Saturday, November 9, 2019

Skagway, Alaska and the Yukon, Canada

Skagway, Alaska, is located at the northernmost point of the Inside Passage in Southeast Alaska. It's home to many gold-rush-era buildings that have been preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The streets are lined with wooden boardwalks and colorful, restored buildings, looking much as they did over 100 years ago. When our cruise ship docked in the Skagway port for the day we had an opportunity to walk around this charming little touristy town before our bus excursion into the Yukon region of Canada began.

Double click on the map to enlarge to its fullest to see the gold rush trails in the small box.

The Klondike Gold Rush began in 1896 when gold was found in the Klondike region of Canada's Yukon Territory. On July 29, 1897, the steamer Queen brought the first boatload of prospectors to Skagway. More ships brought thousands of hopeful miners, called "Stampeders," into the new towns of Skagway and Dyea, where they prepared for the 600-mile journey to the goldfields in the Yukon region of Canada.

To prevent mass starvation in the remote Yukon Territory, the Canadian government required every stampeder to bring a year's supply of goods with him before crossing the border. Chilkoot Pass, a high mountain pass through the Boundary Ranges of the Coast Mountains in the U.S. state of Alaska and British Columbia, Canada, was the first route the Stampeders used, and as you can see in the vintage photos above, the men carried their heavy loads of supplies on their backs. As the gold rush progressed, three aerial tramways and several surface hoists were constructed and operated briefly over the pass. 

When the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad was built and connected Skagway with Whitehorse, Canada, the Chilkoot Pass route fell out of favor with miners.

A view of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad from the Klondike Highway. The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad runs past the famously steep Chilkoot Trail and offers sweeping mountain views during its climb toward Canada. 

As we walked around Skagway we saw many tourist souvenir type shops, but we did learn of a few historic places. The "haunted" Golden North Hotel--seen in the center of the top collage photo above--is the oldest hotel in Alaska. We also learned that the Arctic Brotherhood Hall--the building on the extreme right in the lower photo above-- was built in 1899, and has more than 8,883 driftwood sticks nailed to its facade, is thought to be the most photographed building in Alaska! The club was formed by a group of gold prospectors who arrived in Skagway from the City of Seattle ocean steamer, to set off for the Klondike gold fields seeking fortune. The club was a place for miners to connect and look out for each other.

The Red Onion Saloon was built in 1897 and operated as a saloon, dance hall and one of the finest bordellos in Skagway. It is now a bar, restaurant, and museum, with also a "haunted" history. Tours of the saloon by "good time girls" are available for $10

When on a cruise, one has to plan day excursions in advance, especially if you don't want to be closed out of a popular one. When my husband and I looked at the available excursions for our ship's day stop in Skagway, Alaska, we decided to pick an eight-hour bus ride tour of the Canadian Yukon, instead of staying in town or riding the White Pass Railroad.

I was excited to see this legendary part of Canada--the historic land of the Klondike Gold Rush, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the land of rugged natural beauty and wilderness.  Another influence for me was my love of the book Mrs. Mike that I read as a young adult.  I remembered it was the most thrilling and poignant book I ever read at that time of my life, and it made me hope to be able to see the wilderness of western Canada someday. I had visited Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in Alberta, Canada a few years ago--click here to read that post--and now I was excited to see a small part of the Yukon.

We began the bus ride in Skagway to Carcross, on the Klondike Highway.  The highway links the Alaskan coastal town of Skagway to Yukon's Dawson City. Its route somewhat parallels the route used by prospectors in the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush.

The weather was overcast and misty. That seems to be fairly common for Alaska in the month of June.

We passed waterfalls that ran down the entire mountain...

...and emptied into the beautiful winding river.

At one point we're excited to see a moose running across the river! Can you spy him in the photos above?  Click on the collage to enlarge it for a bigger view.

We saw beautiful vistas during the drive ...

... of White Pass, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Lake Bennett. Our bus driver, who was also our tour guide, was very informative and told us interesting stories about the Yukon as she drove and at each stop along the way.  Bove Island in Tagish Lake can be seen in the photo above.

We stopped at the Carcross DesertIt is often considered the smallest desert in the world. The Carcross Desert measures approximately 1 square mile (2.6 km2), or 640 acres. 

We also made a stop at Emerald Lake.  The color derives from light reflecting off white deposits of marl, a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate, at the bottom of the shallow waters. The high concentration of calcium carbonate in the water here comes from limestone gravels eroded from the nearby mountains and deposited here 14,000 years ago by the glaciers of the last ice age.

We visited the Yukon Suspension Bridgewhich is 200 ft (60.96 meters) long and stretches 57 ft (17.36 meters) over raging rapids on the Tutshi River Canyon.

Along with the spectacular views at this location, there were trails, an outdoor museum, a restaurant, and shops located at the bridge site.

My husband fit right in with this vintage photo of Royal Canadian Mounties that was part of the outdoor museum! The North-West Mounted Police maintained peace and order in the Yukon and protected the gold seekers from themselves.

Our next stop was at the Caribou Crossing Trading Post where there was an Alaskan Husky Dog training camp! These are the breed of dogs that are trained to pull dog sleds over the heavy snows of winter, and also to race in the Iditarod.

There were adorable new puppies and star athlete dogs to view!

Please double click on the photo to enlarge to read

Some interesting information about Alaskan Husky Dogs on these placards.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Museum is also located at this site. It commemorates the role that the Mounties played in the developing Yukon with interesting exhibits.

We learned what it took to manage this vast and environmentally unforgiving terrain. It certainly reminded me of what I read in my favorite novel, Mrs. Mike.

Taxidermy creatures of Yukon animals in realistic poses, both from the past and the present, were also on display.  These were just a small portion of what we saw.

The scenery at the trading post was also very impressive!

Next, we drove into the town of Carcross, also know as Caribou Crossing

We unboarded the bus at Carcross Commons where 18 artisans’ boutiques, a restaurant, a coffee shop, and a playground are located. The Commons also hosts the Skookum Jim’s House, which is currently home for Parks Canada – Chilkoot office and a Mac Bride Museum exhibition about the Gold Rush.

Examples of Tagish First Nation (CTFN) totems.  Totem poles have deep meaning to the Carcross-Tagish people, representing clan stories and accomplishments.

 Please click on to enlarge photo

St. Saviour’s Anglican Church was founded in 1904. In 1903, St. Saviour church saw the foundation of the Chooutla Residential School, the largest residential school in the Yukon.

In the upper right of the photo collage is the Carcross Learning Centre, which showcases art, culture, and history of the community and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation people. It exists to help users learn and understand the culture of the Inland Tlingit and Tagish peoples' way of life. This multi-purpose facility also serves as a central gathering place for the Community.

The Matthew Watson General Store is the oldest store operated in the Yukon. Established during the Gold Rush, the original two sections building was moved to Carcross in 1909.

On our ride back to Skagway, Alaska, we again passed by beautiful scenery.

Our bus driver made a bouquet of wildflowers that she picked at each stop along the way of our tour and placed them on her dashboard.  The dandelion flowers we saw in the Yukon were the largest I ever saw!  We had about an hour before we had to return to our cruise ship for its sail away from Skagway, so my husband and I stopped in at The Skagway Brewery to try their Spruce Tip Blonde Ale Beer.  We heard so much about spruce tip beer all through our Alaska voyage, from most of our tour bus drivers, and we were curious to try it. 
Spruce beer is a beverage flavored with the buds, needles, or essence of spruce trees. Using evergreen needles to create beverages originated with the Indigenous peoples of North America who used the drink as a cure for scurvy during the winter months when fresh fruits were not available, as the fresh shoots of many spruces and pines are a natural source of vitamin C.  The Skagway Brewery beer was very refreshing and had a nice citrus taste.

I know this was a very long post--thanks so much for reading it and allowing me to re-live our wonderful day in Skagway and a portion of the Canadian Yukon.  My next post will visit Juneau-the capital of Alaska.  I hope you will return next week!

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Ruth Hiebert said...

Fascinating information and absolutely gorgeous scenery.

Dee | Grammy's Grid said...

Enjoyed seeing your pics!! Thanks so much for linking up at the #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 6. Shared.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

I love the detail you include in your travel posts, Pat. We took the White Pass train in Skagway and enjoyed it very much. I must say you chose a wonderful tour full of history and interesting places with gorgeous scenery. How thrilling to see a moose! I must say you are quite brave to cross the suspension bridge. I would not be so brave as you!

Lady Fi said...

Wow - what pristine beauty and charming towns!

eileeninmd said...


I think you made a great decision with your excursion for Skagway. You saw so much more of Alaska. Love the moose and Husky dogs. The Yukon Suspension Bridge looks like fun. The scenery is gorgeous along the way. Emerald Lake is beautiful. The totems are so cool, I like the whale. Beautiful post and photos. Thanks for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your Sunday, have a great new week.

diane b said...

That looks like a great excursion. It sure is a beautiful and historic area. We enjoyed the train trip.

Vee said...

So beautiful! That husky puppy is so darling. I, too, loved Mrs. Mike and was so sad to learn that their marriage didn’t make it. No small wonder with all they endured. Still... Course loving the book never made me want to visit their corner as you and Vinny have done. That’s the traveler and adventurer in you. ☺️

William Kendall said...

Beautiful shots!

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

I am so enjoying traveling through Alaska with you! Thank you for sharing your amazing trip!

Janice Smith said...

What a wonderful, wonderful post!!! I have enjoyed armchair traveling with youI!!!
Mrs. Mike was my favorite book in eighth grade. Later in life, I became an eighth grade English teacher and always had copies of this book in my classroom library. :-)

Jeanie said...

This looks like the most fascinating territory. To be honest, I was never all that much interested before but I have to say your posts have really whet my appetite to see this part of the country. Love that opening collage but then each and every pic is really so much fun!

Angie said...

Pat - I never tire of your travel posts - so interesting, and with super photos to boot! I can't decide what I like best, but the moose and your hubby posing with the other mustachios are near the top of the list! Oh, and of course the "athletes". Adorable and so strong! Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday!

Shiju Sugunan said...

Awesome pics and some amazing information. Thanks!

Jutta.K. said...

An impressive reportage!
Great photos.
Since I will never get there, I especially thank for this beautiful report!
My contribution ...

EricaSta said...

A wonderful Post, I enjoyed reading. Fantastisc captures.
Happy MosaicMonday.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I loved very minute of this! Memories ...and your beautiful pictures and words. And learning about Mrs Mike which .somehow I’ve missed reading ....I’m sure I can find it. (I don’t mind reading or retreading young adult novels at all.). .... You did a good job of finding the “real” hidden among the cruiseline-owned jewelry stores in Skagway. The real is there but you have to search for it. And as always I appreciate your sharing of the history....... We took that amazing rail journey independently ... a little different but most of the same stops. Ours included a meal at a miners camp mess hall ......some of the people we talked to at the table were from a cruise ship and they were worried about getting back in time (the meal was replanned of course, but it was a little slow). I don’t think those people were the adventurous type. They should have stayed in Skagway shopping. Time didn’t matter to us! And of course as it turned out the train got back in perfect time.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I learned so much from your post. Thanks for the information. Great photos - I'd love to visit this area.

NCSue said...

What a fascinating place!
Thank you for sharing these delightful photos at

Joanne said...

I'm not sure I'd like that suspension bridge but my oldest son would have loved these stops on the tour; he is a HUGE fan of the show Gold Rush and has been studying up on the Yukon for years.

betty-NZ said...

Again, I am astounded by your wonderful photos! I never would have thought that there would be a desert in the Yukon! Those buildings are quite fascinating as are their histories.
Thanks so much for sharing. :)

My Corner of the World

Little Wandering Wren said...

On my gosh I would have loved everything about this trip, I just can't wait to get to Canada one day and see my own moose! Your husband fitted in perfectly, what great pictures of that suspension bridge!
Happy hols Pat, have a lovely week.
Wren x

Powell River Books said...

We flew our airplane to many places in Alaska and the Yukon. For us, Dawson City was a highlight. - Margy

Lisa notes... said...

I would love to visit this area myself one day! Alaska is on our bucket list.

betty-NZ said...

I'm glad to see you at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

My Corner of the World

Jeanna said...

Amazing adventure and photos. I'm a little surprised by the tourist shops but I like them and hope they bring in a decent revenue to the townies. I can't imagine how tough they were making that trip with a year's worth of supplies.

Veronica Lee said...

Such a fascinating and informative post! Love, love, love the photos.

A visit to Canada and Alaska is on my bucket list.

Sharon Wagner said...

I love the whale totem and the photo of the men carrying a year of food on their backs. Uff da!

kathcake said...

Ooh your photos are so colourful!! This place looks really interesting

Michelle said...

Cannot imagine bringing in a year of food. What kind of food? Yikes! I can only imagine! lol I know I keep telling you I love the photos of this cruise/trip, but it is so true. Thanks for taking me along for the ride and for linking up!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Michelle, and all else who wondered

Here is a list of the food and supplies

The Northern Pacific Railroad Company published the Chicago Record's Book for Gold Seekers in 1897 and included the following supply list:

150 lbs. bacon
400 lbs. flour
25 lbs. rolled oats
125 lbs. beans
10 lbs. tea
10 lbs. coffee
25 lbs. sugar
25 lbs. dried potatoes
2 lbs. dried onions
15 lbs. salt
1 lb. pepper
75 lbs. dried fruits
8 lbs. baking powder
2 lbs. soda
1/2 lb. evaporated vinegar
12 oz. compressed soup
1 can mustard
1 tin matches (for four men)
Stove for four men
Gold pan for each
Set granite buckets
Large bucket
Knife, fork, spoon, cup, and plate
Frying pan
Coffee and teapot
Scythe stone
Two picks and one shovel
One whipsaw
Pack strap

You can read more about the ton of goods each Stampeder had to carry, and how they did it here:
It was a feat to do all of this, that's for sure, but it probably saved many lives in the long run

ellen b. said...

Such amazing scenery. So beautiful. Love the look of the structures in Skagway!

Joyful said...

Fantastic trip and wonderful photos to remember it by. I do love those husky pups. They are so cute.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

Spruce beer would be fun to try! So cool that that have kept the buildings in their original form. Looks like a super-fun place to visit. Thanks for taking us along!

eileeninmd said...


The husky puppies are just adorable. The scenery is gorgeous. The haunted hotels sound interesting, I wonder if the guest see the ghost. This is a great trip report and your photos are awesome. Thanks so much for linking up and sharing your post. Have a great day and a happy new week ahead! PS, thanks for the visit and comment.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

Thanks for answering comments too. It's so interesting and I know you saw a LOT on this trip. You hubby needs one of those hats to complete his look! Hugs, Diane

Lowcarb team member said...

Just loved reading about your trip and seeing all the wonderful photographs.

All the best Jan

Dixie @ Arranged Words said...

A glorious post!
I used to live in the Yukon.
Thanks for the wonderful walk down memory lane.

April J Harris said...

Oh my goodness, what an adventure you have had! My cousin is a doctor and she lives with her husband in the Yukon. I've never been, but I hope to visit one day. Your pictures are fantastic. Thank you for sharingwith the Hearth and Soul Link Party. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!