September 3, 2010

Photos of the Dyea Trail 1898.

I recently found some photographs of the Dyea Trail that were taken pre-March 1898 and published in Harpers Weekly (March 12, 1898). Not much was written but here is a small sample.

"The reading public is familiar with the difficulties which the van of the army of men now seeking fortune in the new gold-fields of the North met upon the trails of Skaguay and Dyea, on their way from the sea-coast to the head-waters of the Yukon River. Improvements have been in progress on these trails, and the on-coming crowds will fare much better than did the pioneers. Although the trails now lie buried in snow, and the men who are crossing are fighting a rigorous winter, yet transportation of freight is an easier matter than ever before...".

(Click images to enlarge)



  1. I sort of see a point here...but make no mistake....IMO...the trail the 'pioneers'[stampeder's] forged...probably were NOT made that much more 'easy to conquer'.[Just a guess on my part]

    The brutal weather conditions were still were of course...the awesome angles of ascent.

    I am in the process of reading Pierre' Berton's "Klondike Fever" and "Klondike Quest".

    All I can say is AWESOME! Next to Jeff Smiths "Alias Soapy Smith"...two of the most interesting tomes I have ever laid my hands on.

    Trust me...these three tome's will alter the way you view modern life...for the better!


  2. Rich, you have a way with words...

    You are 100% correct about the misinformation regarding easier trailing by the Harpers Weekly article. That write-up was fed to the Weekly by the merchants, trail guides, and cities associated with each trail. It was a battle for dollars and to tell the truth could mean great losses in revenue. Reading Berton's books will show the very same actions being taken in Seattle and Skagway. Reading my book (Alias Soapy Smith) you surely noted Soapy himself was involved in generating goodwill for Skagway as the main port. In the Washington Post Soapy was quoted,

    "Any man in good health, said Mr. Smith, can stand the climate, and most people get fat and robust while staying up there. I have slept for weeks in wet clothing and never knew what it was to be sick."

    Exaggeration? Hell yes!

  3. Right on Jeff!

    The above photo's look like images one might see on a Christmas card or a Budweiser

    Talk about misinformation! Wow!

    How about the 45 below temps?
    How about the 70 feet of snow over one winter season?
    How about the various hundreds...if not thousands beasts of burden....not one of which could finish the journey...but perished along the early part of the trail?
    How about the negotiating the dangerous canyon and it's brutal rapids?

    The average stampeder had about a TON of supplies to haul.

    Having done some hiking/backpacking photo and accompaning text in "Klondike Quest" really hit home:
    The line of men hunched over with 50-100 lbs. of cargo strapped on their backs.They had to climb what was called the 'Golden Stairs' a 35 degree incline up a deep snow....NOT ONCE...NOT TWICE...NOT FIVE TIMES...BUT SOME AS MANY AS FOURTY TIMES!!! Yhen after reaching the top... sliding down the mountain on the icy surface...getting another load and climbing again!

    I need a nap after just looking at some of the photos.

    Good grief what a brutal journey!

    Not to mention...If others were to attempt the 'excursion' the following year they would have to climb over not just the same boulder's, tree stumps and other natural obtacle's etc....but also all the dead animal carcases that littered the trail.

    How's that for a holiday card image...Harpers Weekly?

  4. GOLD! GOLD! GOLD! The ever-thirst for riches drove men insane with lust for pretty rocks. Simply amazing...

  5. Folk' is a well presented little video from the 1950's that gives a good idea of life in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush era:


  6. I just found the full version of the above film. It's wonderful!
    I also just realized... it is by none other than Klondike author Pierre Berton himself!

    Make sure you click on 'full screen' for best effect.



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