On this day in 1896, the Klondike Gold Rush officially began when gold was discovered on Rabbit Creek, located in the Klondike region of Yukon. News of the discovery spread across the continent by July 1897, beginning the rush that lured 100,000 people to the area, propelled by dreams of riches. Gold fever drew in people from all walks of life, including Sam Livingston, one of Calgary’s earliest pioneers, who originally came to Alberta in search of gold before eventually settling down on what became the Glenmore Reservoir (his original house remains within Heritage Park).
As the mass migration of people into the Klondike Valley commenced, boom towns began to spring up everywhere. Some of these towns, like Canyon City, faded away and became ghost towns after the rush ended, while others like Dawson City, the largest boom town at the time, remain thriving communities today.
The Klondike Gold Rush came to an end in 1899 due to several factors, including lack of work in Dawson City, modernization of the city that drove prospectors, who were used to living a rougher lifestyle, away and the discovery of gold in other regions of Yukon and Alaska. Very few of the 100,000 people who originally set out to the Klondike became wealthy; the total dollar amount of the gold discovered from 1896 to 1899 falls far short of the total amount of money invested by prospectors to travel to the area. However, the money spent in the region during the gold rush did result in the rapid formation of the Yukon Territory on June 13, 1898.
Today, there is still gold to be found in the Red Deer, North Saskatchewan, McLeod, Athabasca and Peace River systems, but you won’t strike it rich as these areas have long been mined of anything significant. However, you can still try your luck panning for gold at Prospect Ridge all summer; if nothing else, you’re sure to leave with a golden memory.
Check out this video as Lauren, an interpreter in Prospect Ridge, talks about the history of gold panning and what its purpose was.
Catch gold fever at Prospect Ridge.