White Pass and Yukon Route Railway

Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!

Klondike Gold Rush

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park commemorates the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. From 1896 to 1899, 100,000 ‘stampeders’ set out to find their fortunes in the Yukon Territory. Of those who attempted the arduous journey, only 30,000 made it to the Klondike. Around 4000 actually struck gold.

Stepping into downtown Skagway is like stepping into the late 1800s. The National Park Service manages and preserves twenty historical structures here. The park seeks to tell the story of the boomtown days when hopeful prospectors passed through in search of a better life.

Skagway went from a tent city to a frontier town almost overnight. Stampeders sailed up the Inside Passage to Skagway. From Skagway, they trekked the White Pass Trail to the Yukon River. Once on the river, they had another 500 miles to go until they made it to the Klondike gold fields.

Authorities required prospectors to have a year’s worth of supplies in order to hike the White Pass. Transients arrived in Skagway without provisions and struggled to find work and and acquire the necessary supplies. Most of those who made the journey eventually returned home broke.

We stopped in Skagway on our Alaskan cruise. Once off the ship, we made beeline for the visitor center. We watched the movie and attended a ranger talk on the Buffalo Soldier outpost in Skagway. Then we toured Jeff Smith’s Parlor, walked through the Moore Homestead and finally rode the White Pass Railway up to the Yukon.

White Pass and Yukon Route Railway

The White Pass and Yukon Route Railway runs on a narrow-gauge track between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon. The railroad began construction in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush as an easier way to reach the goldfields. Prior to the train’s existence, Stampeders had to trek the White Pass Trail on foot or horseback, carrying a year’s worth of provisions.

The route operated until 1982, and in 1988 began runs as a heritage railway. In July 2018, Carnival purchased it. The tracks run all the way to the pier. It’s easy for cruise passengers to ride the classic train into the mountains to get a feel for the route most of the Stampeders took.

Both the Canadian and American Societies for Civil Engineering designated the White Pass Railway as an international historic civil engineering landmark. We took the excursion when our ship was in port. We enjoyed the scenic ride and the narration by the conductor. Covid restrictions prohibited us from getting off the train on the Canadian side, but we stood on the platform at the end of the car for fresh air and great views.

Skagway posts

Location: Skagway, Alaska
Designation: International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark
Date designated/established: 1994
Date of my visit: June 7, 2022

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