Skagway: Gateway to the Klondike

bike ride through the Tongass Rainforest

The first Gold Rush in the Pacific Northwest was in the Klondike River area in Canada’s Yukon Territory in the late 19th century. Travel over land was mountainous and difficult so many hopeful gold miners attempted the route by sea to Skagway and then through the Chilkoot Pass of the Coast Mountains into Canada. Approaching the pass directly through Skagway was steep and arduous. The path through nearby Dyea, 15 miles away, was longer but not as steep, and horses could help carry supplies if they didn’t fall to their deaths off the narrow trails. Considering a traveler was required by Canadian law to bring a year’s worth of provisions with him or her (1000 lbs. of food!) before being allowed to cross the border, many chose the horse-capable route. Others chose the shorter path through Skagway; they were in a hurry to stake gold claims before they were all taken.

the Chilkoot Pass trail head

Dyea and Skagway were in fierce competition for the business miners brought until the Alaska Railroad decided to lay their track through Skagway. Dyea became a ghost town almost overnight. Today the rainforest has reclaimed Dyea, and we took a bike ride through it.

Facade of a real estate company in Dyea. Behind the false front would be a tent which served as the “building.”


The cemetery where those who didn’t survive the Dyea route were buried. Seventy-some lives were lost in a Palm Sunday (1898) avalanche. Others were often shot for stealing supplies.


The salmon (pink or humpy) were running in the Taiya River.


The Taiya River flowing out to sea.

The town of Skagway was, in itself, a disappointment. Now, with a population of just over 1000, it exists to support the cruise-line industry, including many high-end jewelry stores owned by the cruise lines. We couldn’t even find a place to get lunch in this Disney-esque town, so we went back to the ship.

downtown Skagway

driftwood facade




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