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Submitted By: Michael Lennett - Baby Moose Twins

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Experience Alaska's gold-rush past

Alaska’s story is a boom-and-bust tale, and one of its most famous chapters is that of the gold-rush era, which began in the late 1800s and lasted through the 1920s. The gold seekers who flocked to Alaska during this time helped establish many of the state’s communities, in some cases virtually overnight. The spirit of adventure, exploration, and risk in pursuit of riches that was common among prospectors has been passed down to generations of Alaskans. Visitors to Alaska today cite gold-rush history as one of their top interests, and with the quantity and quality of historical attractions available in the state, it’s a snap to add gold-rush-oriented tours and experiences to any itinerary. Today’s visitors to Alaska can learn about Alaska’s gold rush history at museums and by learning to pan for gold in a variety of communities statewide.

The hopeful prospectors who began flocking to Alaska in the 1880s started in the Inside Passage region and washed over the state in waves from Skagway to Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon, across the border to Fairbanks, Nome and many points beyond over the next four decades. Very few realized their dreams of becoming rich. By the time news of the biggest strike in the region, in the Klondike gold fields, reached Seattle, most of the richest claims were already staked. The Klondike Gold Rush drew more than 100,000 people to the territory; of those, about 40,000 made it all the way to Dawson City and the nearby gold fields. An even tinier percentage – just a few hundred of the 40,000 – actually struck it rich. In rush after rush, many were just weeks or months too late to realize their dreams, but they came nonetheless. These rushes and the people they attracted forever changed the state.

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Tips from an Alaskan

Alaska local Jane Haigh

Jane Haigh is an historian and author who wrote two fascinating books on lesser-known aspects of Alaska's gold rush, "Gold Rush Women" and "Children of the Gold Rush." After more than 30 years in Fairbanks, she and her family moved to Kenai, where she continues to write and study Alaska history.

Read what Haigh loves most about Fairbanks.

Sample Trip

A couple panning for gold

Girdwood, Fairbanks and Nome Gold Rush Heritage
This is a great gold-rush-focused addition to a longer Alaska trip, or a compelling window into Alaska history as a stand-alone vacation.

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