Few episodes in Canadian history have captured the imagination like the Klondike gold rush, and few places have remained as evocative of their past as DAWSON CITY, the stampede’s tumultuous capital. For a few months in 1898 this former patch of moose pasture became one of the wealthiest and most famous places on earth, as multitudes struggled across huge tracts of wilderness to seek their fortunes in the largest gold deposit of its kind of all time.
An ever-increasing number of tourists and backpackers are drawn here to explore the boardwalks, rutted dirt streets and dozens of false-fronted wooden houses; others come to canoe the Yukon River or travel down the Dempster or Top of the World highways into Alaska and the Northwest Territories. After decades of decline, Parks Canada is restoring the town and has designated its relics into four National Historic Sites: the SS Keno, Dredge No. 4, the Dawson Historic Site (comprising 26 buildings in town) and the Territorial Courthouse. That said, in a spot where permafrost buckles buildings, snow falls in late September and temperatures touch -60°C during winters, there’s little real chance of Dawson losing the gritty, weather-worn feel of a true frontier town. Yet Dawson City has become somewhat of a cosmopolitan meeting place for the arts set. The Klondike Institute of Art and Culture has a contemporary art gallery and an artist-in-residence programme that brings over eighteen international artists to town each year. In mid-July, the city hosts its annual Dawson City Music Festival (w dcmf.com), attracting scores of local and international musicians.
The city also comes to life in mid-August during the annual Discovery Days Festival, which marks the discovery of gold in August 1896. Activities include a parade and arts festival; book accommodation well in advance if visiting at this time. Check w dawsoncity.ca for more information.
You could easily spend a couple of days here: one to explore the town, the other touring the old Klondike creeks to the east.