Cities in Six—Dawson City, Yukon

Dawson City, with a current population of less than 2000, is Yukon’s former capital and its second-largest city.  The city site, at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers in western Yukon, had long been an important fishing and hunting base for the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation and their forebears before the Klondike Gold Rush erupted in 1896.  During the peak of the Gold Rush, the hastily-built city was home to over 16,000.

Although gold mining is still an important area industry, Dawson City depends on tourism for its continued survival.  We visited Dawson City in mid-June, 2018.

Golden view.  Dawson City is nestled between the Yukon River, the Klondike River (barely visible in the left of this photo) and the Midnight Dome.  The drive up to the top of the dome is worth it for expansive views in all directions.

S.S. Keno.  Until Dawson City was linked to the outside world by roads in the 1950s, steam-powered paddlewheelers were the main method of transport.   The S.S. Keno, typical of the paddlewheelers of the gold rush era, is a National Historic Site and can be toured.

Dredging for gold.  In its 46-year operation, Dredge No.4 mined 9 tons of gold on the Yukon River.  Now located near Bonanza Creek, the dredge is a National Historic Site and is open for tours.  The devastating scars of mining—still ongoing today—are apparent  all around the Dawson City area.

Home of the Sourtoe cocktail.  The Downtown Hotel is famous for its Sourtoe cocktail tradition.  The building was erected in the early 1980s (not 1890s) and conforms to the 19th-century look that all new construction must comply with.

General store.  Heritage in Dawson City is fiercely protected.  You won’t find a single fast-food chain outlet (not even a Timmies!), nor any other recognizable brand.  Local pride of ownership is evident in every business enterprise.

Writing retreat.  Former bank clerk Robert Service lived and wrote in this cabin on Eighth Avenue from 1909 to 1912.  The cabin was preserved after his departure and is now operated by Parks Canada.  Period re-enactors provide visitors with information about the “Bard of the Yukon” and recite such famous works as “The Cremation of Sam McGee”.  Writer Pierre Berton’s childhood home is almost directly across the street; it is now a writers’ retreat.


Travel note:  Dawson City is 530 kilometres northwest of Yukon’s capital city of Whitehorse, along the scenic Klondike Highway (route 2).  The seasonal Top of the World Highway (route 9) connects Dawson City with the Alaska border, 100 kilometres to the west.