Skagway AK, gateway to Klondike Gold Rush

Our WBCCI Airstream caravan to Alaska includes a one-day side trip to Skagway. While in Whitehorse YT, we rode a bus to Fraser B.C. to catch the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad to Skagway Alaska. The rail was built in 1898, too late to serve the 100,000 stampeders determined to make their way to Dawson City.

Most of the stampeders took passage on ships from all over the world to Skagway to begin their hike up either the Chilkoot or the White Pass trail to the Yukon River where they would build a boat to travel downriver to Dawson City.

We had a gorgeous day for the train ride from Fraser to Skagway and could not comprehend how the gold rush stampeders were able to hike from Skagway up into and through these rugged mountains. The Mounted Police were waiting at the top of Chilkoot Pass to assure the stampeders carried sufficient gear and food for one year’s stay. This amount of gear weighed 2,000 pounds and required the stampeders to make the punishing 1,500 foot Chilkoot Pass ascent twenty to thirty times.

Had the rail been completed in time then the stampeders might have looked much like this group, riding comfortably if a little crowded. They would have been traveling the opposite direction from us. They would have been incredibly excited about the possibilities, very apprehensive about the difficulties, and anxious to arrive in time to stake a good claim and start digging for gold.

The rail wasn’t completed in time, though, for the successful stampeders. The most successful stampeders had already been in the Yukon for up to twenty years before the 1896 discovery at Bonanza Creek. Claims quickly were filed there and all about Dawson City. The 110-mile rail line required two years, ten million dollars and tens of thousands workers to complete. This picture is one small example of why this rail line was tough to build.

The Yukon and White Pass Route Railroad was completed and served many years until it was shuttered for six years, from 1982 to 1988. But the Brackett Tram Road was sold in 1897 after just one year operation between Skagway and White Pass City. He would never have been able to compete and sold it to the railroad.

Skagway today is picturesque with nicely preserved and brightly colored buildings, boardwalks, and many places to shop. You can tell, walking into most of the stores, Skagway is a cruise ship port town. The selection and the prices marked on stuff in the stores is not for frugal travelers.

McCabe College, built in 1899 of native granite, served as a school then a number of municipal functions before becoming a museum in 1961. The building is attractive and houses an interesting and varied collection of historical items from Skagway. Another interesting display in one of the National Park’s restored downtown buildings describes the stampeders trials and triumphs in 1898-1899.

Skagway Alaska is a nice town to visit for four or five hours. Everything in Skagway is walking distance to the cruise ships and railroad depot, suiting us perfectly. We enjoyed ice cream, fudge, and a great cup of coffee at Glacial Smoothies downtown.

We’re glad we could make the afternoon visit.

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

locate us here

visit our website

©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr


4 responses to “Skagway AK, gateway to Klondike Gold Rush

  1. Do you remember the TV series, “Northern Exposure”? I don’t think it was actually shot in Alaska, but I used to watch it mostly for the Alaskan slant on life in the village. Your photos of Skagway and the Klondike, reminded me of the sets and characters.

    • While in Skagway we walked all about the nearby residential area. Some really nice houses, very well kept. Some houses appearing ravaged by the heaving permafrost and by tough winter conditions. I think upkeep would be a demanding task every summer.

      Jim & Deb

  2. Carol & Frank

    I was hoping for a post on your adventures over the top of the world highway…and maybe striking it rich in Chicken. We are really enjoying your blog. Travel safely.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s