The Gold Fields
For a close-up look at where the Klondike gold frenzy took place, head two kilometers (1.2 miles) back out of Dawson and take Bonanza Creek Road south.
The highlight of the drive is a visit to Dredge No. 4, the largest wooden-hulled gold dredge in North America. Built in 1912, this massive machine scooped pay dirt from the creek beds right up until 1966. Tours are offered May–August and cost adult $7.50, senior $5.50, child $4.50 (or are included in the Parks and Partner’s Pass).
The Klondike Visitors Association owns Claim 6 on the famous Bonanza Creek. You can pan for gold free of charge mid-May–mid-September. Buy a pan from any one of many shops in Dawson or rent one from the RV park at the Bonanza Creek Road turn-off. Downstream a ways, Claim 33 (867/993-5303) is a commercial panning operation where you pay a small fee to pan for guaranteed “color.” Hope I’m not giving away any secrets, but it’s spiked. Still, it’s good fun and a way to practice your technique.
A monument at Discovery Claim, 16 kilometers (10 miles) south from the main highway, marks the spot where George Carmack made the strike in 1896 that set the rush into motion.
The road continues beyond the monument to the confluence of Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks, site of the gold-rush town of Grand Forks, and then splits. The left fork is part of a 100-kilometer (62-mile) loop through some seriously isolated country before rejoining the Klondike Highway near the airport.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition