Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 16 - Dawson City

Dawson City is one of those almost mystical places I was dying to see.  Since the initial stages of my  planning for the trip to Alaska, Dawson City had been at the forefront of all the places I wanted to go through.  I had read so many ride reports on the Adventure Rider web site, so many riders make it a point of going there and now I was fast approaching it.
Not my picture, taken from the Wiki

About 25 miles before you reach Dawson City while travelling on the Klondike highway you pass the beginning of another highway I plan to ride on another trip.  I'm referring of course to the famous Dempster Highway.  I have heard the Dempster is even tougher than the Dalton.  It's supposed to be harder to ride and more unpredictable.  

From the Wiki
The Dempster Highway, also referred to as Yukon Highway 5 and Northwest Territories Highway 8, is a Canadian highway that connects the Klondike Highway in the Yukon to Inuvik, Northwest Territories on the Mackenzie River delta.

I walked over to the bridge and spend some time staring into the gravel road on the other side of the bridge, my brain spinning in thoughts, I could see myself riding into the distance all the way to Inuvik, 458 miles north of this spot.  Reluctantly I turn around and walk back to my bike, it was time to continue, the others were already waiting for me.  I mount the bike, take one last look at the bridge and quickly leave but not before making a promise to myself that I will return to ride the Dempster.

We ride the next 25 miles alongside a river and then see the sign for Dawson City. I have ridden a little over 4000 miles from my house, I finally made it to Dawson.  We stop for the obligatory picture.

A few miles down the road we come upon one last bridge and then we enter Dawson, I let the other guys go in front, I want to take my time and enjoy the moment. One of the guys had already contacted a campsite before we left Whitehorse and he had the directions.

All the roads in Dawson City are unpaved except for the Klondike that ends at the river's edge.  We soon find the campsite, the Gold Rush Campground, how original.  We register, get our spot and quickly setup our tents.  It is only 3:15pm, plenty time for sightseeing.

I grab my camera and with the other guys still busy unpacking, I head out to see the city I had read so much about it. Right across from the campground is this magnificent church.

A little further down the road is the Triple JJJ Hotel and then probably the best hotel in town, the beautiful Westmark Inn.  Most of Dawson's buildings look old-fashioned and that's because all new construction must  follow a standard look, it's government policy.

The rooms of the Westmark Inn

A little further up the road is the Aurora Inn and then a few apartments.  I continue down the road making a circle through the back before heading to the main part of town facing the Yukon River.

The St. Andrews church is next up the road, it was built in 1901 and it has seen better days. The structure is not in great shape, the door was closed and the windows boarded up.  I walk around imagining people riding their horses to church to attend service at the beginning of the 20 century.

In 1904 Thomas O'Brien opens the O'Brien Brewing & Malting Company in Dawson City.  The company operates for 12 years and then shuts down.  I imagine this wagon going up and down the street distributing beer to the bars with the screaming patrons paying for the beer with the gold they had just found in the area.

The St. Paul's Church is next.  In 1902, Naylor collects $12000 from the miners on the creeks to build the church and in 1907 it becomes Pro-Cathedral for Diocese of Yukon.  This building is in better shape.

The founders of Dawson city and the Yukon territory.

Some of the older hotels in the city.  They are open for business but I'm not sure about the condition inside.

The riverfront stores are very colorful and you find them selling souvenirs, ice cream, pizza and at Jimmy's Place "All Kinds of Stuff".  A very picturesque main street.

I walk over to the Yukon river's edge, look at the time on the park's clock and for a moment think it's time for dinner but then I realize the clock is wrong, someone must have forgotten to replace the batteries.

Two panoramas, facing the main street stores and in the opposite direction the Yukon River.

The city has gone through 22 floods but the worst was in 1979.  Within weeks of the flood, hydrologists called for the construction of a dike.  The two meter high dike was completed in 1987.

It is still early afternoon, I'm not hungry, dinner can wait, time to do more sightseeing but that will come next....... 

Google Street View



  1. George:

    Viewing your photos is nearly like being there. Perhaps one day I can see those with my own eyes. I often look at old buildings and wonder what it must have been like back then. Too bad you didn't go inside those old hotels just to see what it looked like.

    Riding the Wet Coast

    1. Thanks Bob, this post is going to be broken up into multiples. I have lots of pictures and I want to share them. Taking pictures and not sharing? what's the point ;-)
      Yea, I should have gone in but I did see others, coming up.

  2. Dawson City is one of my favorite places to visit and just walk around. So much to see. No pictures of the Downtown Hotel? Headquarters of the Dust to Dawson (D2D) non-rally.

    1. There's more coming up from Dawson City, I haven't even had my ice cream while sitting on the dike and enjoying the warm weather ;-)

  3. Great pictures George.

    Isn't it fascinating to think what the town would have looked, sounded and smelled like back in it's heyday? Ahh to go back in time and take a peek.

    1. I would love to have a DeLorean "time machine" so I could go back in time and maybe just change a few things in the past ;-)

  4. Great pictures and a great story to go with them. Very interesting, and can't wait for more!!! :)

    1. Thanks Diane. Glad you enjoy them, my biggest problem is reducing the number of pictures on each post, that's why I'm breaking day 16 into 3 posts, yikes.. ;-)

  5. Fantastic Photos & Post! Thanks For Sharing!

    1. Thank you, there's still another post from day 16 and Dawson City coming :-)

  6. Dear George:

    If it is the last thing I do, I am going to ride up to Dawson. It may be in a trike, or even a sidecar rig, but I am going to get there. There are a handful of places that stick in my mind. Thee include any crossing of the Mississippi (which I have done). But Dawson and the Klondike are the ultimate biker pilgrimage. What I find amazing is that you guys are on the cusp of savage wilderness, and the campground was so sterile. I love the pictures you take when you pull off the road.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

    1. Jack, I will go with you, I will assist with anything. It's an amazing town. Start planning on attending the 2014 Dust 2 Dawson, I'm planning on going back for the D2D. I can't go this year but will do whatever is necessary to attend next year.
      I sat at the bar of the Downtown Hotel having a beer while listening to this old guy playing an old piano, it was the most amazing time of my life. The old wooden bar, the old fashioned saloon doors, the old piano, the old one eyed dog laying on the steps of the hotel, I had a lump in my throat. You just have to go :-)

  7. Dear George:

    If you and I are not having a beer at that bar in 2014, it is because I am dead. I want to ride into Dawson. I want to drink in Yellowknife. I want to meet a woman in Saskatoon. I want to feel the prairie wind in my face at Medicine Hat. And I want to do it on a two-wheels.

    Your blog has gotten to me on this.

    1. That's the plan then, get your trike, sidecar, whatever, just be ready for 2014 :-)
      Dust 2 Dawson, here we come. For those that don't know what D2D is, read this: