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Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada

Front Street, Dawson City, July 4, 1899
© Yukon Archives / E.O. Hegg, 1899

Few episodes in Canadian history have so captured imaginations as the Klondike Gold Rush, 1897-8. Thousands of adventurers and fortune seekers faced the rigors of the trail to dig for gold along creeks feeding the Klondike River. Dawson, a trading post on a mud flat at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, mushroomed in a single season to a sprawling boom town, made up of log and frame buildings, and tents. Some 50,000 people from the four corners of the earth arrived at Dawson. At the height of the gold rush, 1898-9, the itinerant population of Dawson was estimated between 20,000 and 30,000, making it the largest Canadian community west of Winnipeg. The excitement quickly petered out after the turn of the century, with the formation of large corporations which bought up individual claims. The Klondike continued to produce gold in abundance for a number of years.

Historic panoramic view of Dawson
Historic panoramic view of Dawson City
© Yukon Archives / 5655

In a sense, the Dawson of the frantic two seasons just before the turn of the century, was Canada's last frontier. By the 1940's Dawson was a village with a permanent population of under 1,000. In 1953 the territorial capital was transferred to Whitehorse. But the picturesque ghost-town beneath the scarred and rounded hill known as the Moosehide Slide, less than 200 miles (322 km) below the Arctic Circle, is still very much a part of our historical heritage.

The Klondike Gold Rush is a significant and colourful chapter in Canadian history. Dawson City, the heart of the Klondike, was named for Dr. George Mercer Dawson, a Canadian government geologist. Parks Canada has been active in the restoration and preservation of what remains of the once lusty mining camp.