Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Historical Insights Klondike Gold Rush

Men and women alike made the journey to the Klondike River Region—by 1898, eight percent of the population was female. Many women panned for gold themselves, but most helped with the daily chores in prospector camps. 1897, Canada. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Klondike Gold Rush

In 1896 more than 100,000 people set out to seek their fortunes in the Yukon when gold was discovered in the Klondike River.

In August 1896, three men discovered gold in Rabbit Creek, a branch of Canada’s Klondike River, and gold fever quickly swept through North America and abroad. In just two years, Dawson City transformed from a sleepy camp of 400 to a booming town of more than 30,000. But the harsh conditions slowed would-be prospectors in their pursuit: out of 100,000 only a third would complete the journey. They trekked over mountains, through wilderness, or by boat across the icy Lynn Canal in Alaska. Thousands made the mistake of leaving in the fall, just before winter’s heavy snowfall. Authorities suggested at least one ton of food—a year’s supply—was necessary for the trip, and required “Stampeders” to weigh their goods at the Chilkoot Pass. If not by gold, survivors made their fortune running shops, saloons, and lodges at high rates because of the demand. Klondike fever was strong enough to draw an “endless procession, coming and going” through the mountains, risking it all in hopes of wealth.