Dawson City Captures the Energy of the Yukon Gold Rush

Do Not Miss the Detour to Dawson City

Dawson City is a must-see detour for on your trip through Yukon and up into Alaska.  Starting at Whitehorse, YT, travel north on Highway 2 (the Klondike Loop) for 331 miles.  This is not the easiest road; it has the requisite frost heaves and potholes.  But it is beautiful and well worth the slow drive.  Some RVers choose to continue across the Top of the World Highway from here to get down to Tok.  It is a challenging road for large vehicles but many people do it.  (We went to Chicken in the jeep.  See below.)

Dawson Highway
The road from Whitehorse to Dawson City is worth the slow drive.

You might choose to take a detour off of this road and explore the silver mines of Mayo, Elsa and Silver City.

Once you get to Dawson City, there are two excellent RV parks, one before you get to town and another right downtown.  You may find a pullout for free boondocking, but we decided to stay closer to town so we could explore on foot.

Visit the Boom Town and Immerse Yourself in Klondike Gold Rush History

We stayed in Dawson City for several days.  Just exploring old town with the historical restaurants and bars was worth at least a day.

In 1986, the local Trondek Hwechin native tribe was pushed out by the gold seekers on the Klondike River.  Most of the miners that successfully mined the area were already in the area when news of the big strike spread.  They had claims already made, long before the travelers from Missouri and Germany and every point in between arrived in the new boom town of Dawson City.  It was a crazy place, growing to a population of 40,000 people by 1898.

 

Local riverboat cruise in Dawson City

Riverboats Provided the Primary Transportation for 50 Years

We enjoyed the Riverboat cruise down the Yukon River.  Purchase tickets at the visitor center.  The views of the river and mountains are spectacular.  At one time, these riverboats were the main mode of transportation from Whitehorse to Dawson City.  Many gold miners and others made their way here on the river.  Once the road was finally built in the 50’s these boats were no longer cost-effective.  Many of them can still be seen rotting on the river’s edge.

Old steamboat was no longer useful once the road came through.

Don’t forget to visit the Historic SS Keno, drydocked on the river. Tours run daily during the summer season.  These boats ran up and down the river from Whitehorse to Dawson, carrying miners and supplies for several decades years.

There is a great walking tour offered by the Visitors Center with an audio track detailing the stories of the Gold Rush and later times in the area.

You should also check out the Jack London Museum.  The Museum is an excellent display that recreates the look and feel of the crazy town in the middle of its insanity.

Jack London Museum - Bank
The Jack London Museum displays scenes from the Gold Rush period.

A little farther afield from Dawson City, there are several day-trips that are worth taking.  Because we travel in a motorhome and tow a jeep behind us.  We left our home parked and explored the area in our car.

An easy half-hour from Dawson City you will find Dredge No. 4.  You need to make this trip.  The complete guided tour explains the operation of the huge dredges.  The gold dredges were built during the period after the 1898 gold rush when the panners were just not getting much gold from their claims.  Eventually, large corporations from the eastern US came into the area, bought up the small claims, and built huge dredges.  See our article for more detail on the Klondike Gold Rush Dredges.

Dredge #4
The tour guide at Dredge #4 near Dawson City

Another trip we enjoyed in the jeep was a drive across the Top of the World highway to Chicken and Eagle.  Although many people drive motorhomes and other large RVs across this road, I was not willing to risk it.  It was, however, a beautiful drive in the Jeep.  We crossed the Yukon on a small, free ferry and started a five-hour drive down to Eagle.  Then we stayed overnight in the hotel in Eagle and then drove up to Chicken the next morning.  We arrived back in Dawson City in the late afternoon.  See our article on the Top of the World Highway, coming soon.

Chicken
The Chicken in Chicken!

 

One last road trip to consider is the road to the Tombstone Interpretive Center, about 50 miles from Dawson City.  It was quite cloudy and rainy the day we did the drive, so the mountain views were a bit obscured.  Even so, we explored the tundra landscape for many miles past the Interpretive Center.  There are small lakes scattered about. Birds were everywhere, as was the ever-present fireweed flower.  Even in the rain and fog, it was a beautiful day.  We need to go back and do it when the sun is out!

Drive through Tombstone National Park

If you are traveling through the Yukon Territory from Whitehorse, on your way to TOK, Alaska, you have two choices.  Drive to Dawson City, then take the Top of the World highway over to Tok.  Or, if you, like me, are not willing to take your 42′ motorhome over that crazy road, just explore it with your tow car.  Then drive back to Whitehorse and over to Tok.

Either way, DON’T miss Dawson City.  The town and the excursions around it were highlights of our trip and we will definitely be back to continue our explorations.

 

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