The great Klondike Gold Rush began in 1896 and within two years, thousands of prospectors, speculators and people from countless walks of life descended on the Klondike from far and wide, seeking their fortunes. Sternwheeled steamboats were essential modes of transportation for many of those who made the onerous journey in search of riches and adventure. Some miners came by steamer all the way up the Yukon River through Alaska from St. Michael. Others climbed the famed Chilkoot Pass or White Pass to the headwaters of the Yukon and took a steamer downstream to the Klondike. From Dawson City and the Klondike in the Yukon, then on to Nome and Fairbanks in Alaska, the gold rush stampede came and—almost as quickly—faded away.
Skilled officers and crews made these robust frontier boats the lifeblood of the Klondike and Alaskan gold rushes. Over 250 steamboats ran on the Yukon River and its tributaries. After the rushes, most were part of the fleets of the White Pass & Yukon Route or the Alaska Railroad and they carried hundreds of tourists and many tons of wartime supplies. The last ones were retired in the mid-1950s. Many were wrecked, while others were simply abandoned and left to rot away. Only the Klondike, Keno and Nenana have been preserved as reminders of those exciting and legendary times.
This book tells the dramatic story of these amazing steamboats, the people who built and ran them and the services they provided to a vast, lonely, sometimes frenzied and always challenging frontier. Based on countless hours of field and archival research and packed with over six hundred outstanding photographs, this book presents the fascinating history of the Yukon River’s steamers from the pioneer days of the fur trade to the 1950s.