This Week in History
This story was initially published in 1998
On August 17, 1896, a party of prospectors struck large deposits of gold nuggets on Bonanza Creek, setting off the most exciting gold find in Canadian history. This party was panning the creeks as they travelled. Keish, a Tagish First Nation's man known to history as "Skookum Jim," hit paydirt. He and his companions staked claims a few days later. News of their discovery spread to the outside world and the Klondike Gold Rush began.
Getting to the gold fields was hard: the Klondike was far from any seaport or railway. A mountain path called the Chilkoot Trail was the shortest and busiest route from the Alaska coast to the headwaters of the Yukon River in Canada. It was difficult, especially the steep footpath to the summit of the Chilkoot Pass and the border crossing into Canada. Many stampeders, disheartened by the many climbs necessary to haul their equipment over the pass, turned back here. Keish, a packer and guide before he became rich, earned his nickname of "Skookum" or "strong" when he carried 71 kilograms over the pass in a single load!
Skookum Jim is recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada for the original discovery. The discovery itself is commemorated by a plaque at Bonanza Creek, Yukon. Dawson City Historical Complex is an impressive collection of buildings from the Gold Rush era. The Chilkoot Trail still welcomes hikers from all over the world. It is managed jointly by Parks Canada and the United States Parks Service. In 1998 Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site and Klondike National Historic Sites celebrated the 100th anniversary of their busiest season ever.
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