Dawson City

Aug. 19-21, 2012

We wake up to find out that much of the campground has emptied out. Apparently, after two days of drunken debauchery, most of the Yukonites, Yukonians, or whatever they are called decided to pack it in early. While they were somewhat entertaining, and remarkably friendly for being just this side of passed out, we’re not that upset to see the crowds dwindle and it’s a good sign that better (i.e. with electricity) accommodations would be available in Dawson City proper.

In order to get to Dawson City from the west, we must take a ferry over the Yukon river. The ferry is free and runs 24 hours, so the only inconvenience is waiting our turn as the ferry only holds about 10 cars. It’s a little busy this morning and they only put one RV on at a time so we spend a little less than an hour waiting and watching the ferry. Once onboard the ride is only a couple of minutes.

There has apparently been talk of a bridge for more years than anyone can remember, but nothing ever comes of it. For most of the year, the river is frozen and the locals just drive over the ice to get from side to side. So there’s no big rush to spend lots of money for the three months of tourist season.

Here’s Brian and Will loading onto the ferry.

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And here they are mid river.

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Here we are mid river, with a good shot of the overall crossing.


Just about to come ashore.


We end up at a campground on the other side of Dawson City which is built upon old dredge mining tailings. We come to learn that its run by a cranky old sort who doesn’t seem to be too concerned by the fact that the advertised wi-fi, cable tv, and tire repair services are in various states of “not available”. We spend a lot of time bonding with other campers over the constantly failing wi-fi. It was so bad, that at one point Brian was driven to put on his “mean face” and yell at the poor girl behind the desk until she reset the wi-fi router. You don’t want to get between Brian and the inter-webs, trust me.

Dawson City was born of the gold rush and was once the capital of the Yukon, an honor which now belongs to Whitehorse. They have tried to maintain that gold rush era feel to the town. Its somewhat successful, but we learn from a long time resident while waiting for the ferry, that many of the real old buildings have been knocked down and facsimiles built in their place.

This shot pretty much covers most of the downtown business area. The bright blue buildings are usually government buildings.

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Our first night in town we take in the show at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, which claims to be the oldest gambling establishment in the Yukon. That’s the current Gertie on the left. She did most of the singing and was actually pretty good. She was joined by a fella for a few songs. He was pulled from the audience by Gertie, but he actually turned out to have been a plant and part of the show. There were also the required dancing girls, who come on between songs and whose act consisted mainly of pulling up their dresses and yelling Wooo! I think Reen has found her job for next summer. In the picture below some actual audience members are being made to perform in a tongue twister competition. The tall German fellow on the left won and as his prize he got to remove one of the girls garter belts anyway he wanted. You’ll have to guess how he did it. This is a PG rated blog after all.


The next day we did the tourist thing. First stop was Dredge #4, an old gold dredge barge that was recovered and restored by Canada Parks. This dredge had a tour associated with it so we got to go inside and see some of the guts.

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The operation is really pretty simple as indicated in this helpful diagram.

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This is the giant rotating sieve in the center which separates the gold bearing sands from most everything else.

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This is what the inside of the sieve looks like. That big pipe on top is constantly spraying water on everything.

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The good stuff which passes through the sieve falls into a series of trays which act like big sluice boxes and eventually catch the gold and some black sand in burlap cloth. Periodically, some company men would show up, and they would shut down the rig so they could clean out the burlap and haul away the gold sands. The final separation of the gold would then be done manually by a few men offsite. Other than when the gold was collected, the dredge ran continuously throughout the summer and only required a handful of poorly paid men to run. The worst part was apparently the noise, as we’re told the noise could literally be heard for miles in every direction.

These are the controls for everything on the dredge. All the machinery is controlled manually by rods and levers tied to these hand levers.

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This is the giant motor that ran the dredge, I think it was about 300hp. They would generate power somewhere else and run lines to the dredge from the shore.

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This shot gives an idea of what things look like after the dredge does its business. It leaves behind huge piles of gravel that look like giant drunk moles have been tunneling all over the place. This is just a small taste, not much farther away from town it looks like this for miles.

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Later in the day we watch some movies in the visitor center and go to the Dawson City museum. The museum is better than expected and they put a little twist on their displays. Many of the displays are scenes that include people. And rather than use generic manikins, they enhance theirs by using molds of local resident’s faces and hands to make things more realistic. Another interesting exhibit they have is a glimpse into their full collection. Most museums have many times more artifacts than they can display that the public never gets to see. This exhibit showcased a large collection of items not typically seen in the manner in which they would typically be stored, basically a big closet full of shelves just packed with artifacts.

The rest of the day is spent touring the town on foot. Dawson City was once home to famous writers Jack London and Robert Service. This cabin is a replica, made with half the original logs, of Jack London’s cabin and food storage hut.

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And this is Robert Service’s cabin.

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There are other original buildings in town in various states of disrepair. These are part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Fort Herchemer. The first was originally officer’s quarters and the second a jail.

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An old church. I was not leaning when I took this picture, the building really is leaning that far. I’m not sure they will get the money to save this one before it falls.

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More buildings that have seen better days.

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This is what most of the downtown looks like, more modern buildings with that old-tyme feeling. And all the sidewalks are still wood.

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We notice a few other interesting things while walking around the town. I was particularly struck by the craftsmanship in this woodpile.

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And apparently I wasn’t the only one, because this woodpile is so good it has won an award!

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Before calling it a day we drive up to the top of Midnight dome for some great views of the entire area. I believe that is the Yukon river.

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Our last day in town is Tuesday, the first business day after the big holiday weekend. This means we can finally get our flat tire looked at, which ends up taking all day. It seems there were a lot of people with tire problems this weekend. Turns out the tire is too damaged to repair, but luckily they have our size in stock and we wont have to travel tomorrow without a spare for the trailer.

Reen takes advantage of our down time to catch up on her quilting projects which have been falling behind schedule.

One thought on “Dawson City

  1. Oh my, I remember Dawson City so well and the lovely drive to get there. We were cleaning dust out places we didn’t know we had. There was a a man who played Robert Service at his home that was very enjoyable and Ron was pulled to the stage at Diamon Gertties. Fun fun

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