On August 16, 1896, gold was discovered in the Yukon territory of Northwest Canada. Word traveled quickly down through Seattle and San Francisco, and it prompted more than 100,000 people to drop everything and make the migration north. While the trials and tribulations of the Oregon Trail had been well-documented, nothing could prepare the would-be millionaires for the harsh weather and conditions they would soon find.
Of the 100,000 that started the journey, only 30,000 ultimately arrived at the centre (Dawson City), as they had to manage almost impossible hikes over huge mountains -- with all of their mining gear. Of that group, 4,000 ultimately struck gold on their assigned plots, and a few hundred did become truly rich from their find. The following photos capture the story of some of the families who made the full migration.
A family that came all the way from Ohio arrives at one of the base areas along the long trail to the Klondike. Most of the work animals died early in the journey.
Some small groups thought ahead and had brought along skis and proper snow gear, but it didn't make traveling through the deep snow and occasional fields of ice any less dangerous. While many families started the journey, it was ultimately the small groups of 1-3 people who would find the most success.
Lest you think this was simply man's work, take a look at the photo above! It shows two older women prospectors who were just as dedicated to finding gold, and some of them certainly did.
Along the trail, would-be prospectors would encounter a number of huge mountain passes such as the one above, which was called "The Golden Stair". People set up small camps here and worked with local packers to make plans and ensure they were ready for the hike.
On the left, you see hikers making their way up the Golden Stair, while on the right you see some of the local people who worked as packers. The hikers had numerous breakdowns along the way, and these packers would help them re-work their packs.
This photo shows the long trail of people climbing the pass. Such a striking photo!
There was much sadness along the way, however. What you see here is a makeshift morgue that has been set up by prospectors after an avalanche took the lives of many of their fellow travelers.
Here's a great view looking down from the Golden Stair.
The hikers encountered temperatures that got down to 50 degrees below zero. Here is a picture of three prospectors after they made their way down from the highest altitude.
Those that made it ultimately made fairly stable and nice camps near their assigned plot. This photo shows a standard mining camp near Dawson City.
Here are some highly-experienced prospectors working as a team on their plot. They cycle through the panning work often late in to the night, and what they didn't find through panning they sought by mining directly in to the surrounding ore.
And for those that made the harsh journey and had either struck it rich or made enough to travel in style back home boarded sturdy boats that would take them back down to the Seattle area. At this point, they were 1400 inland in the Yukon. We hope you've enjoyed these photos!