Explore Geology
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Klondike Gold Rush

National Historical Park


cover of park brochure

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historic photo
Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, Alaska

"The country is wild, rough and full of hardships for those unused to the rigors of Arctic winters. If a man makes a fortune he is liable to earn it by severe hardship and sufferings. But, then, grit, perseverance and luck will probably reward a hard worker with a comfortable income for life."
Clarence Berry, one of the miners returning on the Portland, quoted in The Seattle Post-lntelligencer, July 17,1897.

With cries of "Gold! Gold in the Klondike!" there unfolded in the Yukon and Alaska an incredible historic adventure, whose theme of human endeavor in the face of adversity captured the imagination of people around the world. In August 1896 when George Washington Carmack and his two Indian companions, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie, found gold in a tributary of the Klondike River in Canada's Yukon Territory, they had no idea that they would set off one of the greatest gold rushes in history. True, most of the good claims were already staked by the time the rush really got underway in the summer of 1897; but this didn't stop an army of hopeful goldseekers from boarding ships at Seattle and other Pacific port cities and heading north to try their luck.

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1897 and on into the winter, stampeders poured into the newly created Alaskan tent and shack towns of Skagway and Dyea—the jumping off points for the long (600-mile) trek to the goldfields.

  • Skagway, founded by a former steamboat captain named William Moore at the head of the White Pass Trail, quickly accumulated some 10,000 transient residents struggling to get their year's worth of gear and supplies over the Coast Range and down to the Yukon River headwaters at Lakes Lindeman and Bennett.
  • Dyea, nine miles away on the delta at the head of Taiya Inlet, endured the same frantic boomtown activity. Here, too, goldseekers poured ashore to pick their way up the Chilkoot Trail into Canada.

Stampeders faced their greatest hardships on the Chilkoot Trail out of Dyea and the White Pass Trail out of Skagway. There were murders and suicides, disease and malnutrition, and death from hypothermia, avalanche, and, some said, heartbreak. Chilkoot was the toughest on men because pack animals could not be used easily on the steep slopes leading to Chilkoot Pass and, until tramways were built in late 1897 and early 1898, the stampeders had to carry everything on their backs. The White Pass Trail was the animal-killer, as anxious prospectors overloaded and beat their pack animals and forced them over the rocky terrain until they dropped. More than 3,000 animals died on this trail, many at the place called Dead Horse Gulch.

During the first year of the rush an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 goldseekers spent an average of three months packing their outfits up the Chilkoot and White Pass Trails to Lakes Lindeman and Bennett, where they built or bought boats to float the remaining 560 or so miles downriver to the Klondike and Dawson where an almost limitless supply of gold nuggets was said to lie. The distance from Skagway and Dyea to the lakes was only about 33 miles, but each man trudged hundreds of miles back and forth along the trails, moving his gear from cache to cache. By mid-summer of 1898 there were 18,000 people at Dawson, with more than 5,000 working the diggings. By August many of the stampeders had started for home, most of them broke. The next year saw a still larger exodus of miners when gold was discovered at Nome, Alaska. The great Klondike gold rush ended as suddenly as it had begun and towns like Dawson and Skagway began to decline; others, like Dyea, disappeared altogether, leaving only memories of what many considered to be the last grand adventure of the 19th century.

park maps subheading

The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

photo album subheading

A geology photo album has not been prepared for this park.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

books, videos, cds subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

geologic research subheading

For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

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NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

teacher feature subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for any park-specific geology education programs or activities.

General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/klgo/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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