Follow the Gold Rush trail to the Yukon for an adventure of a lifetime
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When the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 took Canada’s north by storm, the Yukon was forever changed by the resulting hoopla. Thousands of stampeders – with dreams of striking it rich – travelled the Yukon River, heading for Dawson City. Almost overnight, a small encampment exploded into a town nicknamed the “Queen City of the North.” Dance halls, drinking establishments and shops lined the dusty streets – all doing a bustling trade. There were no price limits, for Dawson City was feasting on gold.
While it was all short-lived, they left behind heritage buildings and some of Canada’s most colourful history. To find out how to dabble in a little Klondike history, read on.
Adventure junkies: In the heady 1890s, the rugged Chilkoot Trail was the shortest and cheapest route into the Klondike Gold Fields. Today, hiking the 53-km (33-mile) trail is a badge of honour for those who want to – literally – walk in the footsteps of the stampeders.
Always hopeful: The original Bonanza Creek claim that sparked the 1896 rush is marked by a cairn at the Discovery Claim National Historic Site, where you can walk a one-kilometre self-guided trail and learn about gold mining in the Bonanza Creek Valley. Or see how the “big boys” did it at Dredge No. 4 National Historic Site, the largest wooden-hulled, bucket-lined gold dredge in North America. Private tour operators offer guided tours of the site.
Explorers of history: Dawson City has a showy vibe that still lives on—you’ll definitely catch a whiff of the current gold rush. Much of the gold rush boomtown has been preserved as the Klondike National Historic Sites. Visit the Palace Grand Theatre which is an exact replica and built on the same spot where the original was built in 1899 by "Arizona" Charlie Meadows, a showman and a sharp-shooter. The theatre is the site of the annual Commissioner’s Klondike Ball held in June and is one of the stages for the Dawson City Music Festival in July.History buffs can take one of three differently themed Parks Canada guided walking tours, visit the Commissioner’s Residence, and tour the S.S. Keno National Historic Site.
Canadian literary history: The Klondike Gold Rush holds an honoured place in Canadian storytelling. Heard of The Cremation of Sam McGee, poet Robert Service’s masterpiece immortalizing the gold rush? You can sit in on a reading of Robert Service’s poetry at the cabin where the famous bard lived during his years spent in the Klondike.
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