Tuesday, May 8, 2012

We're Here ! -- Now What??? by Jennifer Jakes

So as promised, I'm continuing the post about the YUKON or KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH of 1897-1899. Today we're talking about the routes the men and women had to take - carrying their heavy loads of supplies listed last month.

Most prospectors landed in either the port of Dyea (Alaska) or Skagway (Alaska). They could then take either the Chilkoot or the White Pass trails to the Yukon River. Then they would sail down-stream to the Klondike *We'll discuss water travel next time. If the men landed in winter, then the freezing rivers meant they didn't get to the gold fields until summer. Out of nearly 100,000 gold seekers, only between 30,000 and 40,000 of the stampeders made it to the Klondike.
Waiting for spring thaw at Bennett Lake, 1898
The people who landed at Skagway had to make their way over White Pass before traveling to Bennett Lake. The trail started with a gentle-enough slope, but it progressed over several mountains with narrow paths, the wider parts covered with boulders and sharp rocks. So many of the horses that were used to help carry all the supplies died, the men named the ravine area Dead Horse Gulch, and the route Dead Horse Trail. But what if you couldn't afford a horse? Especially if you'd heard the stories of Dead Horse Trail! Well, men divided up their belongings into bundles that could be carried -- or into heavier loads that could still be pulled by hand on a sled. But no way was 1 man pulling or carrying the 1000 lbs of supplies. So what did he do? He walked back and forth, moving a little at a time. A prospector would end up making about thirty round trips, a distance of at least 2,500 miles before he had moved all of his supplies over the pass and to the end of the trail.
Those whose ship made port at Dyea traveled the Chilkoot Trail. They had to cross the Chilkoot Pass to reach Lake Lindemann, which fed Lake Bennett located at the head of the Yukon River. Chilkoot Pass was higher than the White Pass, but for whatever reason, more people used it.The trail passed up through camps until it reached a flat ledge. This was just before the main climb; beyond this point the route was too steep for animals. (Makes me wonder what they did with their horses if they had them?) Anyway, this point was known as the Scales, where supplies were weighed before stampeders could enter Canada. (Customs, anyone? Do you have anything to claim?) It could take as much as a whole day to climb the 1,000 feet of the pass, back and forth, carrying small bundles or pulling your sled. Packers were men you could pay to carry or help carry your supplies. . But....they could charge up to $1 * $27 now* PER POUND !!

Avalanches were common up in the mountains. On April 3, 1898, an avalanche claimed the lives of more than 80 people travelling over Chilkoot Pass.
Next time we'll talk about the various other land routes and the sometimes deadly water routes to the GOLD!!!
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