Where Was the Klondike?
The Klondike was-and still is-in remote north-western Canada on the borders of Alaska. This area is now part of the Yukon Territory. Dawson, once the capital of the Klondike, lies on the bank of the Yukon river.
The Klondike is famed because of the Klondike Gold Rush, which started in 1897 and lasted until 1899. Gold has been mined continuously in that area except for a hiatus in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The name “Klondike” evolved from the Hän word Tr’ondëk, which means “hammerstone water”. Early gold seekers found it difficult to pronounce the First Nations word, so “Klondike” was the result of this poor pronunciation.
For a time Dawson was a bustling town of 10,000 people. Now the population has dwindled to less than 1,000. But there is much less gold than there was at the beginning of the century, and it was only the promise of gold that persuaded people to live so far north in such frozen wastes. For in the streams and creeks of the area the gravel was rich in gold.
The climate is exceedingly severe-very hot and dry in the short summer, and extremely cold during the long winter. For seven months of the year, intense cold prevails, varied by furious snow storms which begin in September and occur at intervals until May. By October 20, ice is formed over all the rivers. The ground for the better part of the year is frozen to the depth of 1 to 3 metres (3 to 10 ft).
At the peak of the Gold Rush in the Klondike more than 30,000 newcomers arrived in four years. In 1900 gold worth more than $22 million was found in the region. Only six years later little more than $5 million in gold was found.
Gold production still continues there. But since the remaining gold is underground and almost all the ground is frozen, mining is today a most expensive and very difficult operation. The glorious days of the Klondike are only a memory.