Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park was authorized in 1976 to preserve and interpret the history of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98. The park, managed by the National Park Service, consists of four units: a six-block historic district in Skagway’s business area; a narrow, 17 mile-long corridor of land including the Chilkoot Trail; a corridor comprising the White Pass Trail; and a visitor center at 319 2nd Ave S, (Pioneer Square) Seattle, Washington.
The National Park Service Visitor Center at 2nd Avenue and Broadway in Skagway is a place to begin your exploration of the area’s rich gold rush heritage. A variety of programs and services are offered during the summer months, from May to September. The Visitor Center occupies the restored 1898 railroad depot adjoining the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway tracks. The Visitor Center displays permanent and seasonal exhibits from the turn of the century, and provides visitors with information on the area’s natural and cultural resources and recreational opportunities. In 1997 and 1998 the park celebrated the centennial of the Klondike Gold Rush. On August 5, 1998, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, managed by the U.S. NPS and the Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site, managed by Parks Canada, became an International Historical Park.
The National Park Service has been instrumental in preserving and restoring historic Skagway, and supports the community in its revival as a historical entity. In all, the park has restored 14 of the 15 historic buildings it purchased for their gold rush era significance. Six of the restored buildings have been leased as businesses (look for the brass plaques outside the entrances). Other restored historical buildings house the Visitor Center and administrative offices, staff housing, or like the Mascot Saloon and the J.Bernard Moore House, serve as exhibits.
The Moore House, built by the visionary founder of Skagway, Captain William Moore, and his son J. Bernard Moore is a popular attraction. Restored to its 1904 appearance and furnished with many original family possessions, the Moore House documents what family life in the late Victorian era was like in an Alaskan pioneer town. Many free activities are offered at the National Parks Visitor Center located on 2nd & Broadway, including hourly showings of the orientation movie “Days of Adventure, Dreams of Gold”; live Ranger presentations on a variety of topics; guided walking tours of the Skagway Historic District; and special evening presentations. Ask the park Ranger for details. “Bushwhack” tours of the historic townsite of Dyea (nine miles from Skagway) are available during the summer; ask for details. Sales of regional and gold rush-related educational materials are also available through the Alaska Natural History Association outlets in the Visitor Center and the Trail Center. Call (907) 983-9224 for current activities and schedules.
The world-class Chilkoot Trail, “the world’s longest outdoor museum” and beginning of the route to the Yukon goldfields, provides a thrilling 33 miles of spectacular hiking from tidewater at Dyea to Bennett Lake in Canada (17 trail miles in US; 16 miles in Canada). Persons considering this adventure should visit the Trail Center on Broadway, across the street from the Visitor Center, open from May to September. For information on trail conditions, permits, and reservations call 1-800-661-0486.
Photos: Courtesy of National Park Service