Gold, Writers & Can-can Dancers...

We continued our history lesson and what incredible history it is. Once word of the gold discovery got out, 100,000 adventurers attempted to make their fortunes in the goldfields here. I have a new found respect for not only the stampeders that actually made it (only 30,000) but for the majority who didn't. This was way different than the California gold rush, 50 years prior (on so many levels). Compared to the Klondike, the 49ers' experience was a piece of cake.

One ton of goods and a hard grind up the Chilkoot Trail got you into the Klondike. Gold seekers heading to the Klondike, in 1898, were required to pack and carry their goods over the Chilkoot Pass. The list of supplies required for each man included 400 pounds of flour, 100 pounds of beans, and 100 pounds of sugar, to name just a few. The average man took about 40 trips to haul his ton of supplies 33 miles to Bennett. That’s 2,600 exhausting miles over the icy trail, up the golden stairs at the summit, through blizzards, and sub-zero conditions. Most gold-seekers took at least three months to complete the task. And once they arrived? Most of the stakes were already claimed and they had to go to work for others.
But wait, the previous claims were eventually taken over by 'big business' who brought in Dredges (27 total). These behemoths roamed the creeks of the Klondike until the early 1960s. Today, we had the chance to learn this history at Dredge #4 on Bonanza Creek, at the largest wooden hull dredge in the world.


Dredge #4 (1912) was a giant gold digging machine. Imagine this vessel, inching forward, year after year, forever altering the landscape. It moved along in a pond of its own making, digging gold bearing gravel at a rate of 22 buckets per minute (there were 66 buckets, each weighing 2.5 tons). It would operate for 24 hours a day for a season of approx 200 days, April – November, depending on the weather. Though only moving forward a half mile per season, it unearthed nine tons of gold, grossing 8.6 million dollars over 46 years. On its best day, it unearthed over 800 ounces (50 lbs).
So not only do we get into all of the National Parks due to Canada turning 150, but once we presented that free pass at the Parks Canada desk, in the Dawson City Visitor Information Centre, we received one FREE Golden Ticket to use at any of the Klondike National Historical Sites. We chose Dredge #4 and our tour was beyond incredible.


After being educated, entertained, informed and impressed by our tour guide, for over an hour, we continued to explore the goldfields along Bonanza Creek.
The price of gold was fixed at $35 an once, in the 1950s, so the Dredges just weren't profitable any longer. The claims ran out and today, all along the creeks and tailing piles, are claim stakes. The modern gold rush is on in them there Dawson City hills.
In keeping with the generousness of Canadians, there was a claim that anyone could pan! Steve gave it a try but realized he needs to find his own goldfield in Alaska.

More about "the Bard of the Yukon",  Robert William Service. His vivid descriptions of the Yukon and its people made it seem that he was a veteran of the Klondike gold rush, instead of the late-arriving bank clerk he actually was (below is where he worked, the Canadian Bank of Commerce).

That said, colorful verses he wrote brought the Klondike experience alive for millions around the world and put the Canadian North on the map. This is the little cabin where he once lived. History is everywhere in Dawson City.

But before Robert there was Jack, a true stampeder! This is where White Fang author, Jack London resided during his days as a Klondike gold seeker. This replica is built from half of the logs of his original cabin.
And the other half of his house resides in his hometown of Oakland, California (here we are pictured there with Margaret & Lee). How neat that the Jack London story is complete for us.
And how does one end a great day in Dawson City? If you're smart, you head to Diamond Tooth Gerties, Canada's oldest gambling hall, to enjoy can-can dancing just like the prospectors did a century ago. Yeehaw! For $12 each, we got a season ticket to see a show any night we're in town.
This was Northern entertainment at its best. Each night there are three different shows (getting more risqué as the evening progresses) which showcase top-notch Klondike-themed song and dance... what an amazing night of being transported to the Gold Rush era.

We were entertained by Diamond Tooth Gertie, who had an amazing singing voice, and her dancing girls who were so very talented. What a fun, fun way to spend the evening.
For one number, the Gals came out into the audience and brought a man upstage to do the Can-can with them. Guess who Ethyl chose? That's right, Mr. Steve (far left). And he did grandes battements with the best of them. So dang fun. 


While Dawson City isn't on the easiest route to Alaska (tomorrow's drive is 187 miles, winding on the top of a mountain range, mostly unpaved), it is certainly a must-see for us. All components of this town made this two night stay unforgettable.

"It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder, 
It’s the forests where silence has lease; 
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder, 
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace."
-Robert W. Service

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2 comments:

Karen Booth said...

You were testing me on reading comprehension. At first, I said "What, Margaret and Lee are in Alaska". I had to slow down. If Steve keeps up his performance run, he'll need his own scrapbook at the end of the trip. I can't even imagine how much time you are putting into your posts. Amazing detail and history. I guess you have those endless nights to work on the blog!

Nick and Deb's Excellent Adventure said...

Nick said Steve has all the luck! looks like a super fun time!

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