Trails to the Klondike

Among the dozens of reporters sent into the gold fields in 1897 was a journalist named Tappan Adney who was working for Harpers Weekly and the London Chronicle. Adney traveled across the White Pass out of Skagway, Alaska, and was able to sail down the Yukon River into Dawson before the river froze over. He lived in Dawson for almost a year, leaving in September 1898. His book chronicling the first year of the rush, The Klondike Stampede, was published in 1900 and remains one of the most descriptive works of the period.

In his book, Adney listed these major routes into the gold fields in 1897. While these do not represent all the routes proposed by various entrepreneurs during the gold rush, they were the best known.

The Routes To-Day

Via St. Michael.

Ocean steamer to St. Michael a distance of 2725 miles (from Seattle); transferring to flat-bottomed river steamers up the Yukon River, a distance to Dawson variously estimated at from 1298 miles to 1600 or 1700 miles; the "easiest" route, but restricted for river navigation to the period from June to September.

Via Lynn Canal.

Two routes, viz., (a), the Chilkoot trail. From Dyea over Chilkoot Pass, 27 miles to Lake Lindeman, head of navigation of Lewes River, a main tributary of the Yukon, and 575 miles to Dawson; the trail used for the past sixteen years by miners entering the Yukon. Freight is carried by hand, but horses are used as far as the foot of the pass, 18 miles from Dyea. Elevation of pass about 3350 feet. (b), The White Pass trail. Discovered by Captain William Moore ten years ago. Starts four miles from Dyea, ascending valley of Skagway River over pass, 2800 feet elevation, and 20 miles distant from salt water. Beyond the summit not really known, but leading to one of two arms of Tagish Lake. Distance said to be not much greater than via Chilkoot. Vigorously advertised during the past two weeks as a good horse trail all the way.

Dalton's Trail

Overland from head of Pyramid Harbor, via Chilcat Pass, thence over rolling grassy country to point on Lewes, near Five-Finger Rapids, and to Fort Selkirk, the later a distance of 350 miles from tide-water, and 175 miles from Dawson. Available for cattle and horses, and for a railroad. Named after its discoverer, John Dalton, a trader.

Stikeen route

Starting from Fort Wrangell, thence up the Stikeen River, a distance of about 150 miles to Telegraph City (an old mining camp). From thence overland to head of Lake Teslin, head of Hootalinqua, or Teslinto River, a tributary of the Lewes; a distance to Teslin of 122 to 160 miles. None of the new maps agree where the trail is, but the route is being pushed by the Canadian government as an all-Canadian route to the Klondike. A company has charted the only steamer available at Wrangell and is taking over saw-mill machinery, building steamers, and preparing for the spring "rush" that way.

Via Edmonton

By courtesy designated a "trail." The insane desire of Canada to find an all-Canadian route to her new possessions has led to the suggestion as possible routes those used by the Hudson's Bay Company to reach the Yukon. From Edmonton a wagon-road of 96 miles to Athabasca Landing; thence by small boat, 430 miles, to Lake Athabasca; thence down Slave River, across Great Slave Lake, and down the Mackenzie River, 1376 miles, to the neighborhood of Fort McPherson, near the mouth of the Mackenzie; thence up Rat River and over an all-water connection at McDougall's Pass into the Porcupine; and thence down the Porcupine to the Yukon, 496 miles--a total distance from Edmonton of 2398 (Mr. William Ogilvie's figures). There the would-be Klondiker, 303 miles below Dawson and against a hard current, is practically farther away from his destination than if at Dyea or Skagway.

The other "route" from Edmonton ascends the Athabasca River to Little Slave Lake, thence by portage to Peace River; ascends that river to a point towards its source; thence overland by a ramification of "routes" to the Liard; up that river and thence by another portage to the head of the Pelly, and down that river to Fort Selkirk; an exceedingly difficult trail, abandoned forty years ago by the company that first discovered its existence.