pass
White Pass is a mountain pass through the Boundary Ranges of the Coast Mountains on the border of the U.S. state of Alaska and the province of British Columbia, Canada...

 before cutting across to Bennett Lake. Although the trail began gently enough, it progressed over several mountains with narrow paths, only 2 foot (0.6096 m) wide in some places, with the wider parts covered with boulders and sharp rocks. In these conditions the horses used to transport goods died in huge numbers, giving part of the pass the name Dead Horse Gulch, and the route the informal name of Dead Horse Trail.[Picture] The volumes of travelers and the wet weather rapidly made the trail impassable and by late 1897 it was officially closed, leaving around 5,000 stranded in Skagway.

An alternative toll road suitable for wagons was eventually constructed by a prospector called George Brackett and this, combined with colder weather that froze the muddy ground, allowed the White Pass to reopen, and prospectors began to make their difficult way into Canada. Moving supplies and equipment over the pass, however, was no easy task. Most divided up their belongings into 65 pounds (29.5 kg) packages that could be carried on a man's back, or heavier loads that could still be pulled by hand on a sled. Ferrying their belonging forwards and walking back for more, a prospector would need about thirty round trips, a distance of at least 2500 miles (4,023.4 km), before they had moved all of their supplies over the pass and to the end of the trail. Even using a heavy sled, a strong man would be covering 1000 miles (1,609.3 km) and need around 90 days to reach Lake Bennett.

Those who landed at Dyea traveled the Chilkoot Trail
Chilkoot Trail
The Chilkoot Trail is a 33 miles trail through the Coast Mountains that leads from Dyea, Alaska in the United States, to Bennett, British Columbia in Canada....

 and crossed the Chilkoot Pass to reach Lake Lindemann, which fed into Lake Bennett at the head of the Yukon River. Chilkoot Pass was higher than the White Pass, but more used it: around 22,000 during the gold rush. The trail passed up through camps until it reached a flat ledge, just before the main ascent; beyond this point the route became too steep for animals to climb. This location was known as the Scales, and was where goods were weighed before travelers officially entered Canada. While the mountain pass could be climbed, the cold, the slow pace and weight of the equipment made the journey extremely arduous and it could take a day to climb the 1000 feet (304.8 m) of the pass. As on the White Pass trail, supplies needed to be broken down into smaller packages and carried in relay. Packers, prepared to carry supplies for cash, were available along the route but would charge up to $1 ($27) per lb (0.45 kg) on the later stages; many of these packers were Natives, members of the Tlingit people or, less commonly, the Tagish. Avalanche
Avalanche
An avalanche is a sudden rapid flow of snow down a slope, occurring when either natural triggers or human activity causes a critical escalating transition from the slow equilibrium evolution of the snow pack. Typically occurring in mountainous terrain, an avalanche can mix air and water with the...

s were common in the mountains, and on 3 April 1898 one claimed the lives of more than 60 people travelling over Chilkoot Pass.

Entrepreneurs began to provide solutions as the winter progressed. Steps were cut into the ice at the Chilkoot Pass which could be used for a daily fee, this 1,500 step staircase becoming known as the "Golden Steps". By December 1897, a tramway powered by a horse at the bottom, which walked in a circle pulling a wheel-mounted rope, had been built by Archie Burns to ferry packages up the final parts of the Chilkoot Pass. Five more tramways soon followed, one powered by a steam engine, charging between 8 and 30 cents ($2 and $8) per 1 pound (0.45359237 kg). An aerial tramway
Aerial tramway
An aerial tramway , cable car , ropeway or aerial tram is a type of aerial lift which uses one or two stationary ropes for support while a third moving rope provides propulsion...

 was built in the spring of 1898, able to move 9 tonnes of goods an hour up to the summit.
At Lakes Bennett and Lindeman, the prospectors camped to build rafts or boats that would take them the final 500 miles (804.7 km) down the Yukon to Dawson City in the spring. 7,124 boats of varying size and quality left in May 1898. By the time they left, the forests around the lakes had been largely cut down for timber. The river posed a new problem. Until Whitehorse
Whitehorse, Yukon
Whitehorse is Yukon's capital and largest city . It was incorporated in 1950 and is located at kilometre 1476 on the Alaska Highway in southern Yukon. Whitehorse's downtown and Riverdale areas occupy both shores of the Yukon River, which originates in British Columbia and meets the Bering Sea in...

, it was dangerous, with several rapids along the Miles Canyon through to the White Horse Rapids. After many boats were wrecked and several hundred people died, the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP, now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) introduced safety rules, vetting the boats carefully and forbidding women and children to travel through the rapids, instead they had to walk around. Additional rules stated that any boat carrying passengers required a licensed pilot
Maritime pilot
A pilot is a mariner who guides ships through dangerous or congested waters, such as harbours or river mouths. With the exception of the Panama Canal, the pilot is only an advisor, as the captain remains in legal, overriding command of the vessel....

, typically costing $25 ($680), although some prospectors simply unpacked their boats, let them drift unmanned through the rapids with the intent of walking down to collect them on the other side of the rapids. During the summer a horse-powered rail-tramway was built by Norman Macaulay, capable of carrying boats and equipment through the canyon at $25 ($680) a time, removing the need for prospectors to navigate the rapids.[Picture]

There were a few more trails established during 1898 from South-east Alaska to the Yukon River. One was the Dalton trail: starting from Pyramid Harbour, close to Dyea, it went across the Chilkat Pass
Chilkat Pass
The Chilkat Pass is a mountain pass on the border of Alaska, United States, and the province of British Columbia, Canada, at the divide between the Klehini and Kelsall Rivers just northwest of Haines, Alaska. It is used by the Haines Highway and was the route used by the Dalton Trail during the...

 some miles west of Chilkoot and turned north to the Yukon River, a distance of about 350 miles (563.3 km).[Picture] This was created by Jack Dalton as a summer route, intended for cattle and horses, and Dalton charged a toll of $250 ($6,800) for its use. The Takou route started from Juneau and went north-east to Teslin Lake. From here, it followed the river to the Yukon, where it met the Dyea/Skagway route at a point halfway to the Klondike. It meant dragging and poling canoes up river and through mud together with crossing a 5000 feet (1,524 m) high mountain along a narrow trail. Finally, there was the Stikine route starting from the port of Wrangell further south-east of Skagway. This route went up the uneasy Stikine River to Glenora the head of navigation. From Glenora prospectors would have to carry their supplies 150 miles (241.4 km) to Teslin Lake, a part of the Yukon River system.

All-Canadian and All-American routes

An alternative to the South-east Alaskan ports were the All-Canadian routes, so-called because they mostly stayed on Canadian soil throughout their journey. These were popular with subjects of the British Empire both for patriotic reasons and because they avoided the American customs offices in Alaska. The first of these, around 1000 miles (1,609.3 km) in length, started from Ashcroft
Ashcroft
Ashcroft is a surname.Ashcroft may also refer to:*Ashcroft, Gloucestershire, England, which is the namesake of:**Ashcroft, British Columbia, a village in Canada*Ashcroft, New South Wales, a suburb of Sydney, Australia...

 in British Columbia and crossed swamps, river gorges and mountains until it met with the Stikine River route at Glenora. From Glenora prospectors would face the same difficulties as those who came from Wrangell. At least 1,500 men attempted to travel along the Ashcroft route and 5,000 along the Stikine. The mud and the slushy ice of the two routes proved exhausting, killing or incapacitating the pack animals and creating chaos amongst the travellers.

Three more routes started from Edmonton
Edmonton
Edmonton is the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta and is the province's second-largest city. Edmonton is located on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Capital Region, which is surrounded by the central region of the province.The city and its census...

, Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

; these were not much better and were barely trails at all, despite being advertised as "the inside track" and the "back door to the Klondike". One, the "overland route", headed north-west from Edmonton, ultimately meeting the Peace River
Peace River (Canada)
The Peace River is a river in Canada that originates in the Rocky Mountains of northern British Columbia and flows to the northeast through northern Alberta. The Peace River flows into the Slave River, a tributary of the Mackenzie River. The Mackenzie is the 12th longest river in the world,...

 and then continuing on overland to the Klondike, crossing the Liard River
Liard River
The Liard River flows through Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, Canada. Rising in the Saint Cyr Range of the Pelly Mountains in southeastern Yukon, it flows southeast through British Columbia, marking the northern end of the Rocky Mountains and then curving northeast back...

 en route. The other two trails, known as the "water routes", involved more river travel. One went by boat across rivers and overland to the Yukon River system at Pelly River
Pelly River
The Pelly River is a river in Canada, and is a headstream of the Yukon River. The river originates west of the Mackenzie Mountains and flows 530 km long through the south central Yukon. The Pelly has two main tributaries, the Ross and Macmillan rivers.The river was named by Robert Campbell in...

 and from there to Dawson. Another went north of Dawson by the Mackenzie River
Mackenzie River
The Mackenzie River is the largest river system in Canada. It flows through a vast, isolated region of forest and tundra entirely within the country's Northwest Territories, although its many tributaries reach into four other Canadian provinces and territories...

 to Fort McPherson, before entering Alaska and meeting the Yukon River at Fort Yukon, downstream to the Klondike. From here, the boat and equipment had to be pulled up the Yukon about 400 miles (643.7 km). An estimated 1,661 travellers took these three routes, of whom only 685 arrived, some taking up to 18 months to make the journey.

An equivalent to the All-Canadian routes was the "All-American route", which aimed to reach the Yukon from the port of Valdez
Valdez, Alaska
Valdez is a city in Valdez-Cordova Census Area in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 4,020. The city is one of the most important ports in Alaska. The port of Valdez was named in 1790 after the Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdés y...

, which lay further along the Alaskan coast from Skagway. This, it was hoped, would evade the Canadian customs posts and provide an American controlled route into the interior. 3,500 men and women attempted this route from late 1897 onwards; delayed by the winter snows, fresh efforts were made in the spring. In practice, the huge Valdez glacier that stood between the port and the Alaskan interior proved almost insurmountable and only 200 managed to climb it; by 1899, the cold and scurvy
Scurvy
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic...

 was causing terrible deaths amongst the rest. Other prospectors attempted an alternative route across the Malaspina Glacier
Malaspina Glacier
The Malaspina Glacier in southeastern Alaska is the largest piedmont glacier the world. Situated at the head of the Alaska Panhandle, it is about wide and long, with an area of some . It is named in honor of Alessandro Malaspina, an Italian explorer in the service of the Spanish Navy, who visited...

 just to the east, suffering even greater hardships. Those who did manage to cross the Malaspina found themselves having to cross many miles of wilderness before they could reach Dawson. Their expedition was forced to turn back, recrossing the glacier in the process and only four men survived.

Border control

The borders in South-east Alaska were disputed
Alaska Boundary Dispute
The Alaska boundary dispute was a territorial dispute between the United States and Canada . It was resolved by arbitration in 1903. The dispute had been going on between the Russian and British Empires since 1821, and was inherited by the United States as a consequence of the Alaska Purchase in...

 between the United States, Canada and Britain since the American purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. The United States believed that the ports of Dyea and Skagway were on their territory, while Canada argued that this strip of land was in fact Canadian. This, combined with the numbers of American prospectors, the quantities of gold being mined and the difficulties in exercising government authority in such a remote area, made the control of the borders a sensitive issue. Early on in the gold rush the Unites States sent a small detachment of the U.S. Army to Circle City, in case intervention was required in the Klondike, while the Canadian government considered excluding all American prospectors from the Yukon territory. Neither eventuality took place and instead the United States agreed to make Dyea a sub-port of entry for Canadians, allowing British ships to land Canadian passengers and goods freely there, while Canada agreed to permit American miners to operate in the Klondike. Neither action was popular with the respective domestic publics: American businessmen complained that their right to a monopoly on regional trade was being undermined, while the Canadian public demanded action against the American miners.

The North-west Mounted Police set up control posts at the borders of the Yukon territory or, where that was disputed, at easily-controlled points such as the Chilkoot and White Passes. These units were armed with Maxim gun
Maxim gun
The Maxim gun was the first self-powered machine gun, invented by the American-born British inventor Sir Hiram Maxim in 1884. It has been called "the weapon most associated with [British] imperial conquest".-Functionality:...

s. Their tasks included enforcing the rules requiring that travellers bring a year's supply of food with them to be allowed into the Yukon territory, checking for illegal weapons, preventing the entry of criminals and enforcing customs duties.[Appendix] This last task was particularly unpopular with American prospectors, who faced paying an average of 25 percent of the value of their goods and supplies as they passed into Canada — including on their year's supply of food. The Mounties had a generally good reputation for running these posts honestly and fairly, although occasional accusations were made that they took bribes.

Mining

Of the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people who reached Dawson City during the gold rush, only around 15,000 to 20,000 finally became prospectors. Of these, no more than 4,000 struck gold and only a few hundred became rich. By the time that most of the stampeders arrived in 1898, the best creeks had all been claimed, either by the long-term miners in the region, or by the first arrivals of the year before. The Bonanza, Eldorado, Hunker and Dominion Creeks were all taken, with almost 10,000 claims recorded by the authorities by July 1898; a new prospector would have to look further afield to find a claim of his own.[Map]

Geologically, the region was permeated with veins of gold, forced to the surface by volcanic
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

 action and then worn away by the action of rivers and streams, leaving nuggets and gold dust. Some ores lay along the creek beds in lines of loose soil deposits, typically 15 feet (4.6 m) to 30 feet (9.1 m) beneath the surface. Others, formed by even older streams, lay along the hilltops; these deposits were called "bench gold". Finding the gold was challenging. Initially miners had assumed that all the gold would be along the existing creeks, and it was not until late in 1897 that the hilltops began to be mined. Gold was also unevenly distributed in the areas where it was found, which made prediction of good mining sites even more uncertain. The only way to be certain that gold was present was to conduct exploratory digging.

Methods

Mining would begin with clearing the ground of vegetation and debris. Prospect holes were then dug into the ground, in an attempt to identify where the gold ore, or "paystreak", might be running. If these holes looked productive, proper digging could commence, aiming to proceed down to the bedrock, where the majority of the gold was found. The digging would be carefully monitored in case the operation needed to be shifted slightly to allow for changes in the flow of the creek over the years. In the sub-Arctic climate of the Klondike a layer of hard permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

 lay only 6 feet (1.8 m) below the surface. Traditionally this had meant that mining in the region only occurred during the summer months, but the pressures of the gold rush made such a delay unacceptable. Late 19th century technology existed for dealing with this problem, including hydraulic mining and stripping, and large scale dredging
Gold dredge
A gold dredge is a placer mining machine that extracts gold from sand, gravel, and dirt using water and mechanical methods.The original gold dredges were large, multi-story machines built in the first half of the 1900s....

, but this required heavier equipment than could be brought into the Klondike during the gold rush.

Instead, the miners relied on wood fires to soften the ground to a depth of about 14 inches (35.6 cm) and then removing the resulting gravel. The process was repeated until the gold was reached. In theory, no support of the shaft was necessary because of the permafrost although in practice sometimes the fire melted the permafrost and caused collapses. Such fires could produce noxious gases, which had to be removed by bellows or other tools. The resulting "dirt" brought out of the mines froze quickly in winter and could only be processed during the warmer summer months. An alternative, more efficient, approach called steam thawing was devised between 1897 and 1898; this used a furnace to pump steam directly into the surface of the ground, but required additional equipment and was not a widespread technique during the years of the rush.[Picture]

In the summer, water would be used to sluice and pan the dirt, separating out the heavier gold from gravel. To be done at scale this required miners to construct sluice lines, sequences of wooden boxes 15 feet (4.6 m) long, through which the dirt would be washed; up to 20 of these might be needed for each mining operation. The sluice lines in turn required lots of water, usually produced by creating a dam and ditches or crude pipes. "Bench gold" mining on the hill sides could not use sluice lines because running water could not be pumped up the hills, and instead these mines used rockers, long boxes that moved back and forth like a cradle, again separating the heavier gold from the lighter dirt. Finally the resulting gold dust could be exported out of the Klondike; exchanged for paper money at the rate of $16 ($430) per oz through one of the major banks that opened in Dawson City, or simply used as money when dealing with local suppliers and traders.

Business

Successful mining took time and capital
Financial capital
Financial capital can refer to money used by entrepreneurs and businesses to buy what they need to make their products or provide their services or to that sector of the economy based on its operation, i.e. retail, corporate, investment banking, etc....

, particularly once most of the timber around the Klondike had been cut down. While anyone could attempt to dig prospect holes in the hope of finding gold, by 1898 a realistic mining operation required $1,500 ($41,000) for wood to burn to melt the ground, along with around $1,000 ($27,000) to construct a dam, $1,500 ($41,000) for ditches and up to $600 ($16,000) for sluice boxes, a total of $4,600 ($125,000). The attraction of the Klondike to a prospector, however, was that when gold was found, it was often highly concentrated. Some of the creeks in the Klondike were fifteen times richer in gold than those in California, for example, and richer still than those in South Africa
Witwatersrand Gold Rush
The Witwatersrand Gold Rush was a gold rush in 1886 that led to the establishment of Johannesburg, South Africa. It was part of the Mineral Revolution....

. In just two years, for example, $230,000 ($190 million) worth of gold was brought up from claim 29 on the Eldorado Creek.

Mining was regulated under the supervision of the local gold commissioner and mine recorder. Under Canadian law, miners first had to get a license, either when they arrived at Dawson or en route from Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada's Pacific coast. The city has a population of about 78,000 within the metropolitan area of Greater Victoria, which has a population of 360,063, the 15th most populous Canadian...

 in Canada. They could then prospect for gold and, when they had found a suitable location, lay claim to mining rights over a stretch of ground. A prospector would drive stakes into the ground a measured distance apart and then return to Dawson to register the claim for $15 ($410). This normally had to be done within three days, and by 1897 only one claim per person at a time was allowed in a district, although married couples could exploit a loophole that allowed the wife to register a claim in her own name, doubling their amount of land. The claim could be mined freely for a year, after which a $100 ($2,800) fee had to be paid annually. Should the prospector leave the claim for more than three days without good reason, another miner could make a claim on the land. The Canadian government also charged a royalty of between 10 and 20 percent on the value of gold taken from a claim.
The proper size of a claim was a matter of dispute. Traditionally a mining claim had been granted over a 500 feet (152.4 m) long stretch of a creek, including the land from one side of the valley to another; the Canadian authorities had tried to reduce this length to 150 feet (45.7 m), but under pressure from miners had been forced to agree to 250 feet (76.2 m) claims. The only exception to this was a "Discovery" claim, the first to be made on a particular creek, which could be 500 feet (152.4 m) long. The exact lengths of claims were often challenged and when the government surveyor
Surveying
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

 William Ogilvie
William Ogilvie (surveyor)
William Ogilvie FRGS was a Canadian Dominion land surveyor, explorer and Commissioner of the Yukon Territory....

 conducted surveys to settle disputes, he found some claims exceeded the official limit. The excess fractions of land, sometimes as small as a few inches wide, then became available as claims in their own right and were sometimes quite valuable.

Claims could be bought, however, with their price depending on whether they had been yet proved to contain gold. A prospector with capital might consider taking a risk on an "unproved" claim on one of the better creeks for $5,000 ($4,000,000); a wealthier miner could buy a "proved" mine for $50,000 ($40,000,000). A well known claim could sell for much more; for example, claim eight on the Eldorado Creek was sold for $350,000 ($280 million). Prospectors were also allowed to hire others to work for them, either on their first claim or on later purchases. Enterprising miners such as Alex McDonald
Alex McDonald (prospector)
Alexander "Big Alex" McDonald was a Canadian gold prospector who made a fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush, earning himself the title "King of the Klondike"....

 set about amassing mines and employees. Leveraging
Leverage (finance)
In finance, leverage is a general term for any technique to multiply gains and losses. Common ways to attain leverage are borrowing money, buying fixed assets and using derivatives. Important examples are:* A public corporation may leverage its equity by borrowing money...

 his acquisitions with short term loans, by the autumn of 1897 McDonald had purchased 28 claims, estimated to be worth millions. Swiftwater Bill Gates
Bill Gates (frontiersman)
"Swiftwater" Bill Gates was an American frontiersman and fortune hunter, and a fixture in stories of the Klondike Gold Rush. He made and lost several fortunes, and died in Peru in 1935 pursuing a silver strike....

 famously borrowed heavily against his claim on the Eldorado creek, relying on hired hands to mine the gold to keep up his interest payments.

The less fortunate or less well funded prospectors rapidly found themselves destitute. Some chose to sell their equipment and return south. Others took jobs as manual workers, either in mines or in Dawson; the typical daily pay of $15 ($410) was high by external standards, but low compared to the cost of living in the Klondike. The possibility that a new creek might suddenly produce gold, however, continued to tempt many poorer prospectors. Smaller stampedes around the Klondike continued throughout the gold rush, when rumours of new strikes would cause a small mob to descend on fresh sites, hoping to be able to stake out a high value claim.

Life in the Klondike

The Klondike gold rush centred on the gold creeks that fed into the Klondike River but the massive influx of prospectors drove the formation of boom towns along the routes of the stampede, with Dawson City in the Klondike the largest of all. The new towns were crowded and often chaotic, shaped by the extreme climate and the sudden quantities of gold being acquired by a small minority of miners. The majority of prospectors were men, although many women travelled to the region, typically with their partners. Those prospectors that discovered rich gold deposits spent extravagantly, driving a lavish culture of conspicuous consumption in Dawson that in turn encouraged businessmen and women to build hotels, saloons and dance-halls. Dawson City remained a relatively lawful town, protected by the Canadian NWMP, although the boom towns of Skagway and Dyea under U.S. jurisdiction in Alaska became infamous for their criminal underworlds. The extreme climate and remoteness meant that the prices of food and supplies were high and news from the world outside the Klondike in short supply.

Boom towns

The two ports of Dyea and Skagway, through which most the prospectors travelling to the Klondike entered, were tiny settlements before the gold rush, each consisting of only one log cabin. Because there were no docking facilities
Wharf
A wharf or quay is a structure on the shore of a harbor where ships may dock to load and unload cargo or passengers.Such a structure includes one or more berths , and may also include piers, warehouses, or other facilities necessary for handling the ships.A wharf commonly comprises a fixed...

, ships had to unload their cargo directly onto the beach, where people tried to move their goods before high tide. Inevitably cargoes were smashed, stolen or lost in the process. Some travellers had arrived intending to supply goods and services to the would-be miners, others of them, realizing how difficult it would be to reach Dawson, simply chose to stay at the ports and create new businesses. Within weeks, storehouses, saloons, and offices lined the muddy streets of Dyea and Skagway, surrounded by tents and hovels.

Skagway rapidly became famous in the international media; the author John Muir
John Muir
John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions...

 described the town as "a nest of ants taken into a strange country and stirred up by a stick". As described above, the White Pass leading from Skagway to the Klondike closed in late 1897 and around 5,000 prospectors found themselves stuck in the town, unable to progress further or to return home. While Dyea remained a transit point throughout the winter, Skagway began to take on a more permanent character. Skagway also built wharves out into the bay, attracting some of the passengers who might otherwise have gone on to Dyea.[Picture] The town was effectively lawless, dominated by drinking, gunfire and prostitution. The visiting NWMP Superintendent Sam Steele
Sam Steele
Major General Sir Samuel Benfield Steele, CB, KCMG, MVO was a distinguished Canadian soldier and police official...

 noted that it was "little better than a hell on earth...about the roughest place in the world". Nonetheless, by the summer of 1898, with a population—including migrants—of between 15,000 and 20,000, Skagway was the largest city in Alaska.
In late summer 1897 Skagway and Dyea fell under the control of Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith
Soapy Smith
Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith II was an American con artist and gangster who had a major hand in the organized criminal operations of Denver, Colorado; Creede, Colorado; and Skagway, Alaska, from 1879 to 1898. He was killed in the famed Shootout on Juneau Wharf...

 and his men, who arrived shortly from Seattle after Skagway began to expand during the rush. He was an American confidence man
Confidence trick
A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence. A confidence artist is an individual working alone or in concert with others who exploits characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty and honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility,...

 whose gang, 200 to 300 strong, cheated and stole from the prospectors traveling through the region. He maintained the illusion of being an upstanding member of the community, opening three saloons as well as creating fake businesses to assist in his operations. One of his scams was a fake telegraph office
Telegraphy
Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages via some form of signalling technology. Telegraphy requires messages to be converted to a code which is known to both sender and receiver...

 where one of his men dressed as a telegraph operator would charge to send messages all over the US and Canada, often pretending to receive a reply. Opposition to Smith steadily grew and, after many weeks of vigilante
Vigilante
A vigilante is a private individual who legally or illegally punishes an alleged lawbreaker, or participates in a group which metes out extralegal punishment to an alleged lawbreaker....

 activity, he was killed in Skagway during the shootout on Juneau Wharf
Shootout on Juneau Wharf
The Shootout on Juneau Wharf was a gunfight that occurred at about 9:15 PM on Friday, July 8, 1898, in Skagway, District of Alaska, in the United States.-Background:...

 on 8 July 1898.

Other towns also boomed. Wrangell
Wrangell, Alaska
Wrangell is a city and borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. At the 2000 census the population was 2,308.Its Tlingit name is Ḵaachx̱aana.áakʼw . The Tlingit people residing in the Wrangell area, who were there centuries before Europeans, call themselves the Shtaxʼhéen Ḵwáan after the nearby Stikine...

, a former boom town south-east of Skagway, suddenly began to increase in size once again, with robberies, gambling and nude female dancing commonplace. Valdez
Valdez, Alaska
Valdez is a city in Valdez-Cordova Census Area in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 4,020. The city is one of the most important ports in Alaska. The port of Valdez was named in 1790 after the Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdés y...

, formed on the Gulf of Alaska
Gulf of Alaska
The Gulf of Alaska is an arm of the Pacific Ocean defined by the curve of the southern coast of Alaska, stretching from the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island in the west to the Alexander Archipelago in the east, where Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage are found.The entire shoreline of the Gulf is...

 during the attempt to create the "All-American" route to the Klondike during the winter of 1897–1898, became a tent city. Some stayed behind in the town to supply the ill-fated attempts to reach the interior. Edmonton in Canada increased from a population of 1,200 before the gold rush to 4,000 during 1898. Beyond the immediate region, cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Tacoma
Tacoma, Washington
Tacoma is a mid-sized urban port city and the county seat of Pierce County, Washington, United States. The city is on Washington's Puget Sound, southwest of Seattle, northeast of the state capital, Olympia, and northwest of Mount Rainier National Park. The population was 198,397, according to...

, Portland
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

, Vancouver
Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...

 and Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada's Pacific coast. The city has a population of about 78,000 within the metropolitan area of Greater Victoria, which has a population of 360,063, the 15th most populous Canadian...

 all saw their populations increase dramatically as a result of the gold trade and the stampede.

Dawson City

Dawson City was created in the early days of the Klondike gold rush, when prospector Joe Ladue and shopkeeper Arthur Harper decided to make a profit from the influx of travellers to the Klondike. The two men bought 178 acres (72 ha) of the mudflat
Mudflat
Mudflats or mud flats, also known as tidal flats, are coastal wetlands that form when mud is deposited by tides or rivers. They are found in sheltered areas such as bays, bayous, lagoons, and estuaries. Mudflats may be viewed geologically as exposed layers of bay mud, resulting from deposition of...

s at the junction of the Klondike and Yukon rivers from the government and laid out the street plan for a new town, bringing in timber and other supplies to sell to the migrants. The Hän village of Tr'ochëk
Tr'ochëk
Tr'ochëk is the site of a traditional Han fishing camp at the confluence of the Klondike River and Yukon River. The site is owned and managed by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, and is operated by the First Nation's Department of Heritage....

 along Deer Creek was considered to be too close to the new town, and the NWMP Superintendent Charles Constantine
Charles Constantine
Charles Constantine was a Canadian North-West Mounted Police officer and superintendent, from Bradford, Yorkshire....

 moved the Hän 3 miles (4.8 km) down-river to a small reserve
Indian reserve
In Canada, an Indian reserve is specified by the Indian Act as a "tract of land, the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty, that has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of a band." The Act also specifies that land reserved for the use and benefit of a band which is not...

. The town was named Dawson City after the director of Canada's Geographical Survey
George Mercer Dawson
Dr. George Mercer Dawson F.R.S., C.M.G., was a Canadian scientist and surveyor. He was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia, the eldest son of Sir John William Dawson, Principal of McGill University and his wife, Lady Margaret Dawson...

. It grew rapidly to hold 500 people by the winter of 1896, with plots of land selling for $500 ($400,000) each.

In the spring of 1898, Dawson's population rose again to 30,000 as more stampeders arrived over the passes. The centre of the town, Front Street, was lined with hastily built wooden buildings and warehouses, together with log cabins and tents spreading out across the rest of the settlement. There was no running water or sewerage, and only two spring
Spring (hydrosphere)
A spring—also known as a rising or resurgence—is a component of the hydrosphere. Specifically, it is any natural situation where water flows to the surface of the earth from underground...

s for drinking water to supplement the increasingly polluted river. In spring, the unpaved streets were churned into thick mud and in summer the settlement reeked of human effluent and was plagued by flies and mosquitoes. Land in Dawson was now scarce, and plots sold for up to $10,000 ($8 million) each; prime locations on Front Street could reach $20,000 ($16 million) while a small log cabin might rent for $100 ($2,700) a month. As a result, Dawson's population spread south into the empty Hän village, renaming it Klondike City. Other communities emerged closer to the mines, such as Granville on Dominion Creek and Grand Forks on Bonanza Creek.[Picture]

The newly built town proved highly vulnerable to fire. Houses were made of wood, heated with stoves and lit by candles and oil lamps
Kerosene lamp
The kerosene lamp is a type of lighting device that uses kerosene as a fuel. This article refers to kerosene lamps that have a wick and a tall glass chimney. Kerosene lanterns that have a wick and a glass globe are related to kerosene lamps and are included here as well...

; water for emergencies was in short supply. The first major fire occurred on 25 November 1897, started accidentally by dance-hall girl Belle Mitchell. She also accidentally started a second major fire on 14 October 1898 which, in the absence of a fire brigade
Fire department
A fire department or fire brigade is a public or private organization that provides fire protection for a certain jurisdiction, which typically is a municipality, county, or fire protection district...

 in Dawson, destroyed two major saloons, the post-office building and the Bank of British North America at a cost of $500,000 ($400 million). The worst fire occurred on 26 April 1899 when a saloon caught fire in the middle of a strike
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

 by the newly established fire brigade. Most of the major landmarks in the town were burned to the ground: 117 buildings were destroyed, with the damage estimated at over $1 million ($810 million).

Logistics

The remoteness of Dawson proved an ongoing problem for the supply of food and as the population grew to 5,000 in 1897 this became critical. When the rivers iced over, it became clear that there would not be enough food for everyone that winter. The NWMP evacuated some prospectors without supplies to Fort Yukon
Fort Yukon, Alaska
As of the census of 2000, there were 595 people, 225 households, and 137 families residing in the city. The population density was 85.0 people per square mile . There were 317 housing units at an average density of 45.3 per square mile...

 in Alaska from 30 September onwards, while others made their way out of the Klondike in search of food and shelter for the winter.

Prices remained very high in Dawson and supply fluctuated according to the season. During the winter of 1897 salt became worth its weight in gold, while nails, vital for construction work, rose in price to $28 ($760) per lb (0.45 kg). Cans of butter sold for $5 ($140) each. The only eight horses in Dawson were slaughtered for dog food as they could not be kept alive over the winter. The first fresh goods arriving in the spring of 1898 sold for record prices, eggs reaching $3 ($81) each and apples $1 ($27).

Under these conditions scurvy
Scurvy
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic...

, a potentially fatal condition caused by the lack of fresh food, proved a major problem in Dawson City, particularly during the winter; English prospectors gave it the local name of "Canadian black leg", on account of the unpleasant affects of the condition. It struck, among others, writer Jack London
Jack London
John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...

 and, although not fatal in his case, brought an end to his mining career. Dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

 and malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 were also common in Dawson, and an epidemic of typhoid broke out in July and ran rampant throughout the summer. Up to 140 patients were taken into the newly constructed St Mary's Hospital in Dawson and thousands were affected. Measures were taken by the following year to prevent further outbreaks, including the introduction of better sewage management and the piping in of water from further upstream. These made some difference in 1899, although typhoid remained a problem. The new Hän reserve, however, lay downstream from Dawson City, and here the badly contaminated river continued to contribute to epidemics of typhoid and diphtheria
Diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

 throughout the gold rush.

Conspicuous consumption

Despite these challenges, the huge quantities of gold coming through Dawson City encouraged a lavish lifestyle amongst the richer prospectors. Saloons were typically open 24 hours a day, with whiskey the standard drink. Gambling was popular, with the major saloons each running their own rooms; a culture of high stakes had evolved, with the richest prospectors routinely betting $1,000 ($27,000) at dice
Craps
Craps is a dice game in which players place wagers on the outcome of the roll, or a series of rolls, of a pair of dice. Players may wager money against each other or a bank...

 or playing for a $5,000 ($140,0000) poker
Poker
Poker is a family of card games that share betting rules and usually hand rankings. Poker games differ in how the cards are dealt, how hands may be formed, whether the high or low hand wins the pot in a showdown , limits on bet sizes, and how many rounds of betting are allowed.In most modern poker...

 pot. The establishments around Front Street had grand facades in a Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

ian style, mirrors and plate-glass windows and, when electricity was established in Dawson in late 1898, were lit by electric light. The dance halls in Dawson were particularly prestigious and major status symbols, both for customers and their owners. Wealthy prospectors were expected to drink champagne at $60 ($1,600) a bottle, and the Pavilion dancehall cost its owner, Charlie Kimball, as much as $100,000 ($80 million) to construct and decorate. Elaborate opera houses were built, bringing singers and speciality acts to Dawson.

Tales abounded of prospectors spending huge sums of money on entertainment — Jimmy McMahon once spent $28,000 ($760,000) in a single evening, for example. Most payments were made in gold dust and in places like saloons, there was so much spilled gold that a profit could be made just by sweeping the floor.[Picture] The richest prospectors mostly lived flamboyant lives in Dawson. Swiftwater Bill Gates was one example, a gambler and ladies man who rarely went anywhere without wearing silk and diamonds. To impress a woman who liked eggs—then an expensive luxury—he was alleged to have bought all the eggs in Dawson, had them boiled and fed them to dogs. When his favourite singer left Dawson City, the wealthy miner Frank Conrad threw a sequence of gold objects and money onto her ship as it pulled away as tokens of his esteem. The miner and businessman Alex McDonald, despite being styled the "King of the Klondike", was unusual amongst this peers for his lack of grandiose spending. The wealthiest dance-hall girls followed suit: Daisy D'Avara had a famous belt made for herself from $340 ($9,200) in gold dollar coins; another, Gertie Lovejoy, had a diamond inserted between her two front teeth.

Law and order

Unlike its American equivalents, Dawson City was a law-abiding town. By 1897, 96 members of the NWMP had been sent to the district and by 1898 this had increased to 288, an expensive commitment by the Canadian government. By June 1898 the force was headed by Colonel Sam Steele
Sam Steele
Major General Sir Samuel Benfield Steele, CB, KCMG, MVO was a distinguished Canadian soldier and police official...

, an officer with a reputation for firm discipline. In 1898, there were no murders and only a few major thefts; in all, only about 150 arrests were made in the Yukon for serious offenses that year. Of these arrests, over half were for prostitution and resulted from an attempt by the NWMP to regulate the sex industry in Dawson: regular monthly arrests, $50 ($1,400) fines and medical inspections and were imposed, with the proceeds being used to fund the local hospitals. The so-called blue law
Blue law
A blue law is a type of law, typically found in the United States and, formerly, in Canada, designed to enforce religious standards, particularly the observance of Sunday as a day of worship or rest, and a restriction on Sunday shopping...

s were strictly enforced. Saloons and other establishments closed promptly at midnight on Saturday, and anyone caught working on Sunday was liable to be fined or set to chopping firewood for the NWMP. The NWMP are generally regarded by historians to have been an efficient and honest force during the period, although their task was helped by the geography of the Klondike which made it relatively easy to bar entry to undesirables or prevent suspects from leaving the region.

In contrast to the NWMP, the early civil authorities were criticised by the prospectors as at least inept and potentially corrupt. Thomas Fawcett was the gold commissioner and temporary head of the Klondike administration at the start of the gold rush; he was accused of keeping the details of new claims secret and allowing what historian Kathryn Winslow termed "carelessness, ignorance and partiality" to reign in the mine recorder's office. Matters grew sufficiently serious that some prospectors talked of overthrowing his administration with force. Following campaigning, including by the local press, Fawcett was relieved by the Canadian government. His successor, Major James Walsh, was considered a stronger character and arrived in May 1898 but fell ill and returned east in July. It was left to his replacement, William Ogilvie, supported by a Royal Commission
Royal Commission
In Commonwealth realms and other monarchies a Royal Commission is a major ad-hoc formal public inquiry into a defined issue. They have been held in various countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia...

, to conduct reforms. The Commission, hampered by the lack of hard evidence, cleared Fawcett of all charges. Ogilvie proved a much stronger administrator and subsequently revisited many of the mining surveys of his predecessors.

News and mail

In the remote Klondike, there was a great demand for news and contact with the world outside. During the first months of the rush in 1897, it was said that no news was too old to be read. In the lack of newspapers, some prospectors would read can labels until they knew them by heart. The following year, two teams fought their way over the passes to reach Dawson City first, complete with printing-presses, with the aim of gaining control of the potential newspaper market there. Gene Kelly, the editor of the Klondike Nugget arrived first, but without his equipment, and it was the team behind the Midnight Sun who produced the first daily newspaper in Dawson. The Dawson Miner followed shortly after, bringing the number of daily newspapers in the town during the gold rush up to three. The Nugget sold for $24 ($680) as an annual subscription, and became well known for championing popular causes associated with miners and for its lucid coverage of scandals. Paper was often in short supply and during the winter of 1898–99, the Nugget had to be printed on butcher's wrapping paper.

The mail service was chaotic and ill-organised, not at least because government had not anticipated the stampede of prospectors from the United States to the region. Two major problems stood in the way of an effective system. To begin with, any mail from America to Dawson City was sent to Juneau in South-east Alaska before being sent through Dawson and then down the Yukon to Circle City. From here it was then distributed by the US Post Office
United States Post Office Department
The Post Office Department was the name of the United States Postal Service when it was a Cabinet department. It was headed by the Postmaster General....

 back up to Dawson. The huge distances involved resulted in delays of several months and frequently the loss of protective envelopes and their addresses. The second problem was in Dawson itself, which initially lacked a post office and therefore relied on two stores and a saloon to act as informal delivery points. The NWMP were tasked to run the mail system by October 1897, but they were ill-trained to do so. Up to 5,700 letters might arrive in a single shipment, all of which had to be collected in person from the post office. This resulted in huge queues, with some claimants lining up outside the office for up to three days. Those who had no time and could afford it would pay others to stand in line for them, preferably a woman since they were allowed first in line of politeness. Postage stamps, like paper in general, were in short supply and were rationed to two per customer. By 1899, however, trained postal staff had relieved the NWMP of this task.

Role of Women

Women made up a small but significant percentage of the gold rush stampeders: in 1898 eight percent of those living in the Klondike territory were women, and in towns like Dawson this rose to 12 percent. Many women arrived with their husbands or families, but others travelled alone. Most came to the Klondike for similar economic and social reasons as male prospectors, but they attracted particular media interest. The gender imbalance in the Klondike encouraged business proposals to ship young, single women out to the region to marry newly wealthy miners; few, if any, of these ever took place, but some single women appear to have travelled on their own in the hope of finding prosperous husbands. Guidebooks gave recommendations for what practical clothes women should take to the Klondike: the female dress code of the time was formal, emphasising long skirts and corsets, but most women adapted this for the conditions of the trails. Regardless of experience, women in a party were typically expected to cook for the group. Few mothers brought their children with them to the Klondike, due to the risks of the travel and the remote location.

Once in the Klondike, very few women—less than one percent—actually worked as miners. Many were married to miners, however, and their lives as partners on the gold fields were still hard and often lonely. The wives of miners had extensive domestic duties, including thawing ice and snow for water; breaking up frozen food; chopping wood and collecting wild foods. In Dawson and the towns, some women took in laundry to make money. This was a physically demanding job, but could be relatively easily combined with child care duties. Others took jobs in the service industry, for example as waitresses or seamstresses, which could pay well, but were often punctuated by periods of unemployment. Both men and women opened roadhouses
Roadhouse (facility)
A roadhouse is a commercial establishment typically built on a major road or highway, to service passing travellers. Its meaning varies slightly by country.-USA:...

 along the trails and the gold creeks, but women were considered to be better at running these establishments. A few women worked in the packing trade, carrying goods on their backs, or became domestic servants.
Wealthier women with capital might invest in mines and other businesses. One of the most prominent businesswomen in the Klondike, for example, was Belinda Mulrooney
Belinda Mulrooney
Belinda Mulrooney was an entrepreneur and purportedly the "richest woman in the Klondike". She made one fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush, lost it, and amassed a second, which lasted most of her life.Mulrooney was born in Ireland...

. She brought a consignment of cloth and hot water bottles with her when she arrived in the Klondike in early 1897 and with the proceeds of those sales she first built a roadhouse at Grand Forks and later a grand hotel in Dawson. She invested widely, including acquiring her own mining company, and was reputed to be the richest woman of the Klondike. The wealthy Martha Black was abandoned by her husband early in the journey to the Klondike, but continued on without him, reaching Dawson City where she became a prominent citizen, investing in various mining and business ventures with her brother.

A relatively small number of women worked in the entertainment and sex industries
Sex worker
A sex worker is a person who works in the sex industry. The term is usually used in reference to those in the sex industry that actually provide such sexual services, as opposed to management and staff of such industries...

. The elite
Elite
Elite refers to an exceptional or privileged group that wields considerable power within its sphere of influence...

 of these women were the highly-paid actresses and courtesans of Dawson; beneath them were chorus line
Chorus line
A chorus line is a substantial group of dancers who together perform synchronized routines, usually in musical theatre. Sometimes, singing is also performed. Chorus line dancers in Broadway musicals and revues have been referred to by slang terms such as ponies, gypsies and twirlies...

 dancers, who usually doubled as hostesses, and other dance hall workers. While still better paid than white-collar male workers, these women worked very long hours and had significant expenses. The entertainment industry merged into the sex industry, where women made a living as prostitutes. The sex industry in the Klondike was concentrated on Klondike City and in a backstreet area of Dawson. A hierarchy of sexual employment existed, with brothels and parlour houses at the top, small independent "cigar shops" in the middle, and, at the bottom, the prostitutes who worked out of small huts called "hutches". Life for these workers was a continual struggle and the suicide rate was high.

The degree of involvement between Native women and the stampeders varied. Many Tlingit women worked as packers for the prospectors, for example, carrying supplies and equipment, sometimes also transporting their babies as well. Hän women had relatively little contact with the white immigrants, however, and there was a significant social divide between local Hän women and white women. Although before 1897 there had been a number of native women who married western men, including Kate Carmarck, the wife of one of the discovers of the first Klondike gold, this practice did not survive into the stampede. Very few stampeders married Hän women, and very few Hän women worked as prostitutes. "Respectable" white women would avoid associating with native women or prostitutes: those that did could cause scandal.

End of the gold rush

The Klondike gold rush faltered over the winter of 1898–99. Communications had improved, and by 1899 telegraphy stretched from Skagway to Dawson, allowing instant international communication. In 1898, the White Pass and Yukon Route
White Pass and Yukon Route
The White Pass and Yukon Route is a Canadian and U.S. Class II narrow gauge railroad linking the port of Skagway, Alaska, with Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon. An isolated system, it has no direct connection to any other railroad. Equipment, freight and passengers are ferried by ship through the...

 railway began to be built between Skagway and the head of navigation on the Yukon at Whitehorse; 35,000 men and tons of explosives were used for the construction.[Picture] When it was completed in July 1900, the Chilkoot trail and its tramways was made obsolete. Despite these improvements, other factors led to the conclusion of the stampede in 1899.

As early as the summer of 1898, many of the prospectors arriving in Dawson City had found themselves unable to make a living and had left for home.[Picture] The wages of casual workers in Dawson, depressed by the number of destitute men in the town, had fallen to $100 ($2,700) a month by 1899. The world's newspapers began to turn against the Klondike gold rush. "Ah, go to the Klondike!" became a popular phrase to express disgust with an idea. Unsold, Klondike-branded goods had to be disposed of at special rates in Seattle.

Another factor was the change in Dawson City itself, which had developed throughout 1898, changing faster after the great fire of 1899, metamorphosing from a ramshackle, if wealthy, boom town into a more sedate, conservative municipality.[Picture] More modern luxuries were introduced, including the "zinc bath tubs and pianos, billiard tables, Brussels carpets in the hotel dining rooms, menus printed in French and invitational balls" noted by historian Kathryn Winslow. The visiting Senator Jerry Lynch likened the newly paved streets with their smartly dressed inhabitants to the Strand
Strand, London
Strand is a street in the City of Westminster, London, England. The street is just over three-quarters of a mile long. It currently starts at Trafalgar Square and runs east to join Fleet Street at Temple Bar, which marks the boundary of the City of London at this point, though its historical length...

 in London. It was no longer as attractive a location for many prospectors, used to a wilder way of living. Even the formerly lawless town of Skagway had become a stable and respectable community by 1899.

The final trigger, however, was the discovery of gold elsewhere in Alaska, prompting a new stampede, this time away from the Klondike. In 1898 August gold had been found at Atlin Lake
Atlin, British Columbia
Atlin is a community in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, located on the eastern shore of Atlin Lake. In addition to continued gold-mining activity, Atlin is a tourist destination for fishing, hiking and Heliskiing. As of 2004, there are 450 permanent residents.The name comes from Áa Tlein,...

 at the head of the Yukon River, generating a flurry of interest, but during the winter of 1898–99 much larger quantities were found at Nome at the mouth of the Yukon. In 1899, a flood of prospectors from across the region left for Nome, 8,000 from Dawson alone during a single week in August. The Klondike gold rush was over.

People

Only a handful of the 100,000 people who left for the Klondike during the gold rush became rich. They typically spent $1,000 ($27,000) each reaching the region, which when combined exceeded what was actually produced from the gold fields between 1897 and 1901. At the same time, most of those who did find gold lost their fortunes in the subsequent years. They often died penniless, attempting to reproduce their earlier good fortune in fresh mining opportunities. Businessman and miner Alex McDonald, for example, continued to accumulate land after the boom, purchasing fresh claims until his money ran out; he died in poverty, still prospecting. Antoine Stander, who discovered gold on Eldorado Creek, abused alcohol, dissipated his fortune and ended working in a ship's kitchen to pay his way. The three men who first discovered gold in the Klondike had mixed fates. George Carmack left his wife Kate—who had found it difficult to adapt to their new lifestyle—remarried and lived in relative prosperity; Skookum Jim had a huge income from his mining royalties but refused to settle and continued to prospect until his death in 1916; Dawson Charlie spent lavishly and died in an alcohol related accident.
The richest of the Klondike saloon owners, businessmen and gamblers also typically lost their fortunes and died in poverty. Gene Allen, for example, the editor of the Klondike Nugget, became bankrupt and spent the rest of his career in smaller newspapers; the prominent gambler and saloon owner Sam Bonnifield suffered a nervous breakdown and died in extreme poverty. Nonetheless, some of those who joined the gold rush prospered. Kate Rockwell, "Klondike Kate", for example, became a famous dancer in Dawson and remained popular in America until her death. Dawson City was also where Alexander Pantages
Alexander Pantages
Alexander Pantages was an American vaudeville and early motion picture producer and impresario who created a large and powerful circuit of theatres across the western United States and Canada.-Early life:...

, her business partner and lover, started his career, going on to become one of America's greatest theatre and movie tycoons. The businesswoman Martha Black remarried and ultimately became the second female member of the Canadian parliament.

The impact of the gold rush on the Native peoples of the region was considerable. The Tlingit and the Koyukon peoples prospered in the short term from their work as guides, packers and from selling food and supplies to the prospectors. In the longer term, however, especially the Hän people living in the Klondike region suffered from the environmental damage of the gold mining on the rivers and forests, as well as from the creation of Dawson City. Their population had already begun to decline after the discovery of gold along Fortymile River in the 1880s but dropped catastrophically after their move to the reserve, a result of the contaminated water supply and smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

. The Hän found only few ways to benefit economically from the gold rush and their fishing and hunting grounds were largely destroyed; by 1904 they needed aid from the NWMP to prevent famine.

Places

Dawson City declined after the end of the gold rush. Transport improvements meant that heavier mining equipment could be brought in and larger, more modern mines established in the Klondike, revolutionising the gold industry. Gold production increased until 1903 as a result of the dredging and hydraulic mining but then declined; by 2005, approximately 1250000 pounds (566,990.5 kg) had been recovered from the Klondike area.[Graph] When the journalist Laura Berton moved to Dawson in 1907 it was still thriving, but away from Front Street, the town had become increasingly deserted, jammed, as she put it, "with the refuse of the gold rush: stoves, furniture, gold-pans, sets of dishes, double-belled seltzer bottles...piles of rusting mining machinery—boilers, winches, wheelbarrows and pumps". By 1912, only around 2,000 inhabitants remained compared to the 30,000 of the boom years and the site was becoming a ghost town
Ghost town
A ghost town is an abandoned town or city. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, or nuclear disasters...

. By 1972 only 500 people were living in Dawson and the nearby settlements created during the gold rush years had been entirely abandoned. In the 21st century Dawson City still has a small gold mining industry, but tourism, drawing on the legacy of the gold rush, also plays an important role in the local economy and many buildings in the center of the town still reflect the style of the era. The population has grown since the 1970s, with 1,300 recorded in 2006. The valley of the Klondike River is still shaped by the heavy dredging that occurred in the beginning of the 20th century.[Picture]

The port of Skagway also shrank after the rush, but remains a well-preserved period town, centred on the tourist industry and sight-seeing trips from visiting cruise ship
Cruise ship
A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way...

s. Restoration work by the National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

 began in 2010 on "Soapy" Jeff Smith's Parlor, from which the famous con man once operated. Skagway also has one of the two visitor centres forming the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a United States National Historical Park commemorating the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. The gold rush was in the Yukon Territory, and this park comprises staging areas for the trek there, and routes leading in its direction...

; the other is location in Seattle, and the two centres focus on the human interest stories behind the gold rush. By contrast, Dyea, Skagway's neighbour and former rival, was abandoned after the gold rush and is now a ghost town. The railway built for prospectors through White Pass in the last year of the rush reopened in 1988 and is today only used by tourists, closely linked to the Chilkoot trail which is a popular tourist hiking route.

Culture

The events of the Klondike gold rush rapidly became embedded in North American culture, being captured in poems, stories, photographs and promotional campaigns long after the end of the stampede itself. In the Yukon, Discovery Day is celebrated on the third Monday in August as a holiday, and the events of the gold rush are promoted by the regional tourist industries. The events of the gold rush were frequently exaggerated at the time and modern works on the subject similarly often focus on the most dramatic and exciting events of the stampede, not always accurately. Historian Ken Coates describes the gold rush as "a resilient, pliable myth", which continues to fascinate and appeal.

Several famous novels, books and poems were generated as a consequence of the Klondike gold rush. The writer Jack London incorporated scenes from the gold rush into his novels set in the Klondike, including The Call of the Wild
The Call of the Wild
The Call of the Wild is a novel by American writer Jack London. The plot concerns a previously domesticated dog named Buck, whose primordial instincts return after a series of events leads to his serving as a sled dog in the Yukon during the 19th-century Klondike Gold Rush, in which sled dogs...

, a novel about a the life of a sledge dog. His colleague, poet Robert W. Service
Robert W. Service
Robert William Service was a poet and writer who has often been called "the Bard of the Yukon".Service is best known for his poems "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee", from his first book, Songs of a Sourdough...

, on the other hand, did not join the rush himself, although he made his home in Dawson City in 1908. Service created well-known poems about the gold rush, including the Songs of a Sourdough
Songs of a Sourdough
Songs of a Sourdough is a book of poetry published in 1907 by Robert W. Service. In the United States, the book was published under the title The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses....

, one of the bestselling books of poetry in the first decade of the 20th century, along with his novel, The Trail of '98, which was written by hand on wallpaper in one of Dawson's log cabins. The famous Canadian historian Pierre Berton grew up in Dawson where his father had been a prospector, and wrote several historical books about the gold rush, including The Last Great Gold Rush. Some terminology from the stampede made its way into North American English, including as words like "Cheechakos", referring to newly arrived miners, and "Sourdoughs", experienced miners.

The photographs taken during the Klondike gold rush heavily influenced later cultural approaches to the stampede. The gold rush was vividly recorded by several early photographers, including Eric Hegg; these stark, black and white photographs showing the ascent of the Chilkoot pass rapidly became iconic images and were widely distributed. These pictures in turn inspired Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

 to make the The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush is a 1925 silent film comedy written, produced, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin in his Little Tramp role. The film also stars Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, Malcolm Waite....

, which uses the background of the Klondike to combine physical comedy with his character's desperate battle for survival in the harsh conditions of the stampede. The photographs reappear in the documentary City of Gold from 1957 which, narrated by Pierre Berton, won prizes for pioneering the incorporation of still images into documentary film-making. The Klondike gold rush, however, has not been widely covered in later fictional films; even the The Far Country
The Far Country
The Far Country is a 1954 American western movie directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart in their fourth western collaboration...

, a Western
Western (genre)
The Western is a genre of various visual arts, such as film, television, radio, literature, painting and others. Westerns are devoted to telling stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. Some Westerns are set as early as the Battle of...

 from 1955 set in the Klondike, largely ignores the unique features of the gold rush in favour of a traditional Western plot. Indeed, much of the popular literature on the gold rush approaches the stampede simply as a final phase of the expansion of the American West, a perception critiqued by modern historians such as Charlene Porsild.

Appendix

Media

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