Dawson was named in January 1897 after noted Canadian geologist George M. Dawson, who had explored and mapped the
region in 1887. It served as the Yukon's capital from the territory's founding in 1898 until 1952, when the seat was moved to
The Klondike Gold Rush started in 1896 and changed what had been a First Nation camp into a thriving city of 40,000 by
1898. By 1899, the gold rush ended when new gold was discovered in Alaska and the town's population plummeted as all but
8,000 people left. When Dawson was incorporated as a city in 1902, the population was under 5,000.
The population dropped after World War II following the building of the Alaska Highway through Whitehorse which was named
the new territorial capital. It languished around the 600-900 mark through the 1960s and 1970s, but has risen and held stable
since then at about 1800 people. The high price of gold has made modern mining operations profitable, and the growth of the
tourism industry has encouraged development of facilities. In the early 1950s, Dawson was linked by a seasonal road to
As those who have visited Canada know, Canada is much better at preserving its history and building first class museums than
the US. Parks Canada has rehabilitated many of the historic buildings in the town and offers numerous tours and films. We
spent two full and very busy days in Dawson and stayed at the absolutely first rate Dawson B&B--highly recommended.
Dawson sits on the permafrost, so most of the old buildings have a lean in them which has been corrected in the restored
buildings. Today there is only one sort of paved street in Dawson, as paved streets do not do well in permafrost.
When the gold rush ended, Canada tried to
encourage people to stay by building some very nice
public buildings including the post office which was
built in 1902 (left).
One of the people who came to Dawson to try to make a
fortune was Jack London who had unsuccessfully tried to
publish articles and books. At the right is a replica of his
log cabin built with some of the logs from his original cabin.
What made the Dawson area unique was placer mining. Placer gold is found in the gravel above bedrock and can be easily
separated using water and gravity. The big channel was to get down through the permafrost which the miners did by building
fires. Later they used steam.
After the easy mining had been done, dredges were built and brought in to mine the gold. The dredges were barges floated on
ponds of water created to get at the gold. Dredge No. 4 s the largest wooden hull, bucket line dredge in North America. It was
built in 1912 and was finally abandoned in 1959. Parks Canada has loving restored this dredge and conducts tours of the
dredge every hour.
Dawson and Placer Gold
Left, Jackie in a replica of an old
saloon talking with a guide from Parks
The Canadian Mounties came in with
the miners, so Dawson never had the
issues of crime that were common to
other gold mining towns. Robbery was
Left, the buckets from
the dredge remain
where they were
abandoned in 1959.
residence built in 1902
and designed by the
same architect who
designed the post office.
Left, an old hotel from
the good old days.
Below, yours truly sitting at the top of the Midnight Dome with the Yukon River in the background.