Gold Rush Towns and the Top of the World Highway
Dawson City is a gold rush town, but unlike most towns and cities that sprung up out of necessity and faded away once the gold was gone, Dawson has remained. Part of the reason is that they are still mining gold out of the streams that flow into the mighty Klondike and Yukon rivers, another part is due to the foresight of a few men who saw opportunity when the rush was over.
We visited Dredge #4 up Bonanza creek, downstream from where the first claim in the area was made that started the gold rush in 1897. These dredges kept Dawson alive after all the stampeders had left town. Providing hundreds of jobs these dredges worked the rivers and creeks until the 1960’s. Now gold mining in the area is all small family businesses, but they are making a living at it.
We tried our hand at panning in a section of the river that is left for visitors, Luke found a few small pieces.
The town of Dawson itself is an historic site, the majority of buildings are old, or at least look old. Wooden boardwalks line the unpaved streets. It does feel like you’ve stepped back in time. My aunt lent me Klondike by Pierre Berton to read and one of the things that has struck me most was the relative peace and order that the Canadian gold rushes had compared with our neighbours to the south. The minute word was out that gold had been discovered, Mounties were on their way to keep things under control.
We stayed an extra day to spend Canada Day in Dawson. Unfortunately the weather turned and it was a very rainy day. However, the parade still took place. The RCMP in all their finery started it off followed by a hoard of kids on decorated bikes, a few people dressed up in old timey costumes, and all the fire trucks and the ambulance with sirens blaring. It was actually pretty good. There was a bunch of other activities planned for the day but we decided to head on. There are no fireworks to wait around for when it doesn’t get dark!
During summer the Top of the World Highway is open between Dawson and Chicken, Alaska. It is supposedly a very scenic drive, but for most of it we were in the fog. We did drive past an odd little fox carrying a glove that we watched for a while as it trotted down the road. We crossed the border with relative ease (they still confiscate all citrus fruit up here even though I’m pretty sure they don’t grow oranges in Alaska). And then we were finally in Alaska!
The town of Chicken is another strange little place. This area of Alaska had very rich streams during the gold rush as well and is still being mined. Luke tried his luck again in the forty mile river but found nothing this time.
From here we head back to the Alaska Highway and northward to Fairbanks. Onwards and upwards!