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The discovery of gold in the Klondike triggered a mass migration of 100,000 prospectors to the Yukon. However, the journey proved too difficult for many, and only 30,000 made it to their destination.

The Klondike could be accessed in several ways, each involving the Yukon River. Prospectors could travel downstream, upstream or along one of its tributaries. Navigating the river was shaped by the Yukon's geography and climate. The mountains and the meandering river created challenges that were at times impassable, and travelling in winter was unwise as temperatures fell below -45°C. Of the many who made the arduous journey, most travelled in vain - only 4,000 ever struck gold! 

In the summer months the Yukon River was a thoroughfare for paddle-wheel riverboats, which continued sailing until the 1950s when the Klondike Highway was built. The Gold Rush continued until 1899 when gold was found in Nome, in Alaska, and many prospectors headed off to try their luck in the new goldfields. Although it only lasted for a relatively short time, the Klondike Gold Rush immortalised the Yukon River in books, stories and folklore. 

Key info

  • Where: Yukon, Canada