Tales From The Camping House

Tales From The Camping House

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Tale Of Two Cities: Skagway and Dyea

Skagway is part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, so we signed up for two tours today to learn more of the history.

In the morning, we took a tour of Skagway and learned about the gold rush.  There were actually two gold rush towns located 600 miles south of the goldfields and were the closest salt water ports to the Klondike.  From Skagway, stampeders took the White Pass and from Dyea they took the Chilkoot Pass.

The park ranger took us on an informative journey into the past.

Before the gold rush, this was the only cabin in Skagway. 

Then in only a few months, a whole town sprang up here and in Dyea.  It started out as tents and quickly Victorian style houses, shops and saloons were built in a matter of months.

There were between 80 to 100 saloons here in the heyday of the gold rush.  There were also some unscrupulous people here, one whose name was "Soapy" Smith.  His con was to tell miners they had an urgent message from home and they could contact their loved ones for only $5.  Messages would go back and forth, the only problem was there was no telegraph line.

The life and times of Soapy Smith are played out in The Days of 98 Show which we went to after our morning tour.

Soapy did meet his demise on July 8, 1898 and is buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery.

The man who shot him is also buried here, because he was shot at the same time.

After lunch, we drove about nine miles to where the other mining boomtown of Dyea was located.  It did not fare as well as Skagway and this is what is left of Main Street.

There is only one building facade left.  The townsite has been reclaimed by the forest.

We were lucky to see many wild iris as we were told they only bloom for about a week and a half in the summer.

During the Klondike Gold Rush, the Canadian Mounted Police required the miners to bring a year's worth of supplies which added up to just about one ton of goods.

Stampeders that began in Dyea would land there and begin taking their goods up the Chilkoot Mountains making many trips to the top to have their supplies ready.  Some would hire guides who began to warn them in March and April that it was avalanche season.  The guides refused to go, but the stampeders continued.

Then on April 3, 1898, a deadly avalanche (slide) occurred. News spread swiftly with varying numbers of casualties, but it caused miners to decide to use the White Pass route in Skagway rather than the Chilkoot Pass in Dyea, all but causing the demise of the town.

It's kind of strange walking through the town and thinking of all the past activity and now it is a peaceful, wooded place.

Skagway prospered as a port and still continues that way with thousands of people coming in daily on cruise ships.

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