Dawson City – Excerpt

This is an extract from my newest book called

9 Canadian Cities: Victoria to Montreal via Whitehorse and Yellowknife

The turboprop-powered plane coasted through the grey skies and landed on the runway of Dawson City airport. The people who were visiting Dawson walked across the tarmac, leaving behind the passengers who were heading to Old Crow in northern Yukon (the territory’s only fly in community) and Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Dawson isn’t an international airport, so the terminal building comprises two washrooms, a service desk with a weighing scale, two offices, and a larger accessible area that serves as a waiting room and baggage collection area. The baggage handler pushed our bags through a hole in the wall onto the carpet-tiled floor, where we picked up our belongings, and headed outside. I hoped there would be a bus to take people into town or perhaps a taxi, but the only vehicle that remained, after all the cars and SUVs of the friends and family of the incoming passengers had left, was a small bus with the names of hotels printed on the side. Luckily, one of those names was my hotel.

The landscape heading into town was similar all the way. This was the area where gigantic dredging machines turned over the ground looking for gold. They inverted the strata and buried the soil and vegetation beneath many feet of rock. These tailings scar the landscape, although occasional saplings, low mounds, and small ponds break the grey monotony. Colourful signs alongside the road welcomed me to Dawson City.

Joseph Ladue founded Dawson City in 1887 and ten years later named it after noted Canadian geologist George M. Dawson. A First Nations fishing camp called Tr’ochëk, at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, was found just across the Klondike from modern Dawson City. This entire area on both sides of the Klondike was the centre of the Gold Rush. The population of Dawson climbed from a few hundred to 16,000–17,000 by 1898. By 1899, the gold rush had ended and the town’s population plummeted as about 10,000 people left. When the authorities incorporated Dawson as a city in 1902, the population was under 5,000.

They built Dawson City on the floodplain of The Yukon and Klondike rivers. Ice jams rather than high water have caused most of the floods. In 1979, three rivers in the local waterway system jammed all at once. The Yukon backed up and water rushed into the town as far as Sixth Avenue. This once-in-a-hundred-year event prompted a two-metre dyke to be constructed, which has proved effective so far.

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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