Golden Days in Dawson City

When we got into Dawson on Sunday August 19, it happened to be the final day of the Riverside Arts Festival. Live musicians played throughout the afternoon by the waterfront next to an artists’ market. The galleries were all open, including some pop-ups in abandoned dilapidated buildings.

Live music at the Riverside Arts Festival. The view of the river is blocked by a large dike, which was built after Dawson flooded five times.
Exhibit from Bennie Allain in Ruby’s, an old brothel.

That night The Sadies played at the Palace Grand Theatre, closing out the festival. While the theatre was set up with rows of seats at the beginning, they were quickly shoved aside in the first song to make space for the growing dance floor. The band was excellent and played three 5-song encores to wrap up their 3.5 hour set.

Palace Grand Theatre.

On Monday we attempted to hike up the Midnight Dome, the hill next to town named for the summer solstice gatherings. After a wrong turn, a backtrack, and then intimidation from the narrow and steep rocky path, we decided to drive to the summit instead.

The Ninth Ave Trail features rusting cans and trash leftover from the gold rush.
Some dudes offer parasailing from the summit of Midnight Dome. Below, the Klondike River joins the muddier/siltier Yukon River.

That afternoon we dropped into the Dawson City museum, whose mannequins seem to be based on modern day townspeople, with hands cast from other modern day townspeople. This was never fully explained. Otherwise, it provided a good history of the gold rush and the mining strategies.

“Karsten Hanson, whose hands are featured, is a retired heavy equipment operator.”

For a town of 1400 people, Dawson has an incredible number of drinking establishments. Monday night we walked into the Downtown Hotel, home of the Sour-toe Cocktail (a shot with a supposedly authentic human toe) but promptly walked out, turned off by the large crowd of grey-haired tourists waiting for their turn with the toe. Our tourist destination of choice for the night was Diamond Tooth Gerties, where we saw the impressive 10pm and midnights can-can shows. In between dances, we grabbed drinks at the Westminster Hotel (AKA “the pit”) and Bombay Peggy’s. After all this, we grabbed a slice of pizza. Even the tiny city of Dawson has pizza for drunks until 2am, 7 days a week.

The cast at Diamond Tooth Gerties.


Today we visited the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre and learned about the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in first nation. The term Klondike was introduced when some early white visitors misheard the name Tr’ondëk. The group occupied this area, where the Klondike and Yukon rivers meet, for thousands of years. Not long after gold was discovered here in 1896, Chief Isaac moved his people downstream to Moosehide to avoid the overflow of stampeders. The cultural centre is the only building in the city that is exempted from a bylaw requiring structures to resemble those of the gold rush era. Also, today there was free bannock!


Slanty shanty.


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