Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
The glacially-carved valleys, stream channels, snow pack and stunning views that make up Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park's physical landscape provide a compelling stage for its gold rush story. Commemorating the Gold Rush of 1897-98, this 13,191-acre park encompasses a six-block historical district in the town of Skagway, the nearby ghost town of Dyea and the famous Chilkoot and White Pass Trails.
When gold was discovered in 1896 in Bonanza Creek, near Dawson City in the Yukon Territory, Skagway and Dyea became the starting places for more than 40,000 gold-rush stampeders who headed to Canada primarily by way of the Chilkoot Trail. The actual stamped lasted only a few years but it produced one of the most colorful periods in Alaskan history, that of a lawless frontier town controlled by villainous 'Soapy' Smith who was finally removed from power in a gun fight by town hero Frank Reid. At the height of the gold rush, Michael J. Heney, an Irish contractor, convinced a group of English investors that he could build a railroad over the White Pass Trail to Whitehorse. Built with little more than gun powder and picks, the White Pass & Yukon Route climbs from sea level to 2,865-foot White Pass in just 20 miles, making it one the world's steepest train routes.
Today Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a cruise ship favorite making it the most popular park in Alaska with 850,000 visitors annually. The park offers a unique balance of history and outdoor adventure. The streets of Skagway are lined with dozens of historic stores, saloons and public buildings of which the National Park Service has restored fifteen. In neighboring Dyea, the park interprets how a town, once the size of Skagway, disappeared in the years following the Rush, though it still serves as the starting point for hikes on the famous, 33-mile Chilkoot Trail, the most popular backpacking route in Alaska. Other outdoor activities include camping, rafting, wildlife viewing, hiking, fishing and historic walking tours.