Of all the towns in Canada, Dawson City (not to be confused with Dawson Creek, British Columbia) has the widest fame and the wildest past. Although the Klondike gold rush was short lived, tourists have rediscovered Dawson’s charms in a big way. Many historic buildings have been given cheerful coats of paint, others have very effectively been left to the ravages of Mother Nature.
Walking tours are the best way to take in the history, but you can also listen to Robert Service recitals at the cabin this famous poet once called home, try your hand at panning for gold, or gamble the night away at an old-time casino.
The year-round population is around 1,400, but this almost doubles in summer. It’s a long way north, some 536 kilometers (333 miles) from Whitehorse, but 60,000 visitors make the trek annually to this delightful salmagundi of colorful historic facades and abandoned buildings, tiny old cabins and huge new ones, rusted old stern-wheelers and touristy casinos.
Getting to Dawson City
Dawson is accessible from the south via the year-round North Klondike Highway (536 km/333 mi from Whitehorse), with westward connections to Alaska over the seasonal Top of the World Highway (280 km/174 mi to Tok, Alaska).
Dawson’s airport is 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) east of town. Air North (867/668-2228) links Dawson with Inuvik and Whitehorse, with direct connections south to Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton from the capital. Taxis and a shuttle bus meet all flights.
Alaska/Yukon Trails (888/600-6001, www.alaskashuttle.com) has a thrice-weekly summer bus service connecting Dawson City with Whitehorse ($149) and Fairbanks (US$169).
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition