Experience the remarkably historic period of the Klondike Gold Rush frozen in this authentic city. This legendary event caused a global movement of people that was unprecedented at the time. Although it lasted just a few short years, it left a rich historic legacy with stories of triumph, defeat, bravery and the peculiar madness of gold fever. Dawson City became the biggest city west of Winnipeg and north of Seattle. Today, you can explore the legend while revelling in the unique vibe of one of the North’s most treasured towns.
The best place to start your Klondike adventure is at the Visitor Information Centre, where you can discover all the offerings in the area and also join in a Parks Canada walking tour. Interpretive guides will bring to life a rich history and colourful legends. Explore one of the fabulously conserved historical buildings by visiting the home and grounds of the Commissioner’s Residence and then dive deep into local history at the Dawson City Museum.
Sip a pre-dinner cocktail at a former brothel. Bombay Peggy’s bar embraces Dawson’s bawdier past with some inventively named drinks. “Bloomer Remover” anyone?
After dinner, enjoy the fun at Diamond Tooth Gerties (or simply “Gerties” to the locals). This is Canada’s oldest casino and the hub of Dawson’s notorious nightlife. Or should we say “midnight sun life”? It’s a lively place that evokes the gold rush spirit with a gambling hall and nightly can-can shows.
The gold seekers weren’t the first to arrive in this area. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people had been here for centuries. The Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre brings to life their stories and culture.
For another perspective, take a river trip. Relive a slower pace of travel on board the Klondike Spirit paddlewheeler, float past the traditional First Nations village of Moosehide, see the paddlewheel graveyard or watch a traditional fish wheel in operation.
Back on dry land, stroll wooden boardwalks and meet locals as colourful as the town itself. At the cabin of Robert Service, a.k.a. the “bard of the Yukon”, listen to live readings of his poetry. Then head down to the cabin of that other famous Klondike author, Jack London. Another interesting option is to wander through some of Dawson’s old cemeteries. You can pick up a walking guide at the visitor centre.
Tonight, take part in the time-honoured tradition of the Sourtoe Cocktail. Forget about cocktail umbrellas in your drink, this one has a pickled human toe!
After a busy day, kick back, soak up some of those midnight sun rays and simply enjoy the magic of Dawson.
In August of 1896, gold was found in Rabbit (later Bonanza) Creek launching the biggest gold rush the world has ever seen. An estimated 30,000 – 40,000 made it through enormous obstacles to arrive in the Klondike.
Today, journey out to the goldfields and see where it all began at Discovery Claim. Although the “rush” was over just a few years later, gold mining continued and you can get a sense of the scale of operations at Dredge No. 4. At two thirds the size of a football field and 8 stories high, this was the largest wooden hull, bucket-line dredge in North America.
And there’s still gold to be found. At Free Claim #6 you can get a sense of what it was like by trying your own hand at panning. And its finder’s keeper’s here—any gold you find you get to keep!
On your way back into town, drive up to the Midnight Dome for 360° views over Dawson City and the Klondike. If you’re in town at the summer solstice join the local gathering here in the evening to watch the sun circle the sky.
Just north of Dawson (112km/69mi.), you’ll find Tombstone Territorial Park. The park is a unique wilderness of rugged peaks, permafrost landforms and abundant wildlife, and makes for a great day trip. It’s particularly beautiful in late August when nature puts on an incredible display of fall colours.
Stop in at the Tombstone Interpretive Centre where you can sip some mountain tea, get the latest scoop on wildlife sightings, and enjoy the cultural displays. There are also interpretive programs and special events throughout summer. Feeling more active? Join a guided walk or pick up information on local hiking trails.
Continue to the Tombstone lookout, where you’ll be greeted by a spectacular view across a wide valley to the craggy, granite peak of Mount Monolith. If you feel like driving further, you can continue on to Two Moose Lake (35km/20mi.). As you contemplate the beauty of the tundra, you’ll notice something that you probably haven’t experienced in a long time—complete silence. And what about those moose? The best time to spot them is around twilight.