Discovery

Tipped off by veteran prospector Bob Henderson, George Carmack and his fishing partners, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie, searched the creek gravels of Rabbit Creek. On August 17, 1896 they found gold and staked the first four claims. A few days later at Forty Mile, Carmack registered the Discovery Claim in his own name, and one each for Charlie and Jim. Skookum Jim was sent to guard the claims on what Carmack renamed Bonanza Creek. Within days Bonanza and Eldorado creeks had been staked from end to end, and when the news reached the outside the Klondike Gold Rush was on.

Trench diggings on Eldorado Creek

Gold rush

The Klondike valley became the scene of hundreds of excited men tearing up the creek beds. Each claim was 500 feet (152 m) wide. Smoke filled the air as fires smoldered in the shafts to thaw frozen ground. Hand-turned windlasses creaked as the buckets of half frozen muck were dumped out on the tailing piles, ready to be sluiced. Soon every creek and hillside in the Klondike was being worked and the gold poured out in what appeared to be an endless stream.

After the gold rush

Dredge No. 4 and tailing piles

One by one individual miners sold out to large companies who installed dredges on the creeks. The conveyor buckets dug to bedrock and turned the valleys into mounds of gravel. Massive tailing piles are reminders of the dredging operations.

Once again the valleys are quiet and the trees and shrubs are covering scars. There are small mining operations scattered here and there, and some gold is still to be found. There is a dwindling number who believe that somewhere in these ridges or valleys a mother lode is waiting to be discovered. Meanwhile the Eldorado and Bonanza quietly murmur their way to join the Klondike River, as serenely as they did that summer of 1896.