The Klondike gold rush was probably one of the most famous in the world. Almost everyone world wide has at least heard about the this great gold rush and many more have read some bit and pieces of it. The Klondike gold rush is also one of the largest and also one of the longest running in recent history. In fact the Dawson City Yukon area is stillvery much active today with placer miners working the creeks every year. Lots of tourist visit this area also getting a glimpse of what life and work would have been like over 100 years ago.
This rush started much like a lot of other gold rushes. It was in 1896 that three prospectors, Tagish Charlie,Skookum Jim Mason and George Carmack found gold in Rabbit Creek, near Dawson City. After the find the creek's name was changed to Bonanza Creek and soon some other local prospectors were out staking claims in the same vicinity. It is said that gold was everywhere. Everywhere you looked, there was gold. It wasn't until the following year though that the rush was on because it was then in the summer of 1897 that a steam shipp docked in to Seattle with over a ton of gold on board and all this gold had come from the Yukon. From that moment one the rush was on and over time almost 100,000 miners, propectors, farmers and anyone else who wanted to get rich set out for the Klondike gold fields to find their own fame and fortune.
Of the 100,000 men that set out for the Klondike, only about 30,000 actually made it all the way. Many died on this trip. Some fell off steep cliffs, others drowned rafting the rivers and rapids, some froze to death and even starved to death. Tempertures here are not nice especially in the winters. Temperatures drop to -50 degrees and stay there giving no reprive. Summers are long days of sunlight but bring billions of blood sucking and other biting insects out. Being so remote there was no services and when there was the prices was out of this world. Articles are written of a single egg costing a dollar. This was back still in the 1800's when a dollar was more than a days wages. By the time most of the so called stampeders made it to Dawson all the creeks had been staked and there were few claims of any value left. For those men who wished to stay there was work in the creeks mining for those who had been there earlier and and staked up the ground. Miners could earn anywhere from $1 - $4 a day which was good wages. For many this work was a way to recoup the cost of getting to the Klondike in the first place. It was estaimated that this cost was around $1,200 at the time. These funds were used for the passage up the coast to Skagway and then to buy a years supply worth of food and preserves.
Some of the stampeders never even got out of Skagway. It was there that men of mischief hung out. People like Soapy smith who ran hotels, casinos and drinking joints in Skagway were waitng for these young men as they got off the boats. Here they would lure these men into their establishments and sell them the drink and get them onto the gambling tables and clean them out of their life savings. If it wasn't people like Soapy Smith there were lots of whore houses in the town and there were plenty of San Fransisco and other big city ladies who were out to get rich also.
Dawson City had a population of around 500 in 1896 and by 1898 there was an extimated 30,000. There really was "no one mine" as in other areas. Here the mining was placer gold so the gold was sluice out of the river gravels. A lot of issues like perma frost had to be dealt with and of course the whole lack of infastructure. It wasn't long before some of the bigger miners raised money and the dredges were brought in where gold mining could go almost year round working 24 hours a day. Then in 1899 something happened. There was a strike and gold was discovered at Nome, Alaska. Most of the stampeders who had just gone through hell to get to Dawson didn't even think twice and packed up and left for Nome once again looking for their fame and fortune.
Today Dawson City is a tourist mecca. About 60,000 people visit the town and surrounding area each year during the long days of the midnight sun. Travelers come by tour bus or their own motor homes and campers just to see how it was back then. Miners today both big and small, still work the creeks, still searching for fame and maybe some fortune.