A Little Time and a Keyboard: Following the Trail of the Prospectors in Skagway, Alaska

Following the Trail of the Prospectors in Skagway, Alaska

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Prospectors Centennial Statue Skagway
Prospectors Centennial Statue

After visiting Juneau, we meandered our way to Skagway through the Inside Passage. We arrived in Skagway early in the morning and had about 12 hours in port to explore. Our day in Skagway began early with a hike along the stunning yet at times challenging Chilkoot Trail.

Coming into Skagway Harbor in Alaska
Coming into Skagway Harbor
Prospectors used the Chilkoot Trail to reach gold fields in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-1899). During the gold rush, the area soon became saturated with prospectors and it became evident that they would not have the supplies to survive once making it to the Yukon over the arduous trail. So, the Canadian North-West Mounted Police declared that prospectors would need at least one ton of gear to enter Canada. We hiked two miles of the trail and immediately realized that it is quite challenging without having gear. With a requirement of a ton of gear, prospectors would have to carry it in more manageable amounts, leave it at a checkpoint and travel back to obtain more. So, getting it all to Canada would be extremely challenging on its own. I can't imagine how they would be able to make it over the trail weighed down by supplies over multiple trips!

Chilkoot Trail near Skagway, Alaska
Chilkoot Trail
The emerald canopy, lush moss and wispy lichens of the rainforest enchanted us during the hike. Our guide from Chilkat Guides provided us with interesting information about the ecology of the rainforest. At the end of the hike, we boarded a raft for a float along the Taiya River.

Incredibly scenic float along the Taiya River in Alaska
Incredibly scenic float along the Taiya River.
The peaceful float allowed us time to relax and enjoy the scenery floating through the rainforest surrounded by mountains. We also spotted a few eagles along the way. Our guide steered the raft, so all of the guests really could absorb the moment. After a treat of cookies and beverages, we returned to Skagway.

Prospectors town Skagway
A look into the past.
Skagway is an absolutely fun town to visit. The historic buildings make up much of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. A good way to start your exploration is to visit the National Park Visitor Service Center and obtain a map with information about the historic sites in Skagway. There are some signs throughout town but the map is more useful. During prospecting times, the population of Skagway would swell to 30,000. Now, the  population hovers at about 1,000.

The edifice of the Arctic Brotherhood Hall in Skagway consists of driftwood.
The edifice of the Arctic Brotherhood Hall consists of driftwood.
We found something to explore down nearly every alley in the historic portion of Skagway. One of the most iconic buildings in Skagway is that of the Arctic Brotherhood, a fraternal order founded to promote friendship and mutual assistance. The facade is covered with driftwood pieces collected by members of the brotherhood. While the building has been restored, 60% of the driftwood pieces are original. Pretty impressive! Today the building houses the Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Downtown Skagway
A peek at Downtown Skagway
The Moore cabin is the oldest structure in Skagway constructed in 1887. Captain William Moore and his son Ben Moore settled in the valley that would become Skagway to capitalize on the future gold rush that they felt was coming. Building a wharf and sawmill, the Moores would profit from selling timber to gold rush stampeders and charging ships to dock at their wharf.

The Moore cabin is the oldest structure in Skagway, Alaska.
The Moore cabin is the oldest structure in Skagway, Alaska.
We also peeked in the Mascot Saloon which has a scene set back to the early 1900's. A little bit of fun! There are pictures and more to look at as well.

Mascot Saloon
Mascot Saloon
Many of the buildings have businesses in the lower floors. So, take some time exploring. You will be able to find items crafted in Alaska. Definitely ask questions. Some of the stores have made in America items that are not made in Alaska but made elsewhere in the country. We also found jewelry made in British Columbia, Canada as well.

Ship Signature Wall Skagway
Ship Signature Wall 
On our way back to ship, we reflected a bit on our visit and noticed the "Ship Signature Wall." Ships leave their signature on their first visit to Skagway. Looking at the wall, we identified a few ships we sailed on and a few we were in port with. A charming little cap to a wonderful day exploring Skagway!

To know:

  • Be sure to bring bug spray. Very buggy!
  • Layers are good. We had some rain, then it cleared up. Layers are a good way to handle the temperature fluctuation.
  • Wear great walking or hiking shoes. Even if you don't hike, you will be walking a lot in Skagway because there is quite a bit to see!
  • The White Pass and Yukon Railway is one of the favorite tours giving great views on a historic ride. The railway made travel to the Yukon easier. However, it was not completed until the end of the gold rush.
  • There are a ton of experiences in Skagway helping you explore the natural wonders of the area including glacier visits, hikes, rappelling, rafting and more.
**Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

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