Dawson City lies in the west of the Yukon Territory, roughly 100 km (60 mi.) from the Canadian frontier at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers.
Dawson City was founded and flourished during the time of the gold-rush along the Klondike and Yukon Rivers. A few months after George Washington Carmack found gold-nuggets the size of his fist in Bonanza Creek in 1896 thousands of gold-seekers streamed into the Yukon and Klondike region hoping to stumble on equally rich veins. Dawson City grew up in the middle of it all.Most of the early gold-seekers came ill-equipped with provisions. Later Canada did pass a law making it a rule that every person had to bring with him clothing and food for at least one year, but at the end of 1897 Dawson City already had 3500 inhabitants who were not adequately provided for. When ships were unable to get through with stocks of provisions before the onset of winter a large proportion of the townspeople were evacuated to an outpost 350 miles away, but in spite of these measures many did not live to see the spring, when the longed-for wagons finally got through with supplies. A number of traders were then able to make their fortune selling food on Dawson City market.Gold-seekers arriving in the summer of 1898 soon realized that all the profitable claims had been staked long before. The uncrowned "Kings of the Klondike" subsequently turned the town into the "San Francisco of the North" and used their gold to finance the building of luxurious albeit dubious hotels and acquired a number of shipping companies. The ships brought in the finest Paris fashions, Persian carpets, expensive furniture and delicacies to Dawson City. One of the Klondike's best-known adventurers was "Big Alex" McDonald, owner of numerous claims to gold and who at one time made 5500 dollars a day and amassed a fortune of seven million dollars. "Big Alex" became so famous that he even earned a private audience with the Pope in Rome. For most of the gold-seekers however Dawson City meant a daily struggle for survival with only very faint hopes of stumbling on a rich find, and many ended up working in the large mines for men like Big Alex. No sooner were gold nuggets found or wages earned than they were spent. After an initial "Wild West" era posts of the North West Mounted Police were set up to guarantee law and order and to control the border with Alaska. When new gold finds were reported near Nome in Alaska in August 1899 the first 8000 gold-seekers returned west, soon to be followed by further people from Dawson City, so that by the 1930s the town had a population of only about 4000. Dawson City retained its position as capital of the Yukon Territory until 1953, when it had to cede it to the up-and-coming Whitehorse.Today Dawson City has the appearance of a Wild West scene from a Hollywood film, the only difference being that here everything is genuine. Since the 1960s over thirty buildings have been restored by the Canadian Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and more wooden houses have been built in the style of the turn of the century. In the early 1980s the whole town was declared an historical area and is now visited every summer by tourists wishing to see can-can shows, visit the old goldfields and savor the atmosphere of days gone by, when the glamour and the misery of the gold-rush left their stamp on the town.A trip along the Yukon River will be found most rewarding. These trips take in the "cemetery" of the old paddle-steamers.All around the town are many sites where prospectors used to sift and pan for gold. Anyone wishing to follow in the footsteps of George Carmack can visit the spot by Bonanza Creek where he made his discovery claim. The Visitor Reception Center in Dawson City will provide information about tours to the gold-fields and mines in Bonanza Creek and Guggieville, the massive machines of which were still being used to quarry gold deposits until 1966.
Palace Grand Theatre
One of the most impressive reminders of the past in Dawson City is Palace Grand Theatre on King Street, built in 1899 by American showman, Arizona Charlie Meadows and restored in 1962 by order of the Canadian Government. During the day visitors can inspect the theatre.
Address: Box 390, Dawson City, YK Y0B1G0, Canada
Diamond Tooth Gertie's
The building known as Diamond Tooth Gerties in Dawson City was built in 1910 by the Arctic Brotherhood and became the center of Dawson's most important social gatherings. Faithfully restored, it owes its name to a famous dance-hall queen, Gertie Lovejoy, who received her nickname (Diamond Tooth Gerties) from having a diamond inserted between her two front teeth.
Address: 4th and Queen Street, Dawson City, YK Y0B1G0, Canada
A favorite outing, usually combined with a visit to the theatre, is the trip to the hill known as Midnight Dome, about 7 km (5 mi.) south-east of the town, from where a fantastic panoramic view of Dawson City and the Yukon River, the Klondike Valley and the surrounding Ogilvie Mountains can be enjoyed. Many of the gold-seekers found their last resting-place in the cemetery on the side of the hill.
Along Front Street in Dawson City several buildings dating from the time of the gold-rush are still standing. The most notable are the Federal Building, once the seat of government before it was moved to Whitehorse, the Old Post Office of 1901, Madame Tremblay's shop complete with articles of clothing like those worn by the gold-seekers, the Canadian Bank of Commerce, where gold was once melted down, and the 1922 paddle-steamer S.S. "Keno" - now a museum - the last of over 200 "sternwheelers" which plied on the Yukon between Dawson City and Whitehorse until the end of the 1850s.
Robert Service's Cabin
On 8th Avenue in Dawson City stands the log-cabin built in 1898 and rented by Robert Service, known as the "Bard of the Yukon" and who around the turn of the century composed numerous poems and ballads, including "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew".The Robert Service Cabin is part of the Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada and has been restored in period.
Address: Box 390, Dawson City, YK Y0B1G0, Canada
Jack London's House (Jack London Interpretive Centre)
In the wooden cabin where the American writer Jack London (actually John Griffith London, 1876-1916) lived in 1897 readings are given daily from his novels, such as "Call of the Wild" (1903), "The Sea Wolf" (1904) and "The Lure of Gold" (1910).The Jack London Interpretive Centre contains a replica of his cabin along with photos and other memorabilia.
Dawson City Museum
Dawson City Museum gives an insight into the town's history as well as that of the Klondike from the start of the gold-rush to the present day. A slide show about Dempster Highway gives a good impression of the only highway in Canada to cross the polar circle.
Address: Box 303, Dawson City, YK Y0B1G0, Canada