The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

23 May, 2015

The Klondike Loop

Dawson City began when fur trapper/part-time prospector Robert Henderson found gold in Rabbit Creek (later referred to Bonanza) not far from where the Klondike River empties into the Yukon in 1894.  He was sure he was close to a major find but two years passed before he convinced his friend George Carmack to come into the area and on 16th August 1896 George and his native companions Tagish Charlie & Skookum Jim discovered gold on Bonanza Creek.  Within days of Carmack registering the discovery, Eldorado Creeks had been staked from end to end.  Carmack did not tell his mate Henderson who missed out on the richest claims!!  Thirty thousand pick & shovel miners, prospectors, storekeepers, saloon keepers, bankers, gamblers, prostitutes and con men from every corner of the continent poured through snow choked mountain passes and down the Yukon River to stake their claim to fortunes - most seekers found no gold at all.  Dawson City grew in the shadow of a scar faced mountain called Midnight Dome.  Wharves and warehouses lined the river's shore with Steamers berthed at riverside docks.

There is so much history surrounding this place and one of our first stops was at the Information Centre where historic slide shows and films were shown and a city map supplied for a town walk. They also had guided walking tours which members of our group joined in and thoroughly enjoyed. The town has tried to maintain its historic architecture by restoring the buildings to achieve the original facade and leaving the roads unpaved and maintaining the boardwalk which adds to the appeal of Dawson City.  The time we visited there was no midnight - only twilight which made sleeping a bit different when you have sunshine streaming in @ 11pm!!  The first night Hels went to bed but I went with a few of our travellers to Diamond Tooth Gerties which is a real Klondike Gold Rush-style gambling hall with live entertainment - Diamond Tooth Gertie and her Can-Can Girls. The show started at 10.30pm however the final show @ 12 midnight claimed to be a bit 'risque'.  Must be getting old as I could not stay awake for the late show and was most confused when I came out of the building to be greeted with twighlight at 11.30pm.

Streets of Dawson City

Another of the streets - note boardwalk and unpaved road

Yukon River - note the ferry which will take us across to the other side

Some interesting non restored buildings

View of Dawson City from Midnight Dome - in early years people would come up here to celebrate the longest day and view the midnight sun.

Statue memorial to early miners

Restored building now Dawson City Museum

So much character - could not resist taking photos

S.S. Keno is a National Historic Site and visitors are able to board and be guided through the vessel

Another building awaiting restoration

Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall @ 10pm

Part of the cabaret show

11.30pm sunset over the Yukon River after the Show
On our departure we drove out to Klondike Dredge #4 - over 46 years this dredge has recovered 8 metric tons of gold.  Then we were off to cross the Yukon River on the George Black Ferry which was a bit unnerving to watch as there were no cables and the ferry had to battle against the current which took the vessel in a huge arc before straightening up to get to the other side. This ferry is free and operates 24 hours a day in the summer. Hard to believe that people had to battle this river in an effort to find their fortune and in much smaller boats and even rafts.

Caught the ferry at Dawson City in order to travel the Top of the World Hwy 
Top of the World Highway - Yukon Highway No 9 began as a pack trail out of Dawson City shortly after the gold rush. It serviced Sixtymile and neighbouring Gold Creeks and was gradually improved and came to be known as Ridge Road. In 1930's the road was extended to the Border and from there to Jack Wade and Chicken connecting these Alaskan communities to Dawson City. In late 1940's Alaska's Taylor Highway gave all these communities road access to the outside world by way of the newly completed Alaska Highway.

Look closely for the Motor Home - this is snow on the side of the Top of the World Highway

Information of the Top of the World Highway

Typical scenic view of the Top of the World Highway

The Highway is a gravel road but well maintained with quite steep hills to climb and no guard rails! As we climbed higher there were pockets of snow lying next to the road and needed to show passports to cross the boarder into Alaska.

Canada/ USA (Alaska) border and end of the Top of the World Hwy 

Camped the night at Chicken (much anticipated destination as what type of town is called Chicken!!) Chicken, Alaska is one of the most interesting towns in the north primarily because of what has not been done versus what has been done.  There is good infrastructure for visitor services but it is still a raw frontier town, which is one of its charm.  The history began with discovery of gold in 1886 - ten years later in 1896 Bob Mathieson made a major discovery on Upper Chicken Creek and staked his claim and built a cabin.  700 miners were thought to be working the area between 1896-1898. A Post Office was established in 1903 to serve a population of around 400 and in 1906 Harvey Van Hook built the two storey Chicken Creek Hotel.

Unique sign on way into Chicken

Main hub of Chicken - Souvenier shop (anything & everything Chicken!), Pub, Cafe

The old Chicken statue

They have really thought of everything!

Surrounding buildings @ the RV Park

After our arrival we were treated to a Town Tour which was a walking tour through the ruins of the original town and very interesting.  How Chicken got its name is in itself interesting - in the late 1800's miners travelled far in search of gold and food was scarce but near the South Fork of the 40-Mile River was abundant in Ptarmigan, now the State bird which resembles a chicken.  In 1902 when Chicken was incorporated, the name Ptarmigan was suggested and although people liked the name no-one could agree on the spelling.  They did not want their town to be the source of ridicule and laughter so they decided on "Chicken"!!!

You never guess what we had for dinner .........chicken!!!

Our guide on the Town Tour with log cabin in background

Our group enjoying the Tour 

"Tisha's Schoolhouse" made famous by the book Tisha which chronicles Anne Purdy's life teaching in the Town of Chicken in 1927

Community Hall

Log Cabin

Inside Log Cabin - quite luxurious really

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