Few Americans knew about George Washington Carmack’s rich gold strike near Dawson City in the Yukon on August 16, 1896, until 11 months later, when the SS Portland arrived in Seattle. The two tons of raw metal on board soon provoked an epidemic of gold fever. Starting in 1897, the Klondike Gold Rush brought tens of thousands of fortune seekers, or stampeders, to Seattle. After buying supplies in Seattle, the argonauts boarded ships going to Skagway, Alaska, then hiked the rugged 33-mile Chilkoot Trail from Dyea to Lake Bennett, where they built boats to float the last 500 miles to Dawson City.
Today, you can learn about these stampeders’ effect on Seattle’s economy and their struggles to reach the goldfields at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park at 319 2nd Avenue S in Pioneer Square.
Displayed throughout this indoor park are pictures taken by period photographers of stampeders carrying supplies on the Chilkoot Trail and lucky prospectors holding pans filled with gold. You’ll also see a display of the ton of food, clothing, and equipment the Northwest (Canadian) Mounted Police required each person to carry into the Yukon, because supplies ran short there during the long, cold winters. Rangers are on duty to answer questions.
In the theater, watch slide shows and films about Seattle’s role during the Gold Rush and about hiking the Chilkoot Trail.
The park’s hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily the rest of the year, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. For more information, call (206) 220-4240 or visit the park’s website.
A sister unit of the park in Skagway includes the Chilkoot Trail and 15 buildings dating to the Klondike Gold Rush. For more information, call (907) 983-9200 or visit the Skagway Unit’s website.