21 Photos Delivering The Visual History of the Klondike Gold Rush

Encyclopedia Britannica

The Klondike Gold Rush was a migration by prospectors to the Yukon Territory in north-western Canada. Gold was first discovered in Bonanza Creek by the local miners on August 16, 1896. When the news of the discovery reached Seattle and San Francisco roughly 100,000 men traveled up north in search of fortune.

Most of the prospectors traveled through the Dyea and Skagway Ports in South East Alaska and would then travel up the Chilkoot or White Pass Trail to the Yukon River and sail down to Klondike. The White Pass Trail was a treacherous path over mountains, which, at parts, was only two feet wide.  These dangerous conditions lead to the deaths of many horses and the White Pass Trail became colloquially known as ‘Dead Horse Trail’. The Chilkoot Trail rose to a higher elevation than the White Pass, but was more commonly used. A businessman carved stairs into the ice and charged prospectors per day to use the ‘Golden Steps’.

Each prospector was ordered by the Canadian Authority to bring a year’s supply of food to prevent mass starvation. All the food, tools, camping equipment, and other essentials that the men would take often weighed as much as a ton. Horses, to help carry the burden, were often sold for $700 ($19,000 currently).

Dawson City was founded where the Klondike and Yukon Rivers met. In 1896 to 1898 the population exploded from 500 to 30,000 people. Of all these Dawson City inhabitants, only 4,000 struck gold and only a few hundred became rich. The extant hydraulic mining technology was too heavy to bring to the Klondike, so miners would make large fires to thaw the permafrost. The dirt could then be removed. Miners along the river beds would use rocker boxes to separate the dirt and rocks from gold flakes.

The gold was sold at a rate of $16 ($430) per ounce.

In 1899, gold was found in Nome, Alaska and in one week alone, 8,000 prospectors left Klondike. The Klondike Gold Rush had ended.

Klondike mining camp ca. 1898. Wikimedia
Packers ascending summit of Chilkoot Pass, 1897-98, en route to the Klondike Gold Rush. Library and Archives Canada
Settlers bound for the Klondike, 1897. Encyclopedia Britannica
Gold miners searching through rocks and dirt for gold. goldbottom
Sluice used for separation of gold from dirt with water. Pinterest
The gold race begins in Klondike, when the first lucky seekers arrive in Seattle, 1897. isolafelice.forumcommunity
Prospectprs on Dyea Wharf surrounded by supplies required for the trek to the gold fields date ca 1899. Yukon Archives
Women pulling a sled loaded with provisions through the streets of Skagway, Alaska in 1898. Pinterest
Within weeks after news of the Klondike gold discovery reached Seattle in the summer of 1897, Skagway, Alaska was transformed into a frontier boom town with saloons, cheap hotels and bawdy houses. peachridgeglass
Dawson City prospectors 1897. Pinterest