Gold Rush History of 1898
In August of 1896, Skookum Jim, Dawson Charlie, and George and Kate Carmack discovered gold at Rabbit Creek. With the unearthing of this yellow precious metal they ignited what has been described as the largest of all the gold rushes that occurred from 1849 to 1900.
This last great gold rush in American history was the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 and forever cemented the bond of gold mining and miners with the great State of Alaska. It is estimated that 100,000 rugged souls were irresistibly drawn to seek their fortune and that 30,000 to 50,000 actually reached the Klondike Valley. The indomitable spirit of the gold prospector's willingness and determination to go the extra mile, literally, reflected the rugged Alaskan spirit.
This extra mile began at the City of Valdez, Alaska and was one of the historical sites on the Gold Rush trail in 1898 during the great Klondike Gold Rush. Streaming in on steamships from Seattle and San Francisco prospectors came to seek their fortune. Their two-week voyage brought them to the port town of Valdez. Here they stocked up on supplies and began their historical travel which took them over the Valdez Glacier to Klutina Lake on the way to reach their ultimate destination. Valdez Glacier became known as the all-American route to the gold fields which were not in the Klondike, but in the Copper River Valley. The Valdez Museum has on record much of the history associated with Valdez and the gold rush.
Others chose a different route which followed the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea, Alaska to Lake Bennett, British Columbia. This route eventually led to Dawson City, Yukon. The terrain coupled with the weather made this journey extremely difficult. In addition a Canadian law was enforced by Mounties requiring that travelers carry a year's supply of food. This requirement of one ton of food was for each prospector and was for their own protection and survival. The RCMP station was at the summit known as Chilkoot Pass or the Golden Stairs. The name was derived as prospectors had literally carved out steps in the ice leading over the pass to the awaiting gold.
Many exciting stories and legends also came to life during this rugged time of the Klondike Gold Rush. Jack London, the famous novelist of this era, captured many of these stories regarding the Klondike Gold Rush. Two such writings were “The Call of the Wild”, and “White Fang.”
Amazingly, over 100 years later, the adventurous spirit of Alaskans is still displayed in their love for adventure, prospecting and mining for gold. Time proven techniques such as panning and the use of a sluice are still fundamental methods used to search for and find gold. However, living in the 21st century, some ingenious prospectors and miners have utilized modern transportation such as a hovercraft to match the ruggedness of Alaska in transporting their supplies upstream.
The methods may have changed, but the frontier and adventurous 1898 spirit is still as vibrant today as it was during those Gold Rush days of 1898.