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 – at one point Dawson was bestowed the exaggerated nickname “Paris of the North” – 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 spend a day or two here, exploring the boardwalks, rutted dirt streets and dozens of false-fronted wooden houses, particularly those in the street grid behind Front Street, which runs parallel to the Yukon River. Parks Canada is restoring designated National Historic Sites, but 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. Today, Dawson City has become something of a beacon for the arts set. The Klondike Institute of Art and Culture has a contemporary art gallery and a residence programme that brings over eighteen artists to town each year. In mid-July, the city hosts its annual Dawson City Music Festival (w dcmf.com), which attracts 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.