Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
319 2nd Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104
Tuesday – Sunday: 10AM-5PM
Discover “The Gateway to the Gold Fields” of Canada’s Yukon Territory at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The museum offers an overview of the Klondike Gold Rush while highlighting how Seattle becomes the main provision and departure point for ambitious miners. Read the newspaper coverage that launched the rush. Shop a 1890s Seattle store to provision. Huddle in a model miner’s cabin. Even pan for your own gold.
Seattle’s Klondike Gold Rush History
Visitor’s to Seattle, Washington may first think of the Space Needle, Fish Market, or Starbucks when considering the iconic Pacific Northwest city. Yet, much of what it has become can be attributed to an event over 1000 miles north of the port city and over a century ago.
In 1897, Seattle is in the middle of a depression after the Panic of 1893. Failed investments in Argentina, South Africa, and Australia and a crash in wheat prices lead to a run on gold in the U.S. Treasury. Across America, 500 banks close, 15,000 businesses fail, farms collapse, and cities falter. Seattle, like the rest of the county, suffers high unemployment and economic instability. Until July 17th, 1897, that is, with the arrival of the steamship S.S.Portland. Sixty-eight prospectors and “a ton of gold” from the Yukon Territory in Canada arrive in Seattle.*
The newspapers announce the Klondike gold strike and thousands of prospective miners depart for the mountainous gold fields of the Yukon Territory. Yet, the trip is not so simple. The Klondike is a cold, distant, wilderness. Anything that these prospective gold miners intend to use on their journey or in the gold fields, they will have to bring with them.
Seattle merchants recognize a different kind of gold and immediately begin marketing the port city as “The Gateway to the Gold Fields.” Out of an estimated 70,000 Klondike stampeders, between 30,000 and 40,000 provision for their journey in Seattle. Business from ambitious miners and the returning wealth from the Klondike transforms Seattle into the anchor city of the Pacific Northwest.
Visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
This pivotal time in Seattle’s history is highlighted at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Seattle Unit. As the name suggests, this museum has a sister site in Skagway, Alaska, where many ambitious miners landed on their way to the Klondike gold fields in the Yukon Territory of Canada. The Seattle branch gives an overview of the Klondike Gold Rush while highlighting how Seattle became the main provision and departure point for ambitious miners.
The Museum is housed in historic downtown Seattle at the former Cadillac Hotel. This structure was built after the 1889 fire that destroyed much of the city’s commercial district. Today, it is host to 65,000 annual visitors to the National Historic Park.
The relatively small museum is carefully curated to set the scene for the Klondike Gold Rush, introduce the Stampeders who risk everything for a chance at wealth, and the explain widespread effects of the newfound wealth. When visiting, be sure to watch a 25 minute introductory video—either Gold Fever: Race to the Klondike or Seattle; Gateway to the Gold Fields. Both short films introduce visitors to the opportunities and challenges offered by Klondike. Then wander the exhibits featuring newspaper’s announcing the Klondike gold strike, a 1890s Seattle shop, a model miner’s cabin, mining equipment, assaying artifacts, and an interactive panning exhibit.
*A similar ship of wealthy prospectors had just arrived in San Francisco two days before.