In August 2017, I visited Dawson City, a small town north of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Dawson City is known for its mining and was a hub for hopeful individuals and families during the gold rush.
Summer is a great time to visit Dawson City, the warm weather does not last long in Northern Canada. We experienced above average temperatures of 25° Celsius. In Dawson City in August there is approximately 17 hours of daylight with the sun setting around 11pm and rising around 6am.
We rented a car in Whitehorse and drove the 7 hours to Dawson. The Klondike Highway runs between Whitehorse and Dawson with much of the road being stone or dirt. We left Whitehorse early in the morning. The route to Dawson was very scenic with trees and lakes all the way along the route. On route, we noticed many signs saying elk herds traveled the area. After hours of keeping our eyes out, we finally spotted a heard along the side of the highway feeding.
We got to Dawson City early in the afternoon. The first thing noticeable is when the highway ends there are no paved roads, only dirt roads. All roads in and around town are dirt. The sidewalks are made of wood planks. Every building in town has its own unique colour scheme that helps it stand out in town. Colours of red yellow and pink are not normally colours you see on hotels and businesses in Canada.
We stayed at the Westmark hotel, the largest hotel in town. The Westmark hotel, was made up of several colorful buildings ranging in size and set up and occupied most of the city center.
Dawson City is home to some Parks Canada Historical Sites. The S.S. Keno can be found along the Yukon River. A National Historic Site, visitors can board the ship and take guided tour through its history. Robert Services Cabin can be found within the town. Detailed historical walks can be taken around the property by Parks Canada staff in time period costuming taking guests through the life of this great poet. The final site is Dredge #4. Located 10km outside Dawson this was a major gold mining site during the gold rush. Dredge #4 has been preserved and Parks Canada staff offers hourly tours through the dredge.
2017 Parks Canada passes were available free of charge to Canadians. We brought our passes with us and showed them at the Tourism center in Dawson. The Tourism center gave us individual passes for tours of each of the National historical Sites in Dawson. Though upon arrival at each National historic Site there were tour guides available but no one collecting and insuring every guest had tickets.
A site not advertised much outside of Dawson City is The Midnight Dome. This lookout point, just outside Dawson is a great place to see Dawson City as a whole and the Yukon River as it makes its way around town. Midnight Dome is located on top of a large rock mound. The Midnight Dome is used for Para-gliders and has some hiking trails.
The Dawson City tradition is the Downtown Hotel’s Sourtoe Cocktail. This unique drink is served between 7pm and 9pm in a bar of the Downtown hotel. You purchase a shot of your choice, take the oath, watch as the Captain places a real dehydrate toe into your glass and then drink your shot. By drinking the Sourtoe cocktail you become a member of the Sourtoe Club. The Captain signs a certificate and your name gets put into the book of members. “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have got to touch the toe” (The Captain).
The Dawson City Museum is a must visit on any trip to Dawson City. It provides insight into the town and the gold fields during the Klondike Gold Rush. The museum has many exhibits and tours that showcase the history of Dawson and what life was like during the Gold Rush. During out visit to the museum we toured the old trains built specifically for transport to the gold fields.
Though the hotels and other buildings in Dawson meet accessibility requirements, Dawson City as a whole is not accessible. The boardwalk sidewalks would be a challenge to navigate unless you have a motorized scooter. A standard wheelchair is difficult to navigate along the boardwalk. As well because the sidewalks are raised wood it is nearly impossible to get a wheelchair or scooter from the dirt roads and up onto the wood sidewalks. There are ramps into buildings from the boardwalks and accessible rooms on the first floor of hotels. None of the National Historic Sites are accessible for wheelchairs or scooters. They have narrow ramps or lifted doorways throughout. The town tries to keep Dawson City looking like a historical frontier town.