This historic adventure story takes us through the rise and fall of the Klondike Gold Rush from the first discovery in 1896 to the mass exodus in 1899. Based on factual records and personal letters, we see Dawson City through the intimate lens of real-life people: prospectors, civilians and entrepreneurs who came to the Yukon to find gold and for some, ultimately, to find themselves. Get ready for a page-turning wild ride.
Meet Charlotte Gray, author of Gold Diggers, and discover the unique people and stories that helped shape the territory during the time of the Klondike Gold Rush.
The journey of a lifetime
In 1896, prospectors Bill Haskell and his partner Joe arrived in Skagway, Alaska and set out on the hunt for gold. First, they tackled the arduous Chilkoot mountain pass three times over to get all their goods to the staging point at Lindeman Lake. Once they had everything they needed at Lindeman, they built themselves a raft in order to travel 800 kms down the Yukon River to Dawson City.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing with the pair having to navigate several treacherous rapid points along the way. Today, you can marvel at many of the trials they faced on the Yukon River from the Five Finger Rapids viewpoint on the North Klondike Highway to Dawson. Or, in Whitehorse, you can walk the suspension bridge at Miles Canyon and gaze down on the rapids that once were. Hold on tight and brace yourself, these waters run deep with extraordinary stories.
Whilst panning the riverbeds, prospector George Carmack, his wife Kate Carmack (Shaaw Tláa), her brother Skookum Jim (Keish), and their nephew Dawson Charlie (Káa Goox) struck it lucky at the spot known thereafter as Bonanza Creek, setting the wheels in motion for the great Klondike Gold Rush. Today you can visit creeks where X marked the spot in the Goldfields and try your own luck at gold panning.
Fighting cabin fever over the long winter months, Bill and Joe had to earn their status as true Sourdoughs. But their persistence paid off when, come spring, there was a pot of gold with their name on it. Do you have what it takes? Try your hand at gold panning in the Klondike Goldfields. The attempt doesn’t come cheaper than at Free Claim #6—the spot where it all began.
In a world dominated by men, savvy business woman Belinda Mulrooney had the undeniable spirit of a true entrepreneur. Her labours of love, the elegant Fairview Hotel and the Grand Forks Roadhouse, may be no more, but you can still relive the gold rush days and stay at one of the many lively establishments in Dawson City.
Walk the dusty (or muddy) streets and head into a saloon where you’ll find local tales aplenty, no shortage of whisky, and relics from a bygone era every which way you turn. To pay your tab or get your goods, there's no need to weigh your gold on the antique scales. Today's Dawson has all the modern payment methods, which means you won't need to haggle with Belinda to buy some trusty rubber boots.
Keeping a safe distance from the scandals, corruption and anarchy that roamed the streets of Dawson, Father Judge was a beacon of light in the community. The good Father built Dawson City’s first church and hospital and was just an all-round good guy. Today you can pay tribute and visit his headstone in the local cemetery, located at the far end of Front Street. The friendly guides at the Visitor Information Centre will show you the way.
The Yukon is a wilderness paradise. Unless, that is, you are Jack London and you find yourself wintering on Split Up Island, battling scurvy no less. The island—near the Stewart River—was a spot notorious for testing the physical and mental endurance of many mining partnerships. For adventurers wanting to trace Jack’s journey, plan a canoe trip from Whitehorse to Dawson and enjoy the flow of the river and the summer’s long hours of daylight. With spectacular scenery and beautiful camp spots along the way, we guarantee you’ll have a much more pleasant time of it than poor old Jack.
Whether you’re reading this with your family, a group of friends or by yourself, here are some interesting questions to enrich your reading experience. But a word to the wise, if you plan on having a book discussion, make sure someone else is there too. You don’t want to end up talking to yourself.
Which one of the Gold Diggers’ characters do you relate to the most? And why?
Do you think you would have been able to survive a Yukon winter back in the day? What would you find most challenging?
Prospectors came to the Yukon, tackling long distances and immense hardships for the lure of gold. Can you think of a time when you have persevered to achieve a goal?