Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Klondike, The

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KLONDIKE, THE, a river which enters the Yukon, the principal river of the Northwest Territory, Canada, 45 miles below the mouth of Sixty Mile, and 15 miles above old Fort Reliance. The word is now applied to the region surrounding the Klondike river and its tributaries.

As early as 1862 gold was discovered in Alaska, but no especial notice was taken of it; 13 years later gold was found at the head of the Stikine river, in the S. E. part, about 300 miles N. of Fort Wrangel, and a rush was made to the fields. Fort Wrangel became a prosperous town but as soon as the rich placer diggings were exhausted, men became discouraged, owing to the lack of stamp mills and the expense of working the quartz, and the mines were finally abandoned. In 1880, Juneau, a Frenchman, with a companion started out from Sitka and traveling N. discovered gold in a creek which they named Gold creek, and at the mouth of this creek founded a town first called Harrisburg, and later Juneau. In 1886 a rich find was reported on Stewart river, in the Yukon district, and the following year an expedition was sent out by the Canadian government, headed by George M. Dawson, which explored the Upper Yukon and reported the existence of an abundance of gold. The difficulties and hardships to be encountered in reaching the location were so great that but a few hundred miners attempted to seek their fortunes there. These, however, persevered and established Circle City on the Alaska side of the boundary. It was not till 1897 that the wonderful riches of the Klondike region were made known through George McCormick, or Cormack, who went from Illinois to Alaska in 1890 and there married an Indian squaw. In 1897 he located at the mouth of the Klondike river for the purpose of salmon fishing, but this not proving profitable moved up the river till he came to Bonanza creek which he began to explore for gold. He found large quantities of paying dust and located an extensive claim. The news spread and miners poured into the newly found gold fields, and stories of sudden riches spread over the United States. Through fall and winter of 1897 the mad rush for the Klondike region continued. Juneau, Dyea and Skaguay, sprang into sudden prominence and rapidly added to their population, while Dawson City in which the first hut was built in September, 1896, in 1901 had grown to a prosperous city with handsome residences.

This section of country is not far removed from the Arctic regions. For seven months of the year intense cold prevails, varied by furious snow storms which begin in September and occur at intervals till May. By October 20, ice is formed over all the rivers. The ground for the better part of the year is frozen to the depth of from 3 to 10 feet, and the only way to get at the gold is to thaw the earth by building a fire and afterward break up the soil with a pick. See Alaska.