The world did not learn of the strike until some of these newly rich pioneers reached the West Coast by steamship in mid-July 1897. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's description of "a ton of gold" actually touched off the stampede. The effect on the depressed economy was instantaneous as hoarded funds were freed to finance some 100 000 amateur goldseekers who started north that fall and winter. The rich went all the way by water; the poor struggled over the WHITE PASS and CHILKOOT PASS, then down the Yukon River in handmade craft; the foolhardy took the "all-Canadian" routes through BC or out of Edmonton and found themselves spending 2 years on the trail.
Soon much of Alaska and the Canadian Northwest was speckled with men and pack animals. Every Canadian community from Winnipeg to Victoria was permanently affected by the boom. The Canadian North was seen as something more than frozen wasteland: Klondike fever was the catalyst for a chain of later mineral discoveries. Sixty steamboats plied the Yukon. The new town of DAWSON at the Klondike's mouth, with a floating population of some 30 000, became the largest community north of Seattle and west of Winnipeg, boasting telephones, electricity and motion picture theatres. Prostitution was tolerated; saloons, dancehalls and gaming parlours ran wide open except on Sundays.
The North-West Mounted Police kept Dawson a law-abiding town while the YUKON FIELD FORCE, a military unit, maintained Canadian sovereignty in the face of a predominantly American population. The Spanish-American War and the news of a strike at Nome, Alaska, ended the stampede in the summer of 1898. By then, it is estimated, the goldseekers had spent some $50 million reaching the Klondike, a sum about equal to the amount taken from the diggings in the 5 years following Carmack's discovery.
See also GOLD RUSHES.
Author PIERRE BERTON
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Watch the Heritage Minute about Superintendent Sam Steele of the North West Mounted Police from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related online learning resources.
Yukon Photographers: The Gold Rush Era, 1897-1900
A photographic history of the gold rush years in the Yukon. Also features profiles of the pioneering photographers who chronicled the work and lives of the hardy gold rush prospectors. From the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site of Canada
Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site protects the historic gateway to the Yukon once tread by Tlingit First Nation traders and Klondike gold rush prospectors.
Keys to History
Search this "Keys to History" website for fascinating online exhibits about notable people, places, and events in Canadian history. From Montréal's McCord Museum.
The National Historic Sites of Canada in the Klondike
Brush up on your gold mining skills at this Parks Canada website about the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush. Focuses on prominent personalities and companies involved in the Klondike gold mining era.
Sir Samuel Steele Collection
This site features highlights of an extraordinary collection of primary source material related to the life and times of Sir Samuel Steele. See digitized images of documents, journals, photos, personal correspondence, and much more. Click on "Related Resources" to view an online booklet about the legendary Canadian historical figure at the heart of this collection. From the University of Alberta Libraries.
At home in the Yukon
This interactive website is devoted to the cultural diversity and history of the Yukon. Features photographs, maps, and oral histories from the holdings of Yukon Archives.
The Klondike Gold Rush
An online exhibit about the history of the Klondike gold rush. Features photos, documents, and other archival material from the Yukon Archives.
City of Gold
View a classic short film featuring archival images depicting Dawson City at the height of the Klondike gold rush. Narrated by writer Pierre Berton. From the National Film Board of Canada.
A guide to historical highlights of Burwash Landing, a community situated on the southwest shore of Kluane Lake in the Yukon.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...