Near Dawson City, the TCT retraces Yukon’s iconic gold rush
Remnants of the gold rush still dot the landscape around Dawson City, Yukon, where tens of thousands of prospectors from around the world flocked to the Klondike after gold was discovered more than a century ago.
In 1898, the best way to Dawson was through the peaks of the Coast Mountains: the treacherous White Pass, upon which scores of packhorses lost their lives each day, or the steeper, more strenuous Chilkoot Pass. Very quickly, more convenient inroads were built, as the Klondike gold rush put the Yukon on the map – territorial status was granted in 1898, just two years after the initial “strike” at Bonanza Creek.
While the popular sites of beautifully restored Dawson City pay homage to that glorious period of Canadian history, the TCT leads hikers through the surrounding hills to the place where it all began.
The Ridge Road Heritage Trail traverses the heart of gold mining territory, allowing hikers to experience a part of the history of the Klondike, says Toos Omtzigt, a consultant with the Klondike Snowmobile Association, the TCT’s partner in Yukon.
Originally built in 1899 to service the big mines on Sulphur Creek and Dominion Creek, it was the first government-built wagon road in the brand-new territory. It was also used for everyday travel, says Ms. Omtzigt. “In the early days, people used ridges to traverse the country because the valleys were often too swampy to cross in summer-time – this was before there were proper roads,” she explains.
Historical sites of interest and relics along the 33-km-long gravel Trail recall the history of mining in the region, including the Yukon Ditch, built to bring water to the mines; 11 Mile Camp and 15 Mile Camp, roadhouses for miners during the gold rush; and the Soda Station, an old box car used for storing mining supplies.
In 1996, the old road was designated an official Yukon Heritage trail, and reopened for the Klondike Centennial. As part of the Trans Canada Trail network, the Ridge Road Heritage Trail contributes an important element of our national history and culture to all who hike or ride it. In Dawson, the TCT links all Canadians to the romantic heritage of the gold rush and its legendary trails.
Even today, there are areas in the region where visitors can legally pan for gold. “Mining around Dawson never stopped,” says Ms. Omtzigt. “There are still many small placer mines in the region and hikers pass through active mining areas on their way to the trailhead. It’s a bit of living history.”
Here are just a few special places and ways that the Trail connects with Canada’s history and heritage.