The Yukon Gold Rush Comes Alive!
One hundred and nineteen years ago Dyea, Alaska was a thriving goldrush outpost to the Yukon with 5,000-8,000 people. Most of us have seen old photos of 100K (Some say that only 50K made it!)) making their way up the Chilkoot trail or Dead Horse Gulch where hundreds of horses died or jumped to their death.
The last time we visited Skagway, we drove our rented car to the edge of the road to Dyea. We were a little afraid to drive the road because it looked so bad. This time, we went for it!
Dyea is about 10 miles from Skagway, but it is a long ten miles on roads that are only large enough for one vehicle. Pulling over or stopping for another vehicle to attempt to pass took a lot of time.
Today Dyea has been claimed by the government and is the “Klondike Goldrush National Historic Park.” (Watch this video!) We did not know what we would find. A woman that we had met on our way back from the Yukon told us to go to Dyea and visit the cemetery. It was worth the trek. So we took her advice!
What we found at Dyea was amazing. The National Park Service was preserving the old site. They had found an old plat of the town and were carving roads through the middle of a very thick rain forest. We followed a map that led us to and described historic sites. Not much was left of the old town.
As we walked through Dyea, we were amazed at the trees, undergrowth, and mushrooms. The ground felt like we were walking on cushioned peat. We have only experienced this in Ireland and in northern Alaska. If you have a good backpack, you can still walk the old Chilkoot Trail!
At a propped up storefront we were informed that store owners built storefronts to make the town look like it was full of stable buildings. Attached to the storefronts would be tents or makeshift rooms. No wonder the buildings failed.
We found Mrs. Pullen’s barn where she kept her horses. Harriet was one of the most famous women in Skagway, and perhaps, I will tell her story later. There was also a site where a boat had fallen apart!
At the other edge of Dyea was the Slide Cemetery. (See history of cemetery at this link.) On April 3, 1898 over seventy prospectors were killed in an avalanche on Chilkoot Trail. Markers remember some of those young men, even from Kansas! Over 1,000 women had gold fever too, but we did not see any female names on the graves!
Probably in a few years, the National Park Service will have constructed a replica of Dyea for everyone to visit.
Skagway is now a wonderfully preserved historic park which keeps the Whitehorse Railway and Yukon Goldrush story alive and well.
We can’t be more grateful for the work done by the National Park Service!
As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.