White Pass to Yukon Railroad ll VNN Special

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The Klondike Gold Rush began after an American adventurer George Carmack and his wife Kate (who belonged to the Tagish First Nation), her brother Skookum Jim and her nephew Dawson Charlie struck gold in the Bonanza Creek area of the Klondike region in the Yukon in 1896… It was not a big quantity, but word reached Seattle and San Francisco and soon newspapers across the United States had screaming headlines about massive goldfields up north. It is said that people in the US abandoned their jobs, homes and families to travel north – and most had no idea of the deadly bite of Canadian winters. Reports from those days say over 100,000 men and women embarked on the dangerous journey from the Alaskan coastal towns of Skagway and Dyea to travel across the Yukon River and then sail on to the Klondike River, a distance of some 4,000 kilometers. Only 30,000 reached their final destination of Dawson City, many being forced to turn back sick and hungry or killed en route on the treacherous ice-bound routes. There were two ways to Dawson City – one the famous Chilkoot Trail from the town of Dyea, which was shorter but steeper and more forbidding and the White Pass Trail from Skagway, which had its own set of dangers of narrow, snowy mountain paths and rockfalls… The wealthier adventurers hired other miners or bought pack horses to cover the route. On the White Pass Trail, hundreds of these animals perished through sheer exhaustion and one of the landmarks on the mountain trail is named Dead Horse Gulch. Starving miners ate the flesh of the dead horses and many were said to have gone insane. Once they reached Bennet In BC, they had to cross 800 kilometers through the frozen waters of the Yukon on crude, hand-built boats. When the winter waned and the ice began to thaw, some 7000 rafts took to the water at Bennet, most not knowing about the violent rapids along the Miles Canyon of the Yukon River. Thousands of boats were destroyed and hundreds of miners died in this last leg of their mad quest. Of the 30,000 who reached Dawson city and the goldfields, only 4000 found gold and only a few hundred struck it rich. Hundreds more died in fires that raged often across shanty towns and in epidemics. The Klondike Gold Rush is today considered one of the great chapters of Western and Northern Canadian history.

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