Formerly an important summer gathering spot and base for moose-hunting in the Klondike Valley as well as a camp for the First Nations’ community in the area, Dawson City rose to prominence as the center of the Klondike Gold Rush. It began in 1896 and changed the First Nations camp into a thriving city of 40,000 by 1898. By 1899, the gold rush had ended and the town’s population plummeted as all but 8,000 people left. When Dawson was incorporated as a city in 1902, the population was under 5,000. The current population is 1,300.
The City of Dawson and the nearby ghost town of Forty Mile are featured prominently in the novels and short stories of American author Jack London, including The Call of the Wild. London lived in the Dawson area from October 1897 to June 1898.
Reaching north for 457 miles, the Dempster Highway runs from Dawson City to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. If you wish to drive to Inuvik, you’d better fill up the gas tank because there is only a single gas station complex on the journey.
The Dempster Highway bisects Tombstone Territorial Park and the mountains on either side of the highway are covered with a colorful montage of reds, yellows and golds that are startling in their brilliance.
The yellow and gold stripes on the mountainsides mark the areas where water runs off the mountains and supports mostly scrub vegetation.
Today, Dawson City’s main industries are tourism and gold mining. Gold mining started in 1896 with the Bonanza (Rabbit) Creek discovery by George Carmack, Dawson Charlie and Skookum Jim Mason. The area’s creeks were quickly staked and most of the thousands who arrived in the spring of 1898 for the Klondike Gold Rush found that there was very little opportunity to benefit directly from gold mining. Many instead became entrepreneurs to provide services to miners (Wikopedia). Today’s gold miners are mostly small time operators, sometimes single individuals working their claims hoping to find that one rich vein.
Jack and Janice are boyfriend/girlfriend and each has staked out a claim in Dawson and work them nearly year round. Janice works on one of the big cruise ships that explore Alaska’s inner passage each summer and returns to her claim once the season ends.
I met the Al at the same time I met Jack and Janice. He introduced himself as the “Toe Captain” over at the National Hotel. Seeing my quizzical look, he went on to describe the rite of passage that happens each night at the hotel. The short version is that years ago an unfortunate local lost his big toe to frostbite and brought the toe over to the National Hotel bar and started dropping the toe into people’s drinks as a lark. This turned into todays Toe Society where thousands of people have come to the bar and paid the Toe Captain $5 to toss back a shot of Yukon Jack with a human big toe floating in the glass. I’m proud to say that I was the 53,314th person to join the Toe Society by downing a Sourtoe Cocktail. You might wonder how a single toe survived all these years. The answer is that it didn’t…people donate severed toes from all over North America to the Toe Society.
We waited a while for the beavers to show themselves but they were shy that day.
This is another section of the beaver pond above.
All of these images were shot on the same overcast day. Since there is no reflected sunlight on the leaves, these overcast days provide the perfect light to show off the brilliant colors of the Yukon landscape.
The amount of color in a Yukon autumn was completely unexpected and as a New England native I would have to say that it rivals any New England autumnal color display. You have to work to get there…but it’s worth it!
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