The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

Finally! AK to CA – Part 5 of ? – Skagway and Dyea – Tent Towns


The trip from Whitehorse, YK to Skagway was beautiful.

I’d been warned downtown Skagway oozes tourist kitsch.  They were right.  Old buildings and beautiful views  held my attention while too many T-Shirt shops distracted.

Fur bikini anyone?  And there was worse…

The most  intriguing sight was Dyea, the ghost town portal of the Chilkoot Trail, and part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

1896-99 marked the Klondike Goldrush.  An est. 100,000 prospectors stampeded to northwestern Canada, mainly the Dawson area.   Around 4,000 actually found gold.

A handful of overland routes took folks inland.  The 33 mile long Chilkoot trail was the most direct and least expensive but seems the most arduous choice.

Folks who chose the Chilkoot Trail sailed up the Inside Passage to Skagway.  A ferry brought them to the Taiya river delta and town of Dyea.  This delta was prior a Tlingit fishing camp and the trail a trade route.  Like Skagway and all those Gold Rush era tent-towns, it boomed up overnight. I’ve read population estimates of 5-8,000 people.  In 1903, 3 residents were recorded.

Looking down a finger of the Taiya Inslet while driving up the Dyea Road to the park and campground:

A photo of a photo of Dyea.   I don’t recall tidal flooding being an issue but one large avalanche did wipe out a large portion of the town killing many residents.

A (dark) photo looking out over the town site and toward the inlet:

Looking toward the pass into a field of iris. Swaths of purple made me grin.

The Chilkoot trail crosses the Coast Range, its pass at 3,000-some feet.  The authorities realized men were dying left and right from the cold and ill-preparedness.  Therefore, each traveler was required to carry one ton of supplies for self-sufficiency.  Some ferried their goods in loads, some paid for a tram system that defied engineering laws and others paid Tlingit porters.

Here’s a famous Wikipedia pic of the pass. The men look like ants:

Today, all that’s left of Dyea are scraps of lumber and metal, a couple of barely-visible foundations, pilings from the wharf, and a couple cemeteries.  A ranger-led hike through the old town site was informative.  Compared to other ghost towns I’ve visited (click on Mining Remains on the categories list to the right) there’ scant left.

A store-front on a  mere suggestion of a street:

Bits and pieces of a warehouse where goods were sorted:

Photo of main street:

I camped there that night, a ferry to Juneau departing the next day.  That was primo bear habitat. Nervous to be in a tent, my bear spray was close at hand.  Something large and loud crashing through the trees woke me that night, preventing a sound night’s sleep.  That was the last camping I did in AK.

On to Skagway.  It is a gorgeous spot.

Looking down upon the town and harbor:

Note the cruise ship.  4 or 5 can dock there. Imagine the influx of visitors, then.

Old buildings line the streets:

A photo of “Broadway” St. in 1897. Look at those tents!

A walking tour map took me to the Moore house. Restored, it housed turn of the century furniture, wares and stories of the inhabitants. Captain William Moore was the founder of Skagway.

The original:

A yard full of wildflowers caught my eye. Pink poppies!

One helluva snow plow.  This 129 ton plow was pushed by two locomotives.   She accrued 181,000 miles in her lifetime.  Bulldozers now clear the tracks.  Once the White Pass Railroad was put in (much along the Klondike Hwy I’d just driven in on) the Chilkoot trail  fell out of favor.

Folks backpack the Chilkoot trail.  I’d love to do that.  But…would have to learn to relax in bear country.

Next leg of the journey was Juneau and a visit to a special friend. More on that next time.

4 thoughts on “Finally! AK to CA – Part 5 of ? – Skagway and Dyea – Tent Towns

  1. I think a fur bikini is something pretty unique to Alaskans.

  2. If you need some beta on SE AK traveling, let me know. I also drove from Prince Rupert, BC to CA. What I would’ve given for more time! I can’t praise the AK Marine Hwy Ferry enough as a way to see places. Not sure where’d you’d find one in a red fur bikini, though.
    ; )

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