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Roadtrippin’ 2022: A history walk through gold rush-era Skagway

Roadtrippin’ 2022: A history walk through gold rush-era Skagway
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 5:24 PM AKDT
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SKAGWAY, Alaska (KTUU) - At the turn of the 20th century, Skagway suddenly transformed into a bustling and crowded frontier town as tens of thousands of prospectors arrived seeking their fortunes during the two-year Klondike gold rush.

Skagway became known as “the gateway to the Klondike” as stampeders sailed in and needed to pick up supplies for their journeys to the Canadian goldfields over 550 miles away. Most of the stampeders left empty-handed.

The stories and mementos of the iconic figures of the Klondike Gold Rush are everywhere. Visitors can take a 90-minute Skagway street car tour around the city or they can head out on their own self-guided walking tours.

The Klondike National Historical Park is a good first stop. The National Park Service has information on the daily tours on offer in 20 buildings in Skagway’s Historic District.

Jeff “Soapy” Smith’s parlor is a popular attraction. It was opened in 1898 as a bar and gambling hall by Smith, a notorious conman who spent a few months swindling his way around Skagway. Visitors can hear the stories about Smith, who met a grizzly end, dying in a shootout. His body is buried just outside the Gold Rush Cemetery so his remains don’t rest on hallowed ground.

Martin Itjen, a Skagway promoter, opened the building as a museum in 1935 to showcase the city’s gold rush history. It has questionable taxidermy and odd artifacts from the era, making it the only museum of curios maintained by the National Park Service.

On Broadway, an informative exhibit shows what Skagway looked like as a tent city. There is also information about the one ton of food and gear that stampeders were required to take over the Chilkoot Trail to Canada.

A short walk away is the Moore Homestead, Skagway’s first homestead. The buildings are also maintained by the National Park Service and rangers can answer questions about Captain William Moore, the first European to settle in the area and the founder of Skagway.

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