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Southeast Alaska and the Klondike Gold Rush

Last Updated: 28th Jun 2018

By Larry Maltby



Introduction 28th Jun 2018



This is a photo documentary of a trip that I took with a good friend in July of 1979. For me it was the trip of a lifetime. It was motivated by the accusation of a book, “One Man’s Gold Rush” by Murray Morgan (dialog) and Eric A. Hegg (Photography) which was itself a photo documentary of the Klondike Gold Rush.

To add a little adventure to our trip, we made no reservations. So, we didn’t know for sure where we would sleep each night but we had the freedom to modify the trip as we traveled. The objective was to find a room if possible but we carried a mountain tent and sleeping bags if needed. As it turned out we did find rooms but we camped out one night to justify carrying the extra gear.

I got carried away with the research and the article is much longer than I thought. Each item in the table of contents is a link so if you see something interesting you can go directly there without scrolling through the entire article.


In 1979 on a trip to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory of Canada our plane was descending on the approach to the airport just south of Seattle, Washington. Three volcanic cones can be seen just over the wing. The center cone is Mount Adams; on the right is Mount St. Helens, and on the left is Mount Hood. By using the position of these three cones and the proximity of Mount Rainier just ahead of the plane, I was able to roughly triangulate and determine the approximate location of the plane at the time of the photo. By laying this out on topographic software, I was able to estimate the distance to each of the volcanoes.

Mount Adams is about 60 miles away, Mount St. Helens is about 80 miles away and Mount Hood is about 115 miles away.At this time, prior to the eruption in 1980, Mount St. Helens was a symmetrical, pointed cone.
Mount Rainier seen from the air during the approach to the Seattle airport. By triangulating the visible peaks in the area, the distance to Mount Rainier is about 23 miles.


Seattle, Washington



The Alaska Marine Highway is a fleet of ships that provide service to many of the villages along the inside passage some of which can only be reached by air or sea.

Scott Buzzard and I had arrived early from the Seattle Air Port and were waiting to board the Matanuska. We had procured deck passage to Skagway, Alaska which meant that we did not have a bunk to sleep in. The ferry line told us that we were welcome to bring a sleeping bag and sleep on the deck.

Our objective was to see as much of the Klondike Gold Rush country as possible in three weeks. Photo 1979.


We boarded the Matanuska and soon learned that the college gang was taking over the upper deck. We were old enough to be their fathers and thought it best to look elsewhere for a place to sleep. Photo 1979.


This is the overflow accommodations on the upper deck. They are still sleeping!
This guy gets an “A” for creativity.


As we progressed toward Ketchikan, Alaska quite a bit of freight was moving north on barges.
This looks like a load of crushed limestone, a rare commodity for use in an area surrounded granite and metamorphic rocks.


Sunset over the offshore islands. Photo 1979.

We found that the lounge on the main deck of the Matanuska had many nice padded reclining chairs and that if we placed our backpacks on one of these chairs our seat/bed would be reserved. We had to sleep in our closes but we had a clean shower room and good food at the cafeteria. We were on our way.


Ketchican, Alaska....Including the epidotes at Green Monster Mountain



In the distance is our first view of Ketchikan, Alaska from the deck of the Matanuska. As I took this photo I recall that the ship was plowing through thousands jellyfish. I could see into the clear water to a depth of about 20 Feet with polarized sun glasses. If the entire water column was divided into a 3-dimensional grid made up of 3 foot cubes there would be a jellyfish at every corner pulsating up and down.
Just south of Ketchikan, is a typical view of the Costal Range with some of the many small rocky offshore islands. The range was formed by the subduction of tectonic plates and is composed of granitic and metamorphic rocks. It is about 1000 miles long including all of the British Columbia coast and much of the Alaskan panhandle. It is part of the “ring of fire” and is dotted with volcanoes.


We are arriving at our first port of call, Ketchikan Alaska. Ketchikan is 700 miles north of Seattle and the travel time aboard the Matanuska was about 38 hours. As we approached the pier we wondered if we would be able to find a room. We didn’t make any reservations for this trip. The idea was to be free of a ridged schedule. We carried sleeping bags and a mountain tent as a backup. There was a great view of the Coastal Mountain Range behind the city with peaks well above the timberline.


Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island which is about 54 miles long and 33 miles wide. As you can see there are a good number of vehicles in town, however, the road system does not connect with the mainland. The road system is mostly located along the southwest coast of the island.

Revillagigedo Island forms the majority the Ketchikan Gateway Borough of Alaska and it also forms the majority of the Ketchikan Mining District. Ketchikan was a major supply depo for the Klondike Gold Rush.
We did find a room in Ketchikan. This is the view outside our window. It turned out that in July of 1979 we were able to find a room without reservations every night on this trip. It would not have been necessary to carry sleeping bags and a mountain tent. On the return trip we did camp one night at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, Canada just to validate the reason for lugging the mountain tent all over Southeast, Alaska.


Ketchikan Creek was the location of a huge salmon run and the Tlingit people had a summer fish camp here long before first contact with Russian explorers. Alaska became an American Territory in 1867. By 1885 Mike Martin had established a town site there. When the Klondike Gold Rush started in 1897 The Tlingit village and the new town of Ketchikan received thousands of prospectors.
This old stamp mill was found on a side street, a relic of historic mining in the Ketchikan district. When the disappointed prospectors started heading for home in the states, some of them stayed in Ketchikan and searched Revillagigedo Island and Prince of Wales Island for minerals. Some gold and copper was found and mining flourished from about 1900 to 1920. Many of these old mines are mentioned in the Mindat data base but the locations are difficult to find and, except for the epidote at Green Monster Mountain, specimens are rare.



Ketchikan Creek and Creek Street along this boardwalk was an infamous red light district that operated between 1903 and 1954 when it was finally banned. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
Dolly’s House on Creek Street is now a museum and tourist attraction and has also been added to the National Register of Historic Places.


Most of the villages along the coast in Southeast Alaska were originally occupied by the Tlingit culture. Modern Tlingit carvers have preserved much of their history at Ketchikan.
Another totem pole at Ketchikan, Alaska.


This is a reconstructed Tlingit house with the totem “watchmen” at each corner.
If the totem poles tell a story, you have to wonder what does this mean.


After a day and night in Ketchikan we hiked down to the docks and boarded the next ferry heading north to Wrangell. As we sailed out of the Tongass Narrows just north of Ketchikan we passed a sister ship heading south. The land on the other side is Prince of Wales Island.
Evidently the college gang that was on the Matanuska had dispersed. We were now traveling mostly with local Alaskans. Entire families would come aboard each one carrying a sleeping bag. They would all bed down on the carpet in the lounge. I recall one early morning when I had to step over a couple of kids to get to the restroom. No problem they slept right through it.


Epidote
Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island.
Epidote
Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island.
Epidote
Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island.
Epidote
Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island.
Epidote
Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island.
Epidote
Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island.
Epidote
Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island.
Epidote
Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island.
Epidote
Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island.



The three photos shown above were uploaded by John Betts and retain his copyright. They are shown here with permission. They are a fine selection of the large blocky epidotes that have been sporadically produced at the claims on the summit of Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

Green Monster Mountain is located about 2.8 miles east of Copper Mountain, a mining location that produced ore during the early 1900’s. In 1906 a nearby smelter processed the ore.
(Ref.) D. Kiffer, Sit News, Mining, Once Ketchikan’s Principal Industry, 2006.

Below, is a map of the Ketchikan area showing points of interest.

The box on the right indicates the location of Ketchikan, Alaska on Revillagigedo Island. The port is accessed through the Tongass Narrows.

The box on the lower left shows the location of Green Monster Mountain, the site of the much sought after classic epidote crystals.

The box at the upper left shows the location of the Copper Queen Mine thought to be the first mining claim to be filed in the new Territory of Alaska after the purchase from Russia. The Copper Queen claims were filed on the Kasaan Peninsula by Charles Baranovich. Charles was a prospector that participated in the 1849 gold rush to California and also the Caribou gold Rush in British Columbia. In the late 1860’s he prospected near the Haida village of Kasaan and on the side of a gulch nearby, discovered a vein of chalcopyrite associated pyrite and magnetite in a garnet-epidote gangue.


Map Ketchikan, Alaska and vicinity. Made from Delorme, Topo North America software modified with Microsoft, Publisher software. The dotted red lines indicate the shipping lanes.



Geologic map of Copper Mountain area, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska including Green Monster Mountain.


Rocks and minerals from the Copper Mountain area, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska including Green Monster Mountain.

Green Monster Mountain, Prince of Wales Island, Ketchikan District, Prince of Wales-Outer Ketchikan Borough, Alaska, USA
Labels for the specimens shown on the left.


Wrangell, Alaska....Including the garnets at Garnet Ridge



A Tlingit village existed at Wrangell for many years prior the establishment of the town. This photo was taken in 1868 one year after the purchase of Alaska by the United States. This row of houses defines Front Street in current Wrangell. (Wikipedia)
Wrangell, Alaska as it appeared in 1897 at the start of the Klondike Gold Rush. (Wikipedia)
A Tlingit village existed at Wrangell for many years prior the establishment of the town. This photo was taken in 1868 one year after the purchase of Alaska by the United States. This row of houses defines Front Street in current Wrangell. (Wikipedia)
Wrangell, Alaska as it appeared in 1897 at the start of the Klondike Gold Rush. (Wikipedia)
A Tlingit village existed at Wrangell for many years prior the establishment of the town. This photo was taken in 1868 one year after the purchase of Alaska by the United States. This row of houses defines Front Street in current Wrangell. (Wikipedia)
Wrangell, Alaska as it appeared in 1897 at the start of the Klondike Gold Rush. (Wikipedia)


Wrangell, Alaska photographed from the deck of one of the ships of the Alaska Marine Highway fleet. Wrangell is located at the northwestern tip of Wrangell Island. It was an active Tlingit village at the time of first contact with Russian explorers and today preserves much of the Tlingit heritage. It is also the gateway to the famous garnet deposit on the flanks of Garnet Mountain along Garnet Creek. When we disembarked, I was deluged by kids from town and was able to buy several very nice garnet matrix specimens.


This is the Wrangell waterfront at low tide showing the lush rainforest vegetation.
This construction is typical of the many canneries along the Southeast Alaska coast. In the distance the mouth of the Stikine River can be seen and at the “point of land” is the famous Garnet Ledge collecting site.


This is a replica of Chief Shakes long house constructed in the late 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It is located on a small island in Wrangell Harbor. The house includes several of the original support poles and is surrounded by seven totem poles, two of which are original Tlingit carvings. The “bear up mountain” totem shows bear tracks going up the pole with a bear sitting on top. The Tlingit used totem poles to tell many stories.


Along the hike to Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site we found some lush salmon berries. A couple of handfuls went down nicely. This location was at the north end of the island and would afford a good view of the mouth of the Stikine River.
We passed fireweed growing in front of an outcrop. We did not collect samples but greywacke is a possibility. It is described in professional papers on the geology of the coast of Southeast Alaska.
Along the hike to Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site we found some lush salmon berries. A couple of handfuls went down nicely. This location was at the north end of the island and would afford a good view of the mouth of the Stikine River.
We passed fireweed growing in front of an outcrop. We did not collect samples but greywacke is a possibility. It is described in professional papers on the geology of the coast of Southeast Alaska.
Along the hike to Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site we found some lush salmon berries. A couple of handfuls went down nicely. This location was at the north end of the island and would afford a good view of the mouth of the Stikine River.
We passed fireweed growing in front of an outcrop. We did not collect samples but greywacke is a possibility. It is described in professional papers on the geology of the coast of Southeast Alaska.


This view is looking north from Petroglyph Beach. In the background on the right is Garnet Mountain. The point where the mountain slopes down to the water is very near Garnet Creek at the mouth of the Stikine River where the garnet deposit is located. “Thousands of miners traveled up the Stikine River into the Cassiar District of British Columbia during 1874, and again to the Klondike in 1897.” (Wikipedia)


This is clearly the outline of a killer whale pecked into a beach cobble.
On the right is a very common Tlingit motif, a face with big watching eyes. The totems also use this motif showing “watchmen” with big eyes looking for possible enemies. On the left the image is not clear. It may be the profile of an eagle’s head.


Map, Wrangell, Alaska and vicinity. Made from Delorme, Topo North America software modified with Microsoft, Publisher software. The dotted red lines indicate the shipping lanes.

The boxed area shows the location of the garnet collecting site relative to the town of Wrangell at the north end of Wrangell Island. The large red triangle indicates the mine and diggings on Garnet Creek about 7.5 miles north of Wrangell.

The dotted red line to the north shows the shipping lane to Juneau, Alaska. It passes through the Wrangell Narrows which are about 24 miles long, and a challenge to navigate with large ships. Buzz and I went to the bridge and had a conversation with the captain. He mentioned that about 150 course corrections must be accomplished to make it through. Previous to our trip one of the ships of the Alaska Marine Highway, the Taku, went aground in the narrows. No one was hurt and the ship was soon back in service. In commemoration, a new drink at the bar was created. It was called “ Taku on the rocks”.


Map detail of garnet collecting site. Made from Delorme, Topo North America software modified with Microsoft, Publisher software.

The garnet mine and diggings are located on the east bank of Garnet Creek about 750 feet from the shore. Mineralogical literature consistently describes the garnet location as being about 7.5 miles north of Wrangell on the east bank of the Stikine River however; looking at the map it appears that the location is beyond the mouth of the river.
When we arrived at the pier at Wrangell we were met by a group of kids selling specimens. This is one of the five specimens that I acquired, one from each of the kids.


This is a drawing of the garnet mine and associated diggings near Wrangell, Alaska

(Ref.) Bressler C. T., Garnet deposits near Wrangell Southeastern Alaska, U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin 963-C, 1945-46.



Juneau, Alaska

After spending another night aboard ship sleeping in a lounge chair with my feet up on my backpack, a rolled up sweater for a pillow and a jacket for a blanket, this is the view outside of the window. The sun was rising silhouetting the Coast Range somewhere south of Juneau, Alaska.


As we approached the Gastineau Channel, a narrow slot of water that leads to Juneau, the weather changed to overcast with fog ahead. Through the “window” in the overcast several peaks can be seen. The highest is Hawthorne Peak and descending to the left is Middle Peak and West Peak. The ship would be making a turn to the left to enter the channel.
The fog closed in and visibility was almost zero. The captain placed two lookouts on the bow and looking down they could see the waves for about 50 yards ahead of the ship. The speed slowed significantly and the fog horn sounded at regular intervals.


After about 45 minutes the ship emerged from the fog. We had entered the Gastineau Channel and the peaks were illuminated by the morning sun. There were signs of habitation on the shore and looking to the left we could see Juneau in the distance.
Juneau, Alaska at the foot of Juneau Mountain.


The Juneau, Alaska waterfront.
The Juneau, Alaska waterfront.


Gastineau Channel,Juneau,Alaska.
Above
This remarkable photograph from Wikipedia Commons illustrates the unique geology of the Gastineau Channel at Juneau, Alaska. I would like to thank the photographer for making it available to use here.

The Gastineau Channel formed along a fault line similar to many of the narrow passages in Southeast Alaska. This photo is looking from northwest to southeast and downtown Juneau can be seen just above center where the Douglas Bridge spans the channel. The basement rocks on the mainland to the left that slant into the channel are high-temperature metamorphic rocks of the Taku terrane with intrusions of tonalite and granite. The basement rocks to the right of the channel on Douglas Island are low-temperature metamorphic rocks of the Gravina belt. These rocks are covered with a tapering thin veneer of marine sediments to a height of about 700 feet above the current sea level indicating that the land is rising due to Isostatic rebound. The rising land continues to reduce the depth of the water at the port of Juneau and with the added sediment from the Mendenhall Glacier, navigation in the channel is threatened.

The photo also shows the Mendenhall River flowing in from the left forming a sedimentary delta blocking the channel. Currently, only small vessels can navigate north of the Douglas Bridge and only at high tide.

References

Miller R. D., Gastineau Channel Formation, a Composite Glaciomarine Deposit Near Juneau, Alaska, U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1394-C, 1973.

Stowell H., Geology of Southeast Alaska: Rocks and Ice in Motion, Google.com Books, 2006.


“There is no evidence that large glaciers reached tidewater along Gastineau Channel or the other fiords for some considerable distance to the north of Juneau within at least the last 10,000 years.” This statement, the last sentence of the above dialog, illustrates the complexity of glacial geology in the Juneau area. There appears to be no evidence that the Mendenhall Glacier ever reached the Gastineau Channel as it is known today but, just 45 miles to the east during the Little Ice Age in 1794, Glacier Bay was filled with a single glacier all of the way to the mouth at Icy Strait.


Mendenhall Glacier



Mendenhall Glacier. Photo 2006. The entire rock face exposed to the right of the glacier was covered by ice in 1979. Using a google earth photo that I saved in 2006 and comparing that to the recorded position of the glacier in 1979, it appears that the glacier had receded about 3000 feet. The corner of Nugget Falls can be seen at the far right center.


This is the western half of the Mendenhall Glacier showing the position of the ice face relative to a prominent rock formation. Photo 1979.
This is the eastern half of the Mendenhall Glacier showing the position of the ice face relative to the crest of Nugget Falls. At the far right center the white water of the falls can be seen just above the ice. Photo 1979.


This sign was photographed at the Mendenhall Glacier in 2006. Coincidently the ice face of the glacier in 1979 was recorded. As shown, it was at the front edge of a prominent rock formation that jutted out from the left. This with the Google Earth photos shown below gives a good indication of how much the ice receded during the 27 years between 1979 and 2006.


Mendenhall Glacier, Google Earth photo 2006.

This photo shows how far the glacier has receded beyond the point of rocks protruding from the left.
Mendenhall Glacier, Google Earth photo 2006.

This photo provides a good perspective of the length of the glacier and the mountain environment.


Close-up of the glacial ice at the point of rocks. Photo 1979.
Close-up of the blue ice and the deposition of silty till. Photo 1979.


Mendenhall Lake, glacial milk.

Glaciers grind rock particles to very fine silt sometimes referred to as “Rock flour”. The particles are so small that they suspend in the water column giving the lake a turbid milky appearance. In this photo the clear water from Steep Creek enters the lake and provides sharp contrast. The silty bottom of the lake has been sculpted by the current from Steep Creek. A school of Sockeye Salmon has gathered at the mouth of the creek ready to make a spawning run up the creek. Photo 1979. (Ref. glacial milk, Sockeye Salmon, Wikipedia)
Steep Creek, Mendenhall Glacier.

This photo taken in 2006 shows Sockeye Salmon in Steep Creek in their spawning colors. When the silvery, blue gray salmon begin the spawning run in fresh water they undergo a dramatic change. The body turns bright red and the head olive green. These spawning colors are unique to this species.


Walking downhill on the trail from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center this example of glacial striations and grooving can be seen.


After spending the morning at the Mendenhall Glacier, we arrived at the Juneau Airport to catch a flight to Glacier Bay. It was surprising to board an airliner. The distance to Gustavus was only about 42 miles to the east. Photo 1979.


Glacier Bay, Alaska



Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska from Wikipedia with labels added.

On the 2006 Maltby family trip to Southeast Alaska we took a whale watching tour by boat to Icy Strait shown here just south of Glacier Bay with great results. Photos to follow.
This map shows the proximity of Glacier Bay to Juneau Alaska. It was made from Delorme, Topo North America software modified with Microsoft, Publisher software.

The flight was about 42 miles east to Gustavus, Alaska. The plane just reached a safe altitude to clear the 4,000 foot peaks of the Chilkat Range and then started the decent to a single runway in the wilderness.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska from Wikipedia with labels added.

On the 2006 Maltby family trip to Southeast Alaska we took a whale watching tour by boat to Icy Strait shown here just south of Glacier Bay with great results. Photos to follow.
This map shows the proximity of Glacier Bay to Juneau Alaska. It was made from Delorme, Topo North America software modified with Microsoft, Publisher software.

The flight was about 42 miles east to Gustavus, Alaska. The plane just reached a safe altitude to clear the 4,000 foot peaks of the Chilkat Range and then started the decent to a single runway in the wilderness.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska from Wikipedia with labels added.

On the 2006 Maltby family trip to Southeast Alaska we took a whale watching tour by boat to Icy Strait shown here just south of Glacier Bay with great results. Photos to follow.
This map shows the proximity of Glacier Bay to Juneau Alaska. It was made from Delorme, Topo North America software modified with Microsoft, Publisher software.

The flight was about 42 miles east to Gustavus, Alaska. The plane just reached a safe altitude to clear the 4,000 foot peaks of the Chilkat Range and then started the decent to a single runway in the wilderness.


Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, National Park Service, Depart of the Interior


Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay, Alaska



There were two vessels that sailed out of Bartlett Cove. One was a large cabin cruiser named Thunder Bay that provided an all day trip through the Muir Inlet. The other was named the Glacier Bay Explorer, 175 feet long with bunk beds below deck. The Explorer spent two days and a night traveling all of the 65 miles to the Grand Pacific glacier at the far end of the Tarr Inlet at the Canadian border. 1979.
The Thunder Bay making ready for an all day voyage into the Muir Inlet.


Buzz was my traveling partner for this trip. When I hired in at Ford Body Engineering in 1956 I enrolled in a five year training program to become an automotive product designer. Buzz was already an expert in that field and mentored me during that process. We were both outdoorsmen and remained good friends until he passed away a few years ago. Buzz was the kind of guy that you could travel with for three weeks and never have a lull in the conversation.


This guy chartered a boat for some deep sea fishing. As you can see he caught a couple of large halibut. Being far from home he gave the fish to the chef at the lodge. That night “Halibut Alyeska” (halibut baked in sour cream with onions) was on the menu and Buzz and I finally had the chance to do some fine dining. Delicious, from the cold deep waters of Glacier Bay to the table all in the same day.

One of the workmen from the lodge checked his crab pots and came up with a nice catch of Dungeness crabs. Another delicacy from the bay.


During the 1790’s these tide flats and tide pools were covered with glacial ice. Across the pool some mud deposits can be seen along with the unconsolidated pebbles and cobbles. There are many sharp corners on the larger rocks suggesting that they were not far removed from their in-situ position.


We had booked passage on the Thunder Bay for a voyage into the Muir Inlet in the morning. This gave us some time to prowl around the tide pools along the shore. For a couple of Midwesterners that lived far from the oceans, this was a neat experience.

Sea cucumber, Snail, Sea urchin, Sea stars and a bivalve, probably a cockle.


We came across this sea anemone just below the waterline at low tide. Nearby was a clutch of blue mussels. We selected one and dropped it into the water, still tightly closed, so that it would touch the tentacles of the anemone. It quickly pulled it into the central mouth. After about 15 seconds the anemone spit out the empty shells that had been pulled apart and the meat devoured. We fed it about five or six mussels and it wolfed them all down.


Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Above: Map of Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park and the airport at Gustavus, Alaska. It was made from Delorme, Topo North America software modified with Microsoft, Publisher software.

It looks like a second runway has been added at the airport. In 1979 there was only one runway in the woods with no facilities. As we unloaded from the plane, a yellow bus drove out of the woods to pick us up and during the ten mile trip to the lodge, I don’t remember seeing anything that looked like a town site.

During the Little Ice Age the glacier in Glacier Bay advanced to the mouth of the bay and Icy Strait was choked with ice. Since the late 1700’s the glacier has receded about 65 miles to the face of the Grand Pacific Glacier at the far end of the Tarr Inlet.

In Icy Strait, about 14 miles to the southeast, is a convergence of currents that collect large quantities of krill. The abundance of food attracts about 80 humpback whales to this area providing a great opportunity for whale watchers.


The Marble Islands, Glacier Bay, Alaska



South Marble Island.
North Marble Island with Mount Wright in the background at the entrance to the Muir Inlet.


This shear face shows the high tide line with the area between high and low tide covered with blue mussels. There appears to be an exposed calcite pocket at the upper center. The water here is tinted with glacial milk.
A significant fault line can be seen descending from the upper right. There are abundant blue mussels on the rock face.


Mount Wight, Glacier Bay, Alaska




As the Thunder Bay approached the beach at the foot of Mount Wight, a hiker was waiting for a ride back to the lodge. Mount Wight was a designated drop off spot for wilderness hikers and campers.
The lone hiker at Mount Wight boarded the Thunder Bay for his return to civilization.
As the Thunder Bay approached the beach at the foot of Mount Wight, a hiker was waiting for a ride back to the lodge. Mount Wight was a designated drop off spot for wilderness hikers and campers.
The lone hiker at Mount Wight boarded the Thunder Bay for his return to civilization.
As the Thunder Bay approached the beach at the foot of Mount Wight, a hiker was waiting for a ride back to the lodge. Mount Wight was a designated drop off spot for wilderness hikers and campers.
The lone hiker at Mount Wight boarded the Thunder Bay for his return to civilization.


Mount Wight is in the foreground sloping down from the right. The mountain in the background shows a hanging glacier near the peak.


Muir Inlet, Glacier Bay, Alaska



Iceberg in the Muir Inlet near Mount Wright.
Iceberg in the Muir Inlet near Mount Wright.


Casement Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska



The Casement Glacier is about 11 miles north of Mount Wright and is visible from the Muir Inlet.


The north end of the Muir Inlet was overcast with some fog that was starting to lift. This was the view near Westdahl Point about 39 miles north of Bartlett Cove.


At this point in the Muir Inlet we are within sight of the McBride glacier and there is a significant increase in the amount of ice in the water. At the northern end of the inlet three tide water glaciers, the McBride, Riggs and Muir, are all calving into the inlet.


McBride Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska



Approaching McBride Glacier aboard the Thunder Bay on Muir Inlet. Photo 1979.

The route to the McBride Glacier will require the Thunder Bay to make a right turn into the cleft in the mountains seen just above the stranded iceberg. The glacier in the distance is Riggs Glacier at the point where the Muir Inlet turns sharply to the west.


McBride Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska. Photo 1979.
McBride Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska. Photo 1979.


There is a black band of debris on the right side of the glacier that originates about eight and one half miles “upstream” from the face. It is caused when two arms of the glacier merge at a point of rocks at the foot of a small mountain. Rock debris falls onto the ice. As the arms merge under intense pressure the ice becomes “plastic” and recrystallizes incorporating the debris into the ice. As the ice continues to move downhill a long stripe forms.

This can be seen by clicking on the coordinates at the top of the location page which links to Google Earth at the location of the glacier. Click on satellite and use the plus and minus to see the complete glacier.


Riggs Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska



Approaching Riggs Glacier aboard the Thunder Bay on Muir Inlet. Photo 1979.


At the west end of Riggs Glacier a large outcrop of rock was beginning to see the light of day. The characteristic rounded shape is the result of thousands of days of ice scraping over the rock tearing out loose chunks and grinding and striating the surface. Photo 1979.
Here the face of the glacier is scared by recent calving exposing the most intense blue ice that we saw on this trip. The ice must have been moved down the inlet by high tides. Photo 1979.
At the east end of the Riggs Glacier the formation of a lateral moraine can be seen. It is composed of soil, cobbles and gravel and provides evidence of glacial activity even if the ice has long since been melted away.
At the west end of Riggs Glacier a large outcrop of rock was beginning to see the light of day. The characteristic rounded shape is the result of thousands of days of ice scraping over the rock tearing out loose chunks and grinding and striating the surface. Photo 1979.
Here the face of the glacier is scared by recent calving exposing the most intense blue ice that we saw on this trip. The ice must have been moved down the inlet by high tides. Photo 1979.
At the east end of the Riggs Glacier the formation of a lateral moraine can be seen. It is composed of soil, cobbles and gravel and provides evidence of glacial activity even if the ice has long since been melted away.
At the west end of Riggs Glacier a large outcrop of rock was beginning to see the light of day. The characteristic rounded shape is the result of thousands of days of ice scraping over the rock tearing out loose chunks and grinding and striating the surface. Photo 1979.
Here the face of the glacier is scared by recent calving exposing the most intense blue ice that we saw on this trip. The ice must have been moved down the inlet by high tides. Photo 1979.
At the east end of the Riggs Glacier the formation of a lateral moraine can be seen. It is composed of soil, cobbles and gravel and provides evidence of glacial activity even if the ice has long since been melted away.


Two more hikers met the boat for a ride back to the lodge. They were hiking and camping 45 miles into remote wilderness with no hope to get out except by water or air. As you can see they are walking to the boat at low tide. An essential addition to your equipment out here would be a tide chart. Photo 1979.


Muir Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska



This photo that was taken in 1994 shows the merging of Morse Glacier on the left and Muir Glacier on the right. The black line caused by rock falls from the slopes of the central mountain, illustrates the interface of the merge.

The glaciers have now receded past the point of rocks on the central mountain such that the two glaciers are now separate.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Credit: LCGS Russ, June 13, 1994.
This is a view of the Muir Glacier from the shoulder of Mount Wright in 1893. When Buzz and I boated up the Muir Inlet in 1979, the Muir Glacier had retreated another 20 miles from this location exposing several more newly named tidewater glaciers.

The glacier on the other side of the inlet had receded to the point that it could not be seen from the boat.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Credit: Frank LaRoche. 1893. Muir Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center.
This photo that was taken in 1994 shows the merging of Morse Glacier on the left and Muir Glacier on the right. The black line caused by rock falls from the slopes of the central mountain, illustrates the interface of the merge.

The glaciers have now receded past the point of rocks on the central mountain such that the two glaciers are now separate.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Credit: LCGS Russ, June 13, 1994.
This is a view of the Muir Glacier from the shoulder of Mount Wright in 1893. When Buzz and I boated up the Muir Inlet in 1979, the Muir Glacier had retreated another 20 miles from this location exposing several more newly named tidewater glaciers.

The glacier on the other side of the inlet had receded to the point that it could not be seen from the boat.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Credit: Frank LaRoche. 1893. Muir Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center.
This photo that was taken in 1994 shows the merging of Morse Glacier on the left and Muir Glacier on the right. The black line caused by rock falls from the slopes of the central mountain, illustrates the interface of the merge.

The glaciers have now receded past the point of rocks on the central mountain such that the two glaciers are now separate.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Credit: LCGS Russ, June 13, 1994.
This is a view of the Muir Glacier from the shoulder of Mount Wright in 1893. When Buzz and I boated up the Muir Inlet in 1979, the Muir Glacier had retreated another 20 miles from this location exposing several more newly named tidewater glaciers.

The glacier on the other side of the inlet had receded to the point that it could not be seen from the boat.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Credit: Frank LaRoche. 1893. Muir Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center.


The Tarr Inlet, Glacier Bay, Alaska



After a day aboard the Thunder Bay exploring the north arm of Glacier Bay, we boarded the Glacier Bay Explorer for an excursion up the northwest arm of the bay to the Tarr Inlet. This was to be an overnight trip involving two full days on the water.

The Glacier Bay Explorer was 175 feet long and was sailed up the Inside Passage from the Caribbean. Somewhere along the way, the ship was “boiler plated” with steel reinforcements to the hull so that it could maneuver through the icy waters of the bay. Below decks it was fitted with rooms about the size of a walk in closet, each with bunk beds to accommodate as many people as possible. This was the first season that the ship was used. Photo 1979.


Entering the Tarr Inlet near Russell Island the Lamplugh Glacier can be seen on the southwest shore. There are some black ice bergs in the distance, a sure sign that the Grand Pacific Glacier is ahead.
We passed another dirty ice berg filled with sooty black sand and rock fragments in the Tarr Inlet.
On the northeast shore there was an unnamed glacier that had receded back from the water’s edge exposing an alluvial fan and the typical “U” shaped valley.
Entering the Tarr Inlet near Russell Island the Lamplugh Glacier can be seen on the southwest shore. There are some black ice bergs in the distance, a sure sign that the Grand Pacific Glacier is ahead.
We passed another dirty ice berg filled with sooty black sand and rock fragments in the Tarr Inlet.
On the northeast shore there was an unnamed glacier that had receded back from the water’s edge exposing an alluvial fan and the typical “U” shaped valley.
Entering the Tarr Inlet near Russell Island the Lamplugh Glacier can be seen on the southwest shore. There are some black ice bergs in the distance, a sure sign that the Grand Pacific Glacier is ahead.
We passed another dirty ice berg filled with sooty black sand and rock fragments in the Tarr Inlet.
On the northeast shore there was an unnamed glacier that had receded back from the water’s edge exposing an alluvial fan and the typical “U” shaped valley.


Grand Pacific Glacier, Glacier Bay Alaska



The Glacier Bay Explorer is approaching the Grand Pacific Glacier at the end of the Tarr Inlet. Margerie Glacier can be seen to the left of the bridge.
The Grand Pacific Glacier is 2 miles wide and about 35 miles long. The terminus is near the Canadian border so most of the glacier is in British Columbia.
The Glacier Bay Explorer is approaching the Grand Pacific Glacier at the end of the Tarr Inlet. Margerie Glacier can be seen to the left of the bridge.
The Grand Pacific Glacier is 2 miles wide and about 35 miles long. The terminus is near the Canadian border so most of the glacier is in British Columbia.
The Glacier Bay Explorer is approaching the Grand Pacific Glacier at the end of the Tarr Inlet. Margerie Glacier can be seen to the left of the bridge.
The Grand Pacific Glacier is 2 miles wide and about 35 miles long. The terminus is near the Canadian border so most of the glacier is in British Columbia.


This is a close up view of the vertical face of the Grand Pacific Glacier showing the extraordinary amount of dirt and rock debris within the ice. The ranger that was aboard ship told us that the ice face was about 300 feet high in some places and the depth of the water near the face was about 700 feet deep with the ice reaching all of the way to the bottom. This is significantly different than the current data on the glacier after 39 years of ice flow, melting and sedimentation.


Aerial photo of Grand Pacific Glacier and Margerie Glacier, 2015, National Park Service.
In 1780, during the Little Ice Age, the Grand Pacific Glacier advanced to the mouth of Glacier Bay where it resided as a tidewater glacier in the Pacific Ocean. From that time it receded about 65 miles in a northwesterly direction to a maximum position in 1925, just inside the Canadian border. It then advanced about 2.5 miles and briefly merged with Margerie Glacier in 1992. It has now pulled back slightly and is separated from Margerie Glacier by a stream of water.

Due to tributary glaciers the flow rate of the western part of the glacier is about 1,500 feet per year, 4 feet per day. The flow rate of the eastern side of the glacier is much slower, 15 to 180 feet per year. Due to landslides and medial moraines, the ice is covered with dirt and rock debris. This along with the flow rate is building a delta at the terminus such that the east part of the glacier is now grounded and the depth of the water is only 30 feet at the western side.

Just back from the terminus the ice is estimated to be about 900 feet thick.

References:
Glacier Bay Basin, Wikipedia, 2018 (Many professional papers are referenced at the end of this article)
File:Map of Glacier Bay National Park, National Park Service, 2016 (Shows historic dates of ice fronts at Glacier Bay.)


Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska



Margerie Glacier was exposed as a tidewater glacier sometime between 1907 and 1925. During that time the glacier that filled the Tarr Inlet receded past its mouth. Since that time there has been no record of recession. The Margerie Glacier front is in equilibrium, it advances at the same rate that the front melts and calves.


Waiting for something to happen. Years ago ship captains would sound their horns to induce calving. The National Park Service has stopped this practice. There is also a limit on the number of cruise ships allowed into Glacier Bay each season and how close that they can approach the Ice front.
Finally, we got to see some calving!
Waiting for something to happen. Years ago ship captains would sound their horns to induce calving. The National Park Service has stopped this practice. There is also a limit on the number of cruise ships allowed into Glacier Bay each season and how close that they can approach the Ice front.
Finally, we got to see some calving!
Waiting for something to happen. Years ago ship captains would sound their horns to induce calving. The National Park Service has stopped this practice. There is also a limit on the number of cruise ships allowed into Glacier Bay each season and how close that they can approach the Ice front.
Finally, we got to see some calving!


Lamplugh Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska



The ice front here shows two stream channels. Water flowing under the ice provides lubrication that enhances the movement of the ice.


Reid Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska



It is 11:00 at night and there is still enough light for photos. The rock in the foreground shows the sculpting from the ice and the gravel looks just like the till at my house in Michigan.


The captain grounded the ship on the mud bank and he explained that the tide was low and at about 2:00 in the morning the tide would come in and lift the ship off of the mud. At that time a new captain would take over for the trip back to the lodge. A gangplank was put down and we had the opportunity to go ashore. Being so far from civilization there was absolute silence and, at times, we could hear the movement of the ice within the glacier.
Back aboard ship we thought that we should try to get some sleep before the voyage back to Bartlett Cove. Our “state room” was up in the bow and the bunk beds were built across the curvature of the hull. The room was so small that we had to get ready for bed one at a time. I went in first and took the upper bunk; Buzz followed and took the lower. My head was just a few inches from the bare steel hull and I thought that it was going to be cold and clammy.

The hull was cold but not clammy and to my surprise I was quite comfortable, I dropped off to sleep. I was soon awakened by the sound of the engines starting and a slight vibration. As predicted the high tide had lifted the ship off of the mud bank and I could sense the movement of the ship backing up and swinging around for the return trip. As the speed increased I could hear the rushing of water next to my ear. It was obvious that my bunk was at the water line and I may have a hard time going back to sleep. Then I heard a chunk of ice clunking down the hull and then another. Thinking about the Titanic, I knew for sure that I was not going back to sleep. Buzz was also awake and soon we were up on deck in the cafeteria with a cup of coffee. It was already light enough to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the fiords.

The next morning at Gustavus we caught a flight back to Juneau to meet the next ship of the Alaska Marine Highway line for the voyage up the Lynn Canal to Skagway the gateway to the trails that led to the Klondike.


Skagway, Alaska,....Including Gold Rush history and the White Pass and Yukon Railroad



We are approaching Skagway, Alaska aboard one of the ships in the Alaska Marine Highway fleet. Skagway is located at the north end of the Lynn Canal and is rich in the history of the Klondike Gold Rush. Photo 1979.


As Buzz and I walked across the beach in hopes of finding a room, the town looked deserted.
Photo 1979.


Skagway, Alaska in July, 1979. With unpaved streets and not yet discovered by the major cruise lines.


The ornate building on the right was built in 1899 by the Artic Brotherhood, a fraternal group that had a chapter in Skagway. The front was decorated with 8,800 driftwood sticks found in Skagway bay. It is considered a prime example of Victorian Rustic Architecture. During the winter of 2004-2005 the front of the building was restored. This photo documents the original appearance.
Photo 1979.
The Golden North Hotel was built in 1898 when the population of Skagway increased from 700 to 10,000 because of the rush of prospectors. By the year 1900 the population reduced to 1800 as the disappointed prospectors headed for home. It is likely the hotel operator was also disappointed.
Photo 1979.


On the streets of Skagway, the “Pup Mobile” is out for a ride. The Alaskan Huskies are trained to pull and it looks like these two like it.
Photo 1979.
The sign on the “Pup Mobile” is interesting. It advertises a shop that is an outlet for the artwork of the indigenous people of the Artic. These people still hunt various animals for food including, narwhal and walrus. It is legal for them to use the ivory from these animals to fashion artifacts for sale. They also use fossil ivory found in the permafrost.
Photo 1979.


Fossil walrus ivory with Alaskan jade purchased in Skagway.
The Spell of the Yukon.
Alaskan gold nugget jewelry purchased in Skagway.
Fossil walrus ivory with Alaskan jade purchased in Skagway.
The Spell of the Yukon.
Alaskan gold nugget jewelry purchased in Skagway.
Fossil walrus ivory with Alaskan jade purchased in Skagway.
The Spell of the Yukon.
Alaskan gold nugget jewelry purchased in Skagway.
In the days before the internet I collected books with almost as much fervor as I did Minerals. I found that local book stores often had books that specialized in the mineralogy, geology or history of the area. While we were in Skagway Buzz and I walked into Dedman’s Photo shop. I never bothered to read poetry except when I had to in English class but I happened to pick up a paperback copy of “The Best of Robert Service”. I read the first two stanzas of “The Spell of the Yukon” and bought the book. Above is a quote.


This photo taken in 2006 shows considerable change at the harbor in Skagway. There are two large cruise ships at the piers that dwarf the smaller ship of the Alaska Marine Highway. The photo is taken from the deck of a third large cruise ship with a capacity of 2,400 tourist, times 3 equals 7,200 people resulting in a temporary population explosion in Skagway that almost equals that of the gold rush. It is ironic that in 1898 gold was flowing from north to south but by 2006 “gold” is flowing south to north.
The streets are now paved and there is a lot of fresh paint in Skagway but the flavor of the gold rush days is still there, you just have to look a little harder to see it. Photo 2006.


This is a view of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad climbing to White Pass. The thin line at left, center is the Klondike Highway on the other side of the valley. It is now an all season road 441 miles long that connects Skagway to Dawson City. In Alaska it is Route 98 and in the Yukon it is Highway 2. It intersects the Alaska Highway near Whitehorse. All of the freight coming from the north to Skagway now comes via truck on this road. Photo 2006.
View from the train looking west at the peaks that rise above White Pass. Photo 2006.


Top,……Early in the Gold Rush, Skagway began as a few tents along the beach at high tide. Horse drawn wagons were used to ferry supplies to the shore.
Bottom,……As time passed, the mud flats between the high and low water lines were filled creating usable land out to deep water. Today massive cruise ships can dock next to the shore. Photo, National Historical Park.
This photo shows the massive wooden piers that were built during the first year of the Gold Rush to facilitate the unloading of supplies from the constant arrival of steamships. Photo, National Park Service.
At low tide the mud flats were exposed. A few miles north at Dyea the flats were even more extensive. Supplies for the Chilkoot Trail had to be shuttled to Dyea in small boats. Photo, Wikipedia.
This photo shows the massive wooden piers that were built during the first year of the Gold Rush to facilitate the unloading of supplies from the constant arrival of steamships. Photo, National Park Service.
At low tide the mud flats were exposed. A few miles north at Dyea the flats were even more extensive. Supplies for the Chilkoot Trail had to be shuttled to Dyea in small boats. Photo, Wikipedia.
This photo shows the massive wooden piers that were built during the first year of the Gold Rush to facilitate the unloading of supplies from the constant arrival of steamships. Photo, National Park Service.
At low tide the mud flats were exposed. A few miles north at Dyea the flats were even more extensive. Supplies for the Chilkoot Trail had to be shuttled to Dyea in small boats. Photo, Wikipedia.


Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith II

"Soapy" Smith was a notorious con man and gangster that preyed on the stampeders during the peak of the Klondike Gold Rush. In the late 1870's he got his moniker “Soapy” as the result of one of his cons. He would set up his "tripe and keister", a display case with a tripod, on a street corner and sell bars of soap. He would make a show of wrapping a 100 dollar bill into a package of soap and mix it into the pile. Of course, when the gullible bought the soap the one with the 100 dollar bill was already removed by sleight- of- hand.

In the 1880’s “Soapy” was the boss of a gang in Denver that operated using many illegal enterprises including the bribing of politician’s and police departments. When the law got too close in Denver he moved to another boom town. He took his gang to Creede, Colorado during the silver strike and took over.

As the Klondike Gold rush started the lawlessness of Skagway was a perfect place to try another takeover. The problem for Soapy in Skagway was that he came up against a determined vigilante committee. With his rifle over his shoulder, Soapy confronted the vigilance committee on the wharf in Skagway. A shootout erupted and Soapy was killed instantly. Frank Reid was wounded and died 12 days later.

Reference: Wikipedia, Soapy Smith. The full story of Soapy Smith as given on Wikipedia is a good read.

Seeing the historic photos of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad caused us to set riding the railroad as a high priority. We went to the train station in Skagway to buy roundtrip tickets for the next day. We were told that the train was not running. There had been a derailment up in the Yukon Territory. The road bed had been softened by spring rains and the weight of the locomotives had split the tracks, repairs were being made and the train was scheduled to run down from Whitehorse on the following day. If we could get to Whitehorse we could ride the train back down to Skagway and remain on schedule.
Fortunately, a seasonal road from Skagway to Whitehorse had just been opened in the spring. Buzz and I were able to get a ticket for a bus ride to Whitehorse the next morning. The “bus” turned out to be a van carrying four passengers including us. We started the 106 mile journey to Whitehorse on the new gravel road.


Carcross, Yukon Territory



As the gold rush subsided, the original hotel that served the prospectors in Bennet was moved north to this location. After several name changes the hotel, the train depot and another store burned to the ground in 1909. The Caribou Hotel shown here was built in 1910.
White Pass and Yukon Route railway depot rebuilt in 1910.
The village of Carcross was originally the location of a hunting camp used by the Tlingit and Tagish people. It was first called Caribou Crossing because a huge herd of caribou migrated across the narrow strait twice a year. During the Gold Rush the herd provided a much needed source of food for the prospectors. It was almost hunted to extinction.

Carcross was a significant location during the Klondike Gold Rush. All of the stampeders using the Chilkoot Trail, the White Pass Trail or the White Pass and Yukon Railroad passed through Carcross.


Yukon steamships
Steamships started working in the lower Yukon River as early as 1867. At the start of the Gold Rush in 1897 there were 7 steamers already on the Yukon River and by 1899 the number had increased to 30. All told there were over 300 steamships used in the Yukon through the years.

The first steamer in the lakes south of Carcross was the “Gleaner”, 113 feet long, built at Bennett in 1899, and acquired by the White Pass and Yukon Railroad in 1901. In 1899 the “Australian” and “Gleaner” delivered 200 prospectors back to Bennett with $500,000 in gold. The “Gleaner” was eventually moved to Tagish Lake where it operated until 1923.

The “Tutshi”, shown above, 167 feet long, was built in Carcross for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad in 1917. As the Gold Rush subsided the railroad developed a tourist industry for survival. Tourist could ride the railroad from Skagway to Carcross and then acquire a stateroom on the “Tutshi” for a 70 mile voyage down Tagish Lake through pristine scenery. The “Tutshi” had the distinction of being the last operating steamship in the Yukon. It remained in service until 1955 and was restored and displayed on the shore at Carcross in 1972. Tragically it was destroyed in 1990 by an arson fire. The large metal parts of the ship can still be seen along a boardwalk in Carcross.


Whitehorse, Yukon Territory



The White Pass and Yukon Railroad station is shown here at the end of the street.


The town of Whitehorse was significant in the history of the Klondike Gold Rush. During 1897-8, it was the site of the treacherous Whitehorse Rapids. Five stampeders drowned in the rapids and at one time 300 boats lay wrecked in the rapids causing a jam that had to be cleared. In 1899 Whitehorse became the northern terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad bypassing the rapids. Today a dam in the Yukon River has submerged the rapids under Schwatka Lake at the southern end of town.

During the 1970’s the huge mine at Faro, Yukon Territory, 117 miles northeast of Whitehorse, was in peak production. The mill at Faro produced a lead-zinc concentrate that was trucked to Whitehorse and then carried to Skagway by the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. A typical train leaving for Skagway in the 1970’s would consist of 5 diesel locomotives, 27 double gondola ore cars, 11 passenger cars and 2 flat cars one with a bus and the other with a pickup camper for good measure. The gears in the locomotives were required to slow the train during the decent from White Pass to Skagway.

The method of transporting the ore was unique. Parabolic “tear drop” containers were filled at the mill with 33 tons of concentrate each and trucked to Whitehorse. At Whitehorse two containers were loaded on each modified flat car for the rail trip down to Skagway where they were removed from the flat car and dumped into the hold of a ship headed for Japan. This procedure was in effect from 1969 to 1982 when the mine at Faro closed due to falling metal prices. The White Pass and Yukon Railroad also closed and the unique “tear drop” buckets were sold to the company cleaning up the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. They were water tight and perfect for the job. The WP & YR was no longer able to transport ore shipments and when the mines restarted the ore was hauled to Skagway by truck on the newly opened all season road from Whitehorse to Skagway.

In 1988 the White Pass and Yukon Railroad reopened as a tourist train offering breathtaking excursions over the most scenic part of the route.


The Yukon River at Whitehorse.
Whitehorse Rapids. National Park photo.

The Turning Point

We finally ran out of time! We had to turn south to get back to our jobs. We did have an itinerary for the return trip that included boarding a ship of the Alaska Marine Highway fleet at Skagway, sailing south for a short stop at Sitka, then south to Prince Rupert, British Columbia where we would board a train east to Jasper, Alberta with a look at the Columbia Ice Fields, then a bus ride to Edmonton to catch a flight back to Detroit.

The story of the Klondike Gold Rush will be completed using old historic photos only.


Bennett, British Columbia to Skagway, Alaska via the WP&YR

This is a photo of a typical 1970’s White Pass and Yukon ore train rolling along the shore of Lake Bennett. The photo taken in 1979 shows most of the 27 ore cars on the train that Buzz and I were traveling on. The view is from one of the 11 vintage passenger cars at the end of the train.
This view shows the flat cars carrying vehicles including a Greyhound bus along with the first of the 11 passenger cars.
The seating arrangement in the passenger cars on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad in 1979 provided spectacular views on the ride down to Skagway. Here the train is following the shoreline of Lake Bennett. The guy in the slouch hat is my partner “Buzz” and the ore cars can be seen at the top of the windows. From White Pass the views overlooking Dead Horse Canyon are unforgettable.
White Pass and Yukon Railway Station
Lunch break at Bennett
The time of the trip from Whitehorse to Skagway was about 8 hours so the stop at Bennett was an opportunity for a good hot lunch. The passenger cars were parked adjacent to the station and the long string of ore cars were out of sight to the right in this photo. After the meal we had about 45 minutes to prowl among the many artifacts of the gold rush on the hillside at the shore of Lake Bennett. We were told that at the sound of the train whistle it would be time to get back on board for the trip through White Pass and Dead Horse Canyon.


Today the White Pass and Yukon Railroad operates as a seasonal tourist excursion through some of the most beautiful and historic country in Canada and Alaska. During the period between 1900 and 1983 it was a year round working railroad hauling first gold prospectors then ore from several mines in the Yukon. Snow plows like this one kept the tracks clear during winter.
One of the more conspicuous relics was “The Great Majestic” a large wood or coal burning stove.
We were told that we could walk around on the old town site for about 45 minutes but when the train whistle blows, hurry back and take your seats for the ride down to Skagway. The whistle sounded and we all took our seats, that is, except for one lady. As the train started rolling we could see her still taking pictures. She looked up and started running. She evidently was part of an organized tour, her tour director panicked, pulled the lanyard above the windows on the old vintage passenger car instantaneously locking the hydraulic breaks on all of the passenger cars. The train jerked to a stop and broke in half. Inspection revealed that the coupling on two cars had broken. Fortunately, this happened at Bennett where a track siding was available. The two cars were put on the siding, the train was reattached and we continued the trip.

I rode the train again in 2006 and as soon as I boarded I looked for the lanyard. It was removed.
By the second year of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898 a tent city had sprung up at Bennett. During the summer of 1899 the tracks of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad crossed the narrow strip of land at left center and the train station would soon be built there. In a short time the vast majority of stampeders would be headed for home empty handed but obviously, the manufacturer of white canvas wall tents did very well. Photo, Wikipedia.
Bennett, Alaska 1898. Photo, National Park Service.
By the second year of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898 a tent city had sprung up at Bennett. During the summer of 1899 the tracks of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad crossed the narrow strip of land at left center and the train station would soon be built there. In a short time the vast majority of stampeders would be headed for home empty handed but obviously, the manufacturer of white canvas wall tents did very well. Photo, Wikipedia.
Bennett, Alaska 1898. Photo, National Park Service.
By the second year of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898 a tent city had sprung up at Bennett. During the summer of 1899 the tracks of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad crossed the narrow strip of land at left center and the train station would soon be built there. In a short time the vast majority of stampeders would be headed for home empty handed but obviously, the manufacturer of white canvas wall tents did very well. Photo, Wikipedia.
Bennett, Alaska 1898. Photo, National Park Service.
“In late May of 1898, the North-West Mounted Police counted 778 boats under construction at Lindeman Lake, 850 in Bennett and the surrounding area, and another 198 at Caribou Crossing and Tagish Lake. It was further estimated that another 1,200 boats were built in these areas over the next few weeks.” (Ken Spotswood, The History of Carcross, Yukon - ExploreNorth.com). Photo, Wikipedia.
“Driving the last spike at Bennett on July 6, 1899.” It is noteworthy that three steam ships are already working on Lake Bennett.Photo, Wikipedia.
“In late May of 1898, the North-West Mounted Police counted 778 boats under construction at Lindeman Lake, 850 in Bennett and the surrounding area, and another 198 at Caribou Crossing and Tagish Lake. It was further estimated that another 1,200 boats were built in these areas over the next few weeks.” (Ken Spotswood, The History of Carcross, Yukon - ExploreNorth.com). Photo, Wikipedia.
“Driving the last spike at Bennett on July 6, 1899.” It is noteworthy that three steam ships are already working on Lake Bennett.Photo, Wikipedia.
“In late May of 1898, the North-West Mounted Police counted 778 boats under construction at Lindeman Lake, 850 in Bennett and the surrounding area, and another 198 at Caribou Crossing and Tagish Lake. It was further estimated that another 1,200 boats were built in these areas over the next few weeks.” (Ken Spotswood, The History of Carcross, Yukon - ExploreNorth.com). Photo, Wikipedia.
“Driving the last spike at Bennett on July 6, 1899.” It is noteworthy that three steam ships are already working on Lake Bennett.Photo, Wikipedia.


White Pass to Skagway



Near the summit the White Pass Trail converges with the railroad bed. From the train you can see the old Gold Rush foot path and rusty relics in the gully.
This tunnel was cut sometime after the Gold Rush in order to bypass the old cantilevered trestle that was determined unsuitable for carrying the heavy ore cars that were used in later years. If you go to the satellite photo at White Pass and follow the railroad southward you will see the bypass.


Here the ore train has emerged from the tunnel and the construction of the old cantilevered trestle is in plain sight. The train that we were on had 27 ore cars, two buckets each, 33 ton capacity in each bucket for a total of 1,782 tons. Just eye balling that structure makes me think that the bypass was a good idea.
The roadbed holding our train on the cliff can be seen in the lower left corner of this photo. In the distance the notch in the mountain continues. Below is Dead Horse Canyon. During the Gold Rush there was a “rumor” that horses could make it through White Pass and stampeders paid large sums for horses in Skagway. It wasn’t true and horses died by the hundreds in this canyon.


Two steam locomotives pulling a load are about to reach the trestle at the tunnel on the way up to White Pass.
National Park Service photo 1899.
About four miles south of White Pass the White Pass and Yukon Railroad crosses a trestle and enters a tunnel as it climbs to the summit. The narrow gauge railway was completed on July 6, 1899. At this location the road bed was carved into the nearly vertical face of the mountain.
Wikimedia Commons photo 1899.
Two steam locomotives pulling a load are about to reach the trestle at the tunnel on the way up to White Pass.
National Park Service photo 1899.
About four miles south of White Pass the White Pass and Yukon Railroad crosses a trestle and enters a tunnel as it climbs to the summit. The narrow gauge railway was completed on July 6, 1899. At this location the road bed was carved into the nearly vertical face of the mountain.
Wikimedia Commons photo 1899.
Two steam locomotives pulling a load are about to reach the trestle at the tunnel on the way up to White Pass.
National Park Service photo 1899.
About four miles south of White Pass the White Pass and Yukon Railroad crosses a trestle and enters a tunnel as it climbs to the summit. The narrow gauge railway was completed on July 6, 1899. At this location the road bed was carved into the nearly vertical face of the mountain.
Wikimedia Commons photo 1899.
White Pass and Yukon Railroad
Above,…..Laying track at White Pass near camp six in 1898. Photo, Wikipedia.




Left,……The caption on this photo says “Rock workers on Tunnel Mountain.” The photo seems to be tipped a little for effect and it seems that there is a lack of safety belts. There appears to be many ropes strum over he working face. If a worker slipped his only hope was to grab a rope. National Park Service photo, probably 1898.
Dog teams and horses were used to pull supplies up the White Pass Trail to the summit and then on to Lake Bennett. When the stampeders purchased horses in Skagway they were also able to acquire bales of hay shipped in by steamers. Photo, National Park Service.
The supply of hay was not enough and horses died by the hundreds on the White Pass Trail. Even those that made it to Lake Bennett were doomed. There was no room on the boats for the horses and they were abandoned in the rocky north woods with inadequate pasture. Photo, Wikipedia.
Dog teams and horses were used to pull supplies up the White Pass Trail to the summit and then on to Lake Bennett. When the stampeders purchased horses in Skagway they were also able to acquire bales of hay shipped in by steamers. Photo, National Park Service.
The supply of hay was not enough and horses died by the hundreds on the White Pass Trail. Even those that made it to Lake Bennett were doomed. There was no room on the boats for the horses and they were abandoned in the rocky north woods with inadequate pasture. Photo, Wikipedia.
Dog teams and horses were used to pull supplies up the White Pass Trail to the summit and then on to Lake Bennett. When the stampeders purchased horses in Skagway they were also able to acquire bales of hay shipped in by steamers. Photo, National Park Service.
The supply of hay was not enough and horses died by the hundreds on the White Pass Trail. Even those that made it to Lake Bennett were doomed. There was no room on the boats for the horses and they were abandoned in the rocky north woods with inadequate pasture. Photo, Wikipedia.
During the winter of 1898 activity on the White Pass Trail continued. By the summer of 1899 the tracks of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad would also pass through the notch on the skyline providing transportation to Whitehorse in the Yukon eventually closing both the White Pass Trail and the Chilkoot Trail. Photo, Wikipedia
Just a few months after this photo was taken, passengers on the railroad cut into the slope on the left could look down on the abandoned foot path. Photo, National Park Service.
During the winter of 1898 activity on the White Pass Trail continued. By the summer of 1899 the tracks of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad would also pass through the notch on the skyline providing transportation to Whitehorse in the Yukon eventually closing both the White Pass Trail and the Chilkoot Trail. Photo, Wikipedia
Just a few months after this photo was taken, passengers on the railroad cut into the slope on the left could look down on the abandoned foot path. Photo, National Park Service.
During the winter of 1898 activity on the White Pass Trail continued. By the summer of 1899 the tracks of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad would also pass through the notch on the skyline providing transportation to Whitehorse in the Yukon eventually closing both the White Pass Trail and the Chilkoot Trail. Photo, Wikipedia
Just a few months after this photo was taken, passengers on the railroad cut into the slope on the left could look down on the abandoned foot path. Photo, National Park Service.


Emerging from Dead Horse Canyon, Skagway can be seen in the distance. Photo 2006.


Back in the railyard at Skagway is a string of 5 engines behind the lead locomotive. The engines could be added, as required providing additional power, traction and gear chains to slow the long ore trains on the decent from White Pass to Skagway.
This photo shows detail of the parabolic “tear drop” buckets used by the WP & YR during the 70’s. Photos of these ore cars are quite rare and would be of interest to the railroad buffs.


Dyea and Chilkoot Pass



Although many prospectors chose to travel the Chilkoot Trail starting a Dyea, the harbor was too shallow for large ships to land. Steam ships unloaded at the deeper harbor at Skagway and smaller craft were used to shuttle supplies to Dyea.

This photo shows supplies on the beach above the high tide line and small boats in the distance anchored beyond the mud flats. Wikimedia Commons photo 1897.


Winter camp at Dyea, Alaska. National Park Service photo probably 1897.
Summer camp at Dyea, Alaska. National Park Service photo probably 1897.
This map defines the 33 mile long Chilkoot Trail between Dyea and Lake Bennett. Heading north of Skagway is a dashed line showing the Klondike Highway that opened in 1979 and a dotted line that indicates the path of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad that was completed in 1899. The White Pass Trail follows the bottom of the canyon just west of the tracks. The map is from Wikipedia with added labels.
This is the iconic photo taken by A. E. Hegg in 1898 on a glass plate. It shows a long line of determined stampeders climbing the “scales” on steps cut into the hard packed snow. The Chilkoot Pass is seen at the top with lines to the right where they slid down to pick up another load. The motivation to endure these hardships was strong. Going home with a stash of gold could keep a man out of the “poorhouse”. Many thousands were disappointed. Photo National Park Service.
Climbing the “scales”. Photo National Park Service.
All along the climb to the Chilkoot Pass there were alcoves carved into the snow where a man could take a rest. The guy at the lower right is carrying his sled, probably his last load. Photo National Park Service.
Climbing the “scales”. Photo National Park Service.
All along the climb to the Chilkoot Pass there were alcoves carved into the snow where a man could take a rest. The guy at the lower right is carrying his sled, probably his last load. Photo National Park Service.
Climbing the “scales”. Photo National Park Service.
All along the climb to the Chilkoot Pass there were alcoves carved into the snow where a man could take a rest. The guy at the lower right is carrying his sled, probably his last load. Photo National Park Service.
Almost to the top. Photo, Wikipedia.
Supplies and men accumulated at the top of the Chilkoot Pass. There was an unwritten code among the stampeders to leave another’s man supplies alone! A man’s survival depended on these supplies. Photo, Wikipedia.
Almost to the top. Photo, Wikipedia.
Supplies and men accumulated at the top of the Chilkoot Pass. There was an unwritten code among the stampeders to leave another’s man supplies alone! A man’s survival depended on these supplies. Photo, Wikipedia.
Almost to the top. Photo, Wikipedia.
Supplies and men accumulated at the top of the Chilkoot Pass. There was an unwritten code among the stampeders to leave another’s man supplies alone! A man’s survival depended on these supplies. Photo, Wikipedia.
A large camp formed at the base of the scales. During the spring of 1898 the snow pack on the slope became dangerous. The Chilkoot native packers recognized the threat and refused to work near the scales. The stampeders kept pushing up the trail and a few small avalanches occurred but there were no fatalities. On April 3, 1898 a party of men that were returning to Sheep Camp to wait for better conditions was struck by a snow slide that took the lives of 63 men.
Photo, National Park Service.
The scales appear to be vacant in the summer of 1899. It may be that this photo was taken after the opening of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, an event that resulted in the abandonment of the Chilkoot Trail.
Photo, National Park Service.
A large camp formed at the base of the scales. During the spring of 1898 the snow pack on the slope became dangerous. The Chilkoot native packers recognized the threat and refused to work near the scales. The stampeders kept pushing up the trail and a few small avalanches occurred but there were no fatalities. On April 3, 1898 a party of men that were returning to Sheep Camp to wait for better conditions was struck by a snow slide that took the lives of 63 men.
Photo, National Park Service.
The scales appear to be vacant in the summer of 1899. It may be that this photo was taken after the opening of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, an event that resulted in the abandonment of the Chilkoot Trail.
Photo, National Park Service.
A large camp formed at the base of the scales. During the spring of 1898 the snow pack on the slope became dangerous. The Chilkoot native packers recognized the threat and refused to work near the scales. The stampeders kept pushing up the trail and a few small avalanches occurred but there were no fatalities. On April 3, 1898 a party of men that were returning to Sheep Camp to wait for better conditions was struck by a snow slide that took the lives of 63 men.
Photo, National Park Service.
The scales appear to be vacant in the summer of 1899. It may be that this photo was taken after the opening of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, an event that resulted in the abandonment of the Chilkoot Trail.
Photo, National Park Service.
The exact location of this camp on the Chilkoot Trail was not given but judging from the size of the trees, it was likely near Finnegan’s Point or Canyon City. Photo, National Park Service.
By 1898 buildings were constructed at Sheep Camp located just below the Scales only to be abandoned shortly after the opening of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad.

Sargent Sam Steele of Canada's Northwest Mounted Police visited Sheep Camp in during the winter of 1898. He reported that murder, robbery and theft were common. There was a public whipping of a thief at Sheep Camp and gang violence was a constant threat. The stampeders were risk takers and they had to take care of themselves in a lawless wilderness. Photo, National Park Service.
The exact location of this camp on the Chilkoot Trail was not given but judging from the size of the trees, it was likely near Finnegan’s Point or Canyon City. Photo, National Park Service.
By 1898 buildings were constructed at Sheep Camp located just below the Scales only to be abandoned shortly after the opening of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad.

Sargent Sam Steele of Canada's Northwest Mounted Police visited Sheep Camp in during the winter of 1898. He reported that murder, robbery and theft were common. There was a public whipping of a thief at Sheep Camp and gang violence was a constant threat. The stampeders were risk takers and they had to take care of themselves in a lawless wilderness. Photo, National Park Service.
The exact location of this camp on the Chilkoot Trail was not given but judging from the size of the trees, it was likely near Finnegan’s Point or Canyon City. Photo, National Park Service.
By 1898 buildings were constructed at Sheep Camp located just below the Scales only to be abandoned shortly after the opening of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad.

Sargent Sam Steele of Canada's Northwest Mounted Police visited Sheep Camp in during the winter of 1898. He reported that murder, robbery and theft were common. There was a public whipping of a thief at Sheep Camp and gang violence was a constant threat. The stampeders were risk takers and they had to take care of themselves in a lawless wilderness. Photo, National Park Service.
One of the relics along the Chilkoot Trail is this 50 ton boiler in the woods near the old site of Canyon City. It was manufactured at the Union Iron Works in San Francisco in 1886 and used by the Dyea-Klondike Transportation Company to power an aerial tram that carried supplies over the Chilkoot Pass. Photo, National Park service.
The caption for this photo says that this is “possibly the Dyea-Klondike Transportation Company” aerial tram in 1898. It appears to be hauling a canoe over the scales. There were four different companies operating trams on the Chilkoot Trail during 1897 – 1899. Photo, Wikipedia.
One of the relics along the Chilkoot Trail is this 50 ton boiler in the woods near the old site of Canyon City. It was manufactured at the Union Iron Works in San Francisco in 1886 and used by the Dyea-Klondike Transportation Company to power an aerial tram that carried supplies over the Chilkoot Pass. Photo, National Park service.
The caption for this photo says that this is “possibly the Dyea-Klondike Transportation Company” aerial tram in 1898. It appears to be hauling a canoe over the scales. There were four different companies operating trams on the Chilkoot Trail during 1897 – 1899. Photo, Wikipedia.
One of the relics along the Chilkoot Trail is this 50 ton boiler in the woods near the old site of Canyon City. It was manufactured at the Union Iron Works in San Francisco in 1886 and used by the Dyea-Klondike Transportation Company to power an aerial tram that carried supplies over the Chilkoot Pass. Photo, National Park service.
The caption for this photo says that this is “possibly the Dyea-Klondike Transportation Company” aerial tram in 1898. It appears to be hauling a canoe over the scales. There were four different companies operating trams on the Chilkoot Trail during 1897 – 1899. Photo, Wikipedia.
This is a drawing of an 8250 Ft, Hallidie Endless Wire Ropeway shown in an advertising pamphlet published by the California Wire Works, San Francisco, California, in 1902. The tram was constructed at the Chilkoot Pass in 1898 by the Alaska Railroad and Transportation Company. It shows an interesting profile of the Chilkoot Trail. Photo, Wikipedia.


Dawson and the Klondike Gold Fields

When the stampeders arrived at Dawson City it was already well established on a narrow strip land on the east bank of the Yukon River. Photo, National Park Service.
Steamships had been working the lower Yukon River since 1866. In 1897 there were 7 steamers operating in the Yukon and by 1899 there were 30. Photo, Wikipedia
When the stampeders arrived at Dawson City it was already well established on a narrow strip land on the east bank of the Yukon River. Photo, National Park Service.
Steamships had been working the lower Yukon River since 1866. In 1897 there were 7 steamers operating in the Yukon and by 1899 there were 30. Photo, Wikipedia
When the stampeders arrived at Dawson City it was already well established on a narrow strip land on the east bank of the Yukon River. Photo, National Park Service.
Steamships had been working the lower Yukon River since 1866. In 1897 there were 7 steamers operating in the Yukon and by 1899 there were 30. Photo, Wikipedia
Looks like the peak of the Gold Rush with lots of prospectors in town. The parade featured a fire engine pulled by a dog team. Photo, National Park Service.

"Secure Tickets By the Yukon Flyer Line, Steamers Bonanza King and Eldorado.
10 Days to Seattle and Vancouver, Office at Aurora Dock."

"Cowe’s Shaving Parlor, Laundry, Bath House."

"Aurora Café, Lunch Room, Open All Night."
It is clear that life was tough in Dawson during the gold Rush. The traffic of thousands of stampeders on Main Street reduced it to a quagmire. Photo, Wikipedia.
Looks like the peak of the Gold Rush with lots of prospectors in town. The parade featured a fire engine pulled by a dog team. Photo, National Park Service.

"Secure Tickets By the Yukon Flyer Line, Steamers Bonanza King and Eldorado.
10 Days to Seattle and Vancouver, Office at Aurora Dock."

"Cowe’s Shaving Parlor, Laundry, Bath House."

"Aurora Café, Lunch Room, Open All Night."
It is clear that life was tough in Dawson during the gold Rush. The traffic of thousands of stampeders on Main Street reduced it to a quagmire. Photo, Wikipedia.
Looks like the peak of the Gold Rush with lots of prospectors in town. The parade featured a fire engine pulled by a dog team. Photo, National Park Service.

"Secure Tickets By the Yukon Flyer Line, Steamers Bonanza King and Eldorado.
10 Days to Seattle and Vancouver, Office at Aurora Dock."

"Cowe’s Shaving Parlor, Laundry, Bath House."

"Aurora Café, Lunch Room, Open All Night."
It is clear that life was tough in Dawson during the gold Rush. The traffic of thousands of stampeders on Main Street reduced it to a quagmire. Photo, Wikipedia.
He struck it rich and he shows a little well deserved swagger while paying his bill with gold dust. Photo, Wikipedia.


Leaving from the pier at San Francisco in 1897. For most of the stampeders, the trek to Dawson started with a steamship ride. Photo, Wikipedia.
Boarding a steamer at the waterfront in Seattle. Photo, National Park Service.
Leaving from the pier at San Francisco in 1897. For most of the stampeders, the trek to Dawson started with a steamship ride. Photo, Wikipedia.
Boarding a steamer at the waterfront in Seattle. Photo, National Park Service.
Leaving from the pier at San Francisco in 1897. For most of the stampeders, the trek to Dawson started with a steamship ride. Photo, Wikipedia.
Boarding a steamer at the waterfront in Seattle. Photo, National Park Service.
There were many ways to get to Dawson and the gold fields but if you weren’t in Dawson by 1897 it was already too late. Photo, Wikipedia.
This is a view of the Grand Forks area showing the proximity of several important locations that define the Klondike Gold Rush. The view is looking south along Bonanza Creek where it curves toward the east. Gold hill with its many claims rises above Bonanza Creek on the right. The “Discovery Claim” is in Bonanza Creek at the bottom of the photo. Just past Gold Hill, Eldorado Creek flows in from the right to join Bonanza Creek forming the “Grand Fork”. Photo, Wikipedia.
In 1896, at the very start of the rush, people were settling near “The Forks” and a municipal government formed establishing the town of Grand Forks. By 1898 the population reached 10,000 and business was booming. Today the town is abandoned. Photo, Wikipedia.
This is a view of the Grand Forks area showing the proximity of several important locations that define the Klondike Gold Rush. The view is looking south along Bonanza Creek where it curves toward the east. Gold hill with its many claims rises above Bonanza Creek on the right. The “Discovery Claim” is in Bonanza Creek at the bottom of the photo. Just past Gold Hill, Eldorado Creek flows in from the right to join Bonanza Creek forming the “Grand Fork”. Photo, Wikipedia.
In 1896, at the very start of the rush, people were settling near “The Forks” and a municipal government formed establishing the town of Grand Forks. By 1898 the population reached 10,000 and business was booming. Today the town is abandoned. Photo, Wikipedia.
This is a view of the Grand Forks area showing the proximity of several important locations that define the Klondike Gold Rush. The view is looking south along Bonanza Creek where it curves toward the east. Gold hill with its many claims rises above Bonanza Creek on the right. The “Discovery Claim” is in Bonanza Creek at the bottom of the photo. Just past Gold Hill, Eldorado Creek flows in from the right to join Bonanza Creek forming the “Grand Fork”. Photo, Wikipedia.
In 1896, at the very start of the rush, people were settling near “The Forks” and a municipal government formed establishing the town of Grand Forks. By 1898 the population reached 10,000 and business was booming. Today the town is abandoned. Photo, Wikipedia.
Grand Forks is the name given to the confluence of Bonanza Creek and Eldorado Creek. It is the “heart” of the Klondike Gold Fields. The discovery site that started the stampede is just north of the intersection. The alluvial gravel deposits along both creeks at this location were rich in gold and the famous “Gold Hill” loomed over the west bank of Bonanza Creek.
The first men to "strike it rich" in the Klondike.
"On August 16, 1896, an American prospector named George Carmack, his Tagish wife Kate Carmack (Shaaw Tláa), her brother Skookum Jim (Keish), and their nephew Dawson Charlie (K̲áa Goox̱) were travelling south of the Klondike River. Following a suggestion from Robert Henderson, a Canadian prospector, they began looking for gold on Bonanza Creek, then called Rabbit Creek, one of the Klondike's tributaries. It is not clear who discovered the gold: George Carmack or Skookum Jim, but the group agreed to let George Carmack appear as the official discoverer because they feared that mining authorities would be reluctant to recognize a claim made by an Indigenous Person." Quote from the discovery story recorded by Wikipedia.

The word got out and by the end of August all of Bonanza Creek had been claimed by local people from Dawson and protectors already working in the area.
The discovery of Gold Hill is a unique story. Gold was found on the hill top by a Canadian from Nova Scotia named Oliver Millet. In 1897 he was working in Seattle when news of the strike arrived. He left immediately for the Klondike and reached the gold fields in October of that year. All of the pay dirt on Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks was already claimed. He climbed the hill above Carmack's claim on Bonanza Creek, dug some holes, and hit a strata of the White Pliocene Channel Gravel that was a known marker of placer gold. In a single day he paned 800 dollars’ worth of gold. He was in bad health and got a friend to stake his claim. Soon the entire top of Gold Hill was under claim.

The horizontal line at the bottom of the diggings is a fairly good indicator of where the gold bearing strata was located. Photo, Wikipedia.
Gold Hill can be seen in the background of this photo. In the fall of 1897 the hill was called “Cheechako Hill”. Cheechako is the Alaskan name for “Tender Foot” and when the miners saw Oliver Millet alone digging holes on the hill they called him and the hill “Cheechako” thinking that any prospector should know that in sediments, gold would be found near bedrock. When Oliver dug down about 9 feet and struck gold rich gravel that was deposited in an ancient stream bed many years before Bonanza Creek cut below the hill, the name of the hill soon changed.

Oliver Millet’s health was compromised by scurvy probably contracted during the years that he worked on the sea. He could not do the physical labor required to mine his claim. He sold the claim for $60,000 and the new owners took out $500,000. Photo, Wikipedia.
The discovery of Gold Hill is a unique story. Gold was found on the hill top by a Canadian from Nova Scotia named Oliver Millet. In 1897 he was working in Seattle when news of the strike arrived. He left immediately for the Klondike and reached the gold fields in October of that year. All of the pay dirt on Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks was already claimed. He climbed the hill above Carmack's claim on Bonanza Creek, dug some holes, and hit a strata of the White Pliocene Channel Gravel that was a known marker of placer gold. In a single day he paned 800 dollars’ worth of gold. He was in bad health and got a friend to stake his claim. Soon the entire top of Gold Hill was under claim.

The horizontal line at the bottom of the diggings is a fairly good indicator of where the gold bearing strata was located. Photo, Wikipedia.
Gold Hill can be seen in the background of this photo. In the fall of 1897 the hill was called “Cheechako Hill”. Cheechako is the Alaskan name for “Tender Foot” and when the miners saw Oliver Millet alone digging holes on the hill they called him and the hill “Cheechako” thinking that any prospector should know that in sediments, gold would be found near bedrock. When Oliver dug down about 9 feet and struck gold rich gravel that was deposited in an ancient stream bed many years before Bonanza Creek cut below the hill, the name of the hill soon changed.

Oliver Millet’s health was compromised by scurvy probably contracted during the years that he worked on the sea. He could not do the physical labor required to mine his claim. He sold the claim for $60,000 and the new owners took out $500,000. Photo, Wikipedia.
The discovery of Gold Hill is a unique story. Gold was found on the hill top by a Canadian from Nova Scotia named Oliver Millet. In 1897 he was working in Seattle when news of the strike arrived. He left immediately for the Klondike and reached the gold fields in October of that year. All of the pay dirt on Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks was already claimed. He climbed the hill above Carmack's claim on Bonanza Creek, dug some holes, and hit a strata of the White Pliocene Channel Gravel that was a known marker of placer gold. In a single day he paned 800 dollars’ worth of gold. He was in bad health and got a friend to stake his claim. Soon the entire top of Gold Hill was under claim.

The horizontal line at the bottom of the diggings is a fairly good indicator of where the gold bearing strata was located. Photo, Wikipedia.
Gold Hill can be seen in the background of this photo. In the fall of 1897 the hill was called “Cheechako Hill”. Cheechako is the Alaskan name for “Tender Foot” and when the miners saw Oliver Millet alone digging holes on the hill they called him and the hill “Cheechako” thinking that any prospector should know that in sediments, gold would be found near bedrock. When Oliver dug down about 9 feet and struck gold rich gravel that was deposited in an ancient stream bed many years before Bonanza Creek cut below the hill, the name of the hill soon changed.

Oliver Millet’s health was compromised by scurvy probably contracted during the years that he worked on the sea. He could not do the physical labor required to mine his claim. He sold the claim for $60,000 and the new owners took out $500,000. Photo, Wikipedia.
This diggings on Eldorado Creek appears to be in excess of 20 feet deep and the man in the foreground appears to be standing on bedrock. The book “One Man’s Gold Rush”, Morgan and Hegg, University of Washington Press, provides a log of a shaft sunk on Eldorado Creek as follows:

16 feet, gravel and sand, $0.50 to $2.00 per pan….4 feet, fine sand and coarse gravel, $2.00 to $5.00 per pan....
1.5 feet, fine gravel, $1.25 per pan….1.5 feet, fine black sand, $50.00 per pan, on top of bedrock.

The material from the shaft alone produced $40,000 in gold. Photo, Wikipedia.
Permafrost was a problem at the mines. At the start of the rush, wood fires were used to soften the gravel as shafts were sunk to bedrock and horizontal burrows were dug into hillsides. As more and more boilers were delivered to the diggings, steam was used to expedite the process. Photo, Wikipedia.
At the right side of this photo a steam boiler and be seen. The advantage of steam was that it could be better controlled during the melting of the permafrost. The objective was to soften the gravel for digging into the hill but not to soften the permafrost above that was holding up the roof. Photo, Wikipedia.
Permafrost was a problem at the mines. At the start of the rush, wood fires were used to soften the gravel as shafts were sunk to bedrock and horizontal burrows were dug into hillsides. As more and more boilers were delivered to the diggings, steam was used to expedite the process. Photo, Wikipedia.
At the right side of this photo a steam boiler and be seen. The advantage of steam was that it could be better controlled during the melting of the permafrost. The objective was to soften the gravel for digging into the hill but not to soften the permafrost above that was holding up the roof. Photo, Wikipedia.
Permafrost was a problem at the mines. At the start of the rush, wood fires were used to soften the gravel as shafts were sunk to bedrock and horizontal burrows were dug into hillsides. As more and more boilers were delivered to the diggings, steam was used to expedite the process. Photo, Wikipedia.
At the right side of this photo a steam boiler and be seen. The advantage of steam was that it could be better controlled during the melting of the permafrost. The objective was to soften the gravel for digging into the hill but not to soften the permafrost above that was holding up the roof. Photo, Wikipedia.
It was necessary to keep checking to be sure that you were still digging in the pay dirt. Photo, National Park Service.
Many of the guys working in these placer mines were not the claim owners. They were working for wages hoping to save enough money to book steamer passage home. Photo Wikipedia.
It was necessary to keep checking to be sure that you were still digging in the pay dirt. Photo, National Park Service.
Many of the guys working in these placer mines were not the claim owners. They were working for wages hoping to save enough money to book steamer passage home. Photo Wikipedia.
It was necessary to keep checking to be sure that you were still digging in the pay dirt. Photo, National Park Service.
Many of the guys working in these placer mines were not the claim owners. They were working for wages hoping to save enough money to book steamer passage home. Photo Wikipedia.
For much of the year on the top of Gold hill there was a shortage of water for sluicing. The miners would work all winter extracting the pay dirt and piling it alongside the diggings. This required a cabin on the hill to live in and guard the pile until the spring runoff.
The mines on Gold Hill were supplied by pack trains. That was one way that a disappointed prospector could work for wages, another was hauling logs. One reference estimated that about 100,000 people made it to the Klondike during the rush. They needed wood for cabins, for heat in winter, and for fires to thaw the permafrost. The timber all around Grand Forks was quickly depleted resulting in the barren landscapes that appear in most of the old historic pictures. Photo, Wikipedia.
A prosperous Skookum Jim was photographed on his claim sporting a gold nugget watch fob. Photo, National Park Service.
This watch chain is made up of 15 gold nuggets found in the American Creek near Manley Hot Springs, Alaska by Oscar Enstrom. A note in the display case gives the total nugget weight at about 17 troy ounces. The chain was owned by Colonel Johnson, an official of the Alaskan Railway in the 1930’s. When talk of embezzlement within the company started, Johnson quickly moved to South America. When Johnson passed away, a vault in British Columbia was opened and the watch and chain was found. It is 18 inches long with an Elgin open-faced pocket watch at one end and a rare railroad switch key at the other.The chain was photographed at the Greater Detroit Gem and Mineral Show in 1979.
A prosperous Skookum Jim was photographed on his claim sporting a gold nugget watch fob. Photo, National Park Service.
This watch chain is made up of 15 gold nuggets found in the American Creek near Manley Hot Springs, Alaska by Oscar Enstrom. A note in the display case gives the total nugget weight at about 17 troy ounces. The chain was owned by Colonel Johnson, an official of the Alaskan Railway in the 1930’s. When talk of embezzlement within the company started, Johnson quickly moved to South America. When Johnson passed away, a vault in British Columbia was opened and the watch and chain was found. It is 18 inches long with an Elgin open-faced pocket watch at one end and a rare railroad switch key at the other.The chain was photographed at the Greater Detroit Gem and Mineral Show in 1979.
A prosperous Skookum Jim was photographed on his claim sporting a gold nugget watch fob. Photo, National Park Service.
This watch chain is made up of 15 gold nuggets found in the American Creek near Manley Hot Springs, Alaska by Oscar Enstrom. A note in the display case gives the total nugget weight at about 17 troy ounces. The chain was owned by Colonel Johnson, an official of the Alaskan Railway in the 1930’s. When talk of embezzlement within the company started, Johnson quickly moved to South America. When Johnson passed away, a vault in British Columbia was opened and the watch and chain was found. It is 18 inches long with an Elgin open-faced pocket watch at one end and a rare railroad switch key at the other.The chain was photographed at the Greater Detroit Gem and Mineral Show in 1979.
This rare photo of a pristine Bonanza Creek was taken by E. A. Hegg in 1898. At this time Bonanza Creek at Grand Forks was obliterated by placer mines. It is likely that this photo was taken up stream from the claims. Photo, Wikipedia.
Bonanza Creek discovery claim 2009. Nature has nicely restored this area. Some of the old tailing plies can be seen in the trees. This location became a National Historic Site of Canada on July 13, 1998. Photo, Wikipedia.
This rare photo of a pristine Bonanza Creek was taken by E. A. Hegg in 1898. At this time Bonanza Creek at Grand Forks was obliterated by placer mines. It is likely that this photo was taken up stream from the claims. Photo, Wikipedia.
Bonanza Creek discovery claim 2009. Nature has nicely restored this area. Some of the old tailing plies can be seen in the trees. This location became a National Historic Site of Canada on July 13, 1998. Photo, Wikipedia.
This rare photo of a pristine Bonanza Creek was taken by E. A. Hegg in 1898. At this time Bonanza Creek at Grand Forks was obliterated by placer mines. It is likely that this photo was taken up stream from the claims. Photo, Wikipedia.
Bonanza Creek discovery claim 2009. Nature has nicely restored this area. Some of the old tailing plies can be seen in the trees. This location became a National Historic Site of Canada on July 13, 1998. Photo, Wikipedia.
Gold nuggets from Alaska
Gold nuggets from Alaska
Gold nuggets from Alaska
Gold nuggets from Alaska
Gold nuggets from Alaska
Gold nuggets from Alaska
Gold nuggets from Alaska
Gold nuggets from Alaska
Gold nuggets from Alaska
These are examples of gold nuggets from placer mines in Alaska. It you would like more information about this collection here is a link to a Mindat article.
https://www.mindat.org/article.php/2429/Two+Unique+Gold+Collections







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Comments

A very nice article !
Thanks a lot !

Thierry Brunsperger
9th Jul 2018 10:42pm
Thierry,

Thanks for the comment. Our trip to Southeast Alaska was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I had hoped that some of the young Mindaters would find that mode of travel interesting. It was modern attempt at following the Gold Rush Trail without the hard ships that the stampeders suffered. I still marvel at their stamina and determination. Too bad that buzz and I could not make it all of the way to Dawson.


Larry Maltby
13th Jul 2018 4:18pm

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