Exploring Dawson City And The Wild Yukon

GMC Yukons Ready to Drive

A different kind of Yukon gold – Our GMC Yukon Denali

A few weekends ago, I had the opportunity to visit a place that is as remote as it is legendary in Canadian culture. Dawson City, the far north Canadian jewel of the great Yukon Klondike gold rush of the early 1900’s.

In its heyday, Dawson City threw northern Canada into the international spotlight and made poor men rich and rich men poor in unequal numbers. It ruined lives, inspired countless books and movies and even opened the door to legalized gambling in Canada.

In the span of a couple years, it went from a small remote settlement to the largest city north of Seattle and west of Winnipeg. The crazy thing is that in another few years almost everyone left and Dawson City once again became only a small town.

So you can imagine my excitement when GMC Canada invited my best friend and I up for the weekend to check out the new 2015 GMC Yukons and what this small northern town still had to offer.

Even though the thousands of gold rush miners and the rows of tents they once called home over a century ago are no longer there, walking around town feels like a jaunt down memory lane. Dawson City’s dirt and gravel strewn streets, wooden sidewalks and colorful facades, and many of original buildings and signs (including a few one might deem a tad risqué) are not only standing but still being used everyday.

The classic Eldorado Hotel

The classic Eldorado Hotel

Colorful Westminster Hotel

Colorful Westminster Hotel

In reality, the town is still thriving. However, these days, it does so in a completely different way.

Now home to a small eclectic group of 1500 hardy souls from retired miners to folksy artists, one thing that binds most Dawson people is the love of the land.

Downtown Dawson City Yukon

Downtown Dawson City Yukon

Nestled in a valley, where the mighty Yukon and Klondike rivers meet, Dawson City and the entire area is surrounded by beautiful mountains and forests.

View of Dawson City from the Yukon River

View of Dawson City from the Yukon River

To love Dawson and the Yukon in general, you have to love nature. It surrounds you in ways not many places these days do. With a total population equal to a square New York City mile, the California-sized Yukon is one of the most underpopulated areas in the world.

Now that doesn’t mean that the Yukon Territory is devoid of life. Far from it. In truth, what the Yukon lacks in population density it makes up in joie de vivre and color.

The Spell of the Yukon

The Spell of the Yukon

Thanks to its far northern location, the sun barely sets in summer. The people aren’t much different and no one enjoys a Canadian summer more than the people from its northern territories.

With winters at nearly the opposite end with nights that seem to last forever and cold that can shatter metal, the Yukon people know that when the sun shines it’s go time.

Whether that’s working the land, (besides for nature, the area around Dawson is still one of the best gold producers in Canada and it also produces an abundance of vegetables in summer) or partying until most people are getting ready for work, in summer Dawsonites like to go hard.

Holding a Gold Nugget in the Hand The Yukon

There’s still gold in them thar’ hills

Dawson City Food and Nightlife

With its good selection of restaurants, nightclubs and the one-and-only Diamond Tooth Gertie’s extravaganza (home of Canada’s first licensed gambling establishment with three cancan shows nightly in summer), Dawson knows how to have a good time.

We had the good fortune of checking out a few of the towns most notable nightspots with a tasty pint of Yukon Gold draft (yummy) at Bombay Peggy’s then a delicious meal at Klondike Kate’s.

Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall Dawson City Yukon

Diamond Tooth Gertie’s

We followed that up with a cancan show at Diamond Tooth Gerties and who can go to Dawson and not have a Sour Toe Cocktail (complete with an actual preserved human toe in it) to round out the night.

Now that I’m an official member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club I can let you in on a little known secret. The nail is the tastiest part. 😉

Sourtoe Cocktail Club card and Diamond Tooth Gertie's 2014 pass

Dawson City Nature

With thousands of acres of pristine wilderness on its doorstep, Dawson is also home to many nature enthusiasts.

With the mighty Yukon and Klondike rivers literally converging on its shores, getting into nature is as easy here as walking out your back door. Stand around long enough and you’ll eventually spot everything from Grizzlies and wolves to caribou and Artic foxes.

If you want to get into nature yet stay close to town, you can jump on the ferry and cross the Yukon River to go check out the amazing views from the Midnight Dome, or even just jump on the Klondike Spirit and go for a ride on a paddle wheeler boat. There are also a myriad of nature trails weaving their way out and around the town.

Yukon River with Klondike Spirit and the Dawson Ferry

Yukon River with Klondike Spirit paddle wheel and the Dawson Ferry in the background

We were lucky enough to enjoy the town’s natural charms before we even stepped foot there. We had the opportunity to canoe in via the mighty Yukon and Klondike rivers with the Castlerock Canoe company. Trust me, seeing the town from the water surrounded by nature on all sides is a gorgeous thing.

Canoeing the Yukon River

Canoeing the Yukon River with Castlerock Canoe

Dawson City Shopping

If you love to shop, the towns eclectic mix of new and old will delight you with its many gems you can only find locally. For history buffs, just walking around town is enough to transport you back 100 years in time when the pioneering spirit made this small town truly come alive.

Gazing down Main Street Dawson City Yukon

Gazing down Main Street Dawson City on a foggy morning

Full of amazing history and hardy people, today Dawson City is definitely a great place to get away from it all.

Dawson City Trading Post Yukon

Dawson City Trading Post

How to get to Dawson City

Only a picturesque six hour drive up #2 Highway from Whitehorse (with direct flights to Whitehorse from most Canadian cities) or a quick 45 minute hop on lovely Air North, Dawson City is someplace you won’t quickly forget.

Air North Meal

Air North, now that’s how all airline food should look and taste!

Special thanks to GMC Canada for sponsoring our trip and giving us the pleasure of driving the brand new 2015 GMC Yukon Denali from Dawson to Whitehorse. The only thing better than driving that stretch of road was doing it in a decked out Yukon Denali SUV. One word: Wow.

Also thanks to Yukon Tourism and Air North. You all made our trip unforgettable.

20 Responses

  1. Renuka

    Dawson City looks so pretty, colorful and vibrant. Seems like it has got a lot of character and charm embedded in its streets and corners.

  2. Nicole

    Been fascinated with learning more about the Yukon since hearing about it from Canadian friends and watching that Yukon Gold reality TV show (don’t laugh… haha!)

    Dawnson City feels like you’ve stepped back in time and has such a air of mystery with that low hanging fog!

    Did you go gold panning while you were there or did they have that nugget kept aside to show you?

    • Charles Kosman

      Nicole, we actually got to see a working gold mine at Favron Industries. The owner, Guy Favron, is a great guy and third generation miner and he’s one of the most successful around Dawson. Ken and Guillaume from Yukon Gold actually used to work for him and Guy was hired as a resident specialist for the series Gold Rush. He was even on a few episodes of Gold Rush and knows most of the guys from both shows.

      The day we were there they were doing clean up and the nugget in the picture was found in the traps a few days before. We never got to get our hands dirty however we did get to see a real mine in action and Guy Favron owns the same MSI trommel that was in more than a few episodes of Gold Rush (the one they pulled through the jungles in South America).

      I have a few pictures with it in action and will include one with my next post in the Yukon series. It was cool to see up close but it would have been great to get our hands in there as well.

    • Charles Kosman

      Dan, the “original” toe was from an old 1920’s rum runner named Louie Linken that lost it to frostbite while escaping from the police. It was preserved in alcohol until 1973 when riverboat Captain Dick Stevenson (AKA Captain River Rat) found the toe in an old abandoned cabin he had just bought. He brought the toe to town and created both the Sourtoe Cocktail Club and it’s crazy rules.

      Essentially, when you get to the Sourdough Saloon at the Downtown Hotel you go up and choose a cocktail (minimum 1 ounce of alcohol, we chose Yukon Jack which was quite tasty) and then stand in line and wait for your turn to tackle the toe. When your turn comes up, the Captain pulls the toe out of a jar of salt, wipes it down then reads you the rules of the club and drops it into your glass.

      Pretty simple rules from then on out. Do it fast or do it slow, but your lips must touch the toe.

      Just don’t swallow it (I think they’re on toe number 10 these days and the fine is around $2000 I believe) and don’t put it into your mouth or the Captain will rip up your membership and bar you from the place.

      The toe is pretty nasty looking (and it’s the big toe) but it all happens so fast (and let’s be honest, getting in line doesn’t usually happen until you’ve had a few drinks already that evening) but it’s all done in fun and the Captains speech is quite entertaining.

      I’m not sure I would go to Dawson City just to do the toe however since we were already there and we were already having a great evening we figured why not have something to commemorate it with. Hence I am now member number 57054 of the world famous Sourtoe Cocktail Club. 😉

  3. Christina S.

    What a funky little town! I love random little places, especially when they have a really cool history like a gold rush town. The toe though? Ewwww…. 🙂


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