Dawson City is probably the most fun, entertaining and richly historic area we visited on our trip! It is situated at the confluence of the Yukon river and the Klondike River. In 1896 gold was discovered on a tributary of the Klondike river, Bonanza Creek, and the town grew up around it.
Dawson City was the first capital of Yukon but by 1953 Whitehorse had become the activity hub in the territory so the Federal government changed it to the capital. Dawson City was declared a national historic site in the early 1960’s. Parks Canada is involved with 35+ buildings , some are restored, some reconstructed and some stabilized.
One of the main attractions is the Dredge No 4 National Historic Site. It was built in 1912 for the Canadian Klondike Mining Co’s claim on Bonanza creek, and worked the claim until approx 1960. She was left sitting in the mud for 32 years, exactly how the last crew had left it! In 1992 she was rescued and restoration began!
It is the largest wooden hulled bucket line gold dredge in North America!
We took the tour and our guide, Sandra, was so well informed and really made the whole way of life very real to us! It was made extra fun as it turned out she was from Kamloops originally and we knew some of the same people!
One of the other National Historic Sites we toured there was the SS Keno.
She was the last steamer to run the Yukon River when she sailed from Whitehorse in 1960, to her current home in Dawson. The Keno, and the Klondike in Whitehorse, are the only 2 old riverboats to survive in the Yukon.
No trip to Dawson City would be complete without visiting Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall!
It is a working casino, but as well they have 3 nightly shows with the can-can girls!
Another interesting piece of history in Dawson is the “sourtoe cocktail”! You can experience this at the Downtown Hotel. It is a strange initiation (involving a mummified human toe) which, if you succeed, entitles you to membership in ‘the club’ and you get a certificate to prove it!
“you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe!”
There is a 2500.00 fine if you swallow the toe! People line up every night, to buy a ‘shot’ at the bar, then they head over to the table to have the toe added to their drink!
I did not believe it could be a real toe and was all set to do it, but the line up was so long I decided not to. In the ensuing days I asked many different people who live in Dawson if the toe was real…..they all assured me it was…………..maybe I am glad I didn’t do it!!
One of the highlights (of so many) in town was the Dome viewpoint. We were lucky we had a fairly clear day to drive up the mountain and enjoy the magnificent view!
While in Dawson City we also planned to drive part way up the Dempster Highway. I had heard so much about the beauty of the landscape and it had been on my bucket list for a long time. Unfortunately the day we had allowed to go there it poured with rain! (another reason why I hate traveling with a definite time schedule!!) We still ventured up, and it was beautiful but many people told me how much more beautiful it is when the sun is shining!! (of course!)
The road way turned into quite a mud bog with the rain, it was hard to remove it from the car afterwards!
The highlight of the trip for me was seeing this beautiful creature! I love to see majestic moose in their natural habitat!
I would love to go back again and be able to really appreciate the mountain views!
No matter where you travel in Yukon you will hear the poetry of Robert Service. Dawson City has the Robert Service Cabin, National Historic Site. We visited there as well and got to listen to many of his most famous poems being read by a very talented volunteer!
Robert Service had a very eventful life, born in England in 1874, as a young boy he traveled by himself to Canada to work as a cattle rancher in the prairies. He then moved to Vancouver, then San Francisco, Los Angeles and eventually to Victoria. He got a job with the CIBC and in 1904 was transferred to Whitehorse.
He wrote tirelessly, drawing inspiration from the people he met, the stories he heard and the northern landscape.
In 1906, he collected his poems into a bundle he titled “Songs of a Sourdough” and sent the manuscript to Toronto to be published. It wasn’t long until the book took off – the first Canadian poetry bundle to do so. It was soon published in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. He then moved to Dawson City and continued working on volume two of his poems!
He became known as ‘The Bard of the Yukon”
He spent 2 years in Dawson then began wandering again, to Europe, then England, back to California and Monte Carlo. He died at age 102! At the time of his death, his first book of verse had sold 3 million copies worldwide!
Until next time……