Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Alaska Gold Rush

This was one of the post on my blog tour. In case you didn't make it or find it, here is the info again.  

When the word came out of the Yukon in 1897 that gold had been found, thousands of men headed north. An estimated 100,000 people between 1896-1899 rushed to the Yukon looking for riches.

The American economy had taken a hit. People were out of work and wondering how they would provide for their families.  Some communities pooled their money to send several men form the area to find gold and bring it back to help the community prosper.

The quickest way to Alaska and the Yukon was by ship.  Many left San Francisco and Seattle by ship, heading to Skagway to traverse the Chilkoot and White Pass while others landed in St. Michael and used the Yukon River to transport them into the gold fields.

The all-water route was the favorite for those who liked less physical challenges. The gold seekers would leave either San Francisco or Seattle on a Steam ship and sail to St, Michael on the western shore of Alaska. From there they would go by sternwheeler up the Yukon River to Dawson City.  This journey was approximately 4600 miles from San Francisco to Dawson City. 

In 1897, this route was cut short when winter hit early and froze the river. This is the winter in Laying Claim.

The popular route was from Seattle to Skagway or Dyea, Alaska. This route was shorter, and could take less time if one was physically able to handle many trips up the steep steps cut in the snow on Chilkoot to carry 2000 lbs of supplies required by the NW Mounted Police. The White Pass also required the supplies and if a person didn’t have a pack string or dog sleds to help carry the load, they also had to pack some up to a stop-over, go back, grab more, and pack it up. They made virtually hundreds of trips up and back by the time they reached the summit and packed down to Lake Lindemann from Chilkoot and Bennett Lake on the White Pass trail. 

Both trails had dangerous terrain and back-breaking summits. Many used pack horses on White Pass. It is noted nearly 3000 horses died on that trail.  April 1893 over sixty men were killed in an avalanche on Chilkoot. Bones of horses and abandoned gear still cover the trails.

At Bennett Lake and Lake Lindemann the gold seekers built rafts and boats and floated down to Dawson City on the Whitehorse River. The winter of 1897-98 many who crossed the summits were stranded at the lakes all winter due to the frozen rivers beyond the lake. When the river finally thawed in the spring of 1898 it is reported that 7,100 water crafts hit the water within forty-eight hours. One-hundred-and-fifty of those vessels wrecked at Squaw and Whitehorse rapids before the NW Mounted Police oversaw the navigation of those rapids.

Laying Claim begins January 1898 when so many were stopped by the weather once they hit the Alaska shores. 

photo source Public Domain

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