In 1896, the Yukon was forever changed when a group of mining hopefuls struck gold. Their find marked the beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush. 125 years ago, 100,000 people raced toward the Great White North in search of riches. To mark the anniversary, the Royal Canadian Mint has released collectible coins in limited quantities. Own a piece of history with a keepsake set, coin rolls, or gold and silver coins Canadians will cherish for years to come. Your gold rush coins will have you eager to learn more about this frenzied time. Here is just a snapshot of the event that changed our history.
While panning for gold at Rabbit Creek, Jim “Skookum” Mason, Kate Carmack, Dawson Charlie, and George Carmack made the discovery of a lifetime. The chunk of treasure found that day would set off the Klondike Gold Rush. This iconic scene is depicted on the reverse of the $1 commemorative coin. A year later, news of Yukon gold reached the United States. Thousands of men quickly abandoned their lives in search of glory and fortune. Rabbit Creek later became known as “Bonanza Creek” once the hordes descended.
Gold seekers, or “stampeders,” as they became known, needed supplies for their journey. Most were novices who had little knowledge of mining or the Canadian wilderness. To protect stampeders, the North-West Mounted Police created a list of essential equipment. The supplies weighed about one ton and were required to cross the Canadian border. Many travelled to the goldfields by land with their supplies in tow. Two popular land trails emerged: White Pass and Chilkoot Trail.
- White Pass was steep, muddy, and narrow. Animals were often overloaded with gear, and many weren’t able to complete the trek. Roughly 3,000 horses became stuck in the mud and died. The trail later became known as the Dead Horse Trail.
- Chilkoot Trail was the most direct land route. It included a steep hike up a snowy, icy mountain. Animals could not make this trip, leaving men to carry supplies themselves. Stampeders made multiple trips up and down the icy path with their gear. This section of the path became known as “the golden staircase.” Those who travelled Chilkoot Trail faced harsh winter conditions. They camped in crude shelters without sanitation, which led to disease and death.
Many found the trip too difficult and turned back along the way. Others died in pursuit of the wealth and prosperity they’d been promised. Only 30,000 stampeders made it to Dawson City. The sight of Moosehide Slide (a steep hill whose face is carved by an ancient landslide) signaled an end to their journey. It was a symbol of hope and relief. The previously tranquil area was soon overrun with stampeders. Stampeders not only brought new diseases but also casual drinking and alcoholism. Chief Isaac of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in feared his people would be influenced by the newcomers. He soon moved the tribe downriver, though he worried distance wouldn’t save their traditions. Chief Isaac was determined to keep the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in legacy alive. He entrusted the tribes’ songs and dances to the First Nations people of Alaska. A Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in symbol for Moosehide Slide is memorialized on the collectible coins. Two versions of the commemorative loon dollar are available. One version of the coin comes struck in the classic golden hue of the loon dollar. Its counterpart is a stunning selectively coloured rendition of the scene, with the symbol for Moosehide Slide in red. The same design as on the loonies is also available on a $200 face value pure gold coin, while a concave, pan-shaped silver coin with selective gold plating memorializes the swirling dreams of the stampeders.
A single lucky find sparked the Klondike Gold Rush. Roughly 100,000 hopefuls attempted the harrowing journey north. Many died and most went home empty-handed. The gold rush perpetually changed Canada’s land and one of its First Peoples. Such an important time in history deserves to be remembered. Colonial Acres Coins is proud to commemorate this moment in time. These keepsake coins are sure to ignite a desire to learn more about Canada’s history. Visit our website to secure a piece of golden history you’ll treasure forever.