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It’s Discovery Day in the Yukon!

August 17, 2020 Visit USA No Comments Email Email

Brush up on your gold rush history and celebrate the day that started it all! August 16 marks Yukon Discovery Day, where the whole territory remembers that fateful day back in 1896 when four Yukoners from the Carcross/Tagish region, George Carmack, Kate Carmack, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie, stumbled upon rich deposits of precious Yukon gold.

As the news spread, almost one hundred thousand stampeders soon followed. Dawson City boomed as its population exploded and over a million dollars of gold passed through it. Fortunes were made and lost in the “Paris of the North.”

While the prospectors may have moved on, the merrymaking certainly hasn’t. Discovery Day is faithfully celebrated on the third Monday in August, with 2021 marking the 125th anniversary of this special event.

It holds great significance for the First Nations people of Yukon, as they remember George and Kate Carmack, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie as some of the first known Indigenous people to successfully straddle the worlds of both white and First Nations people.

First Nations people have dwelled in Yukon Territory for thousands of years and were greatly impacted by the gold rush. Today, about one quarter of all Yukoners are of aboriginal ancestry, belonging to one of fourteen distinct First Nations, and travellers to Yukon have the opportunity to learn about their rich, thriving culture and traditions.

Each year, Discovery Day festivities take place over a weekend in Dawson City. In years gone by, festivities included the Discovery Day Parade, live music, face painting, poker tournaments, writing competitions and can-can demonstrations by the dancers at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall.

Social distancing will be observed this year but not even a pandemic can dampen the spirit of the Klondike. Click here for this year’s entertainment schedule. We can’t visit the Yukon right now, but as you plan your next adventure in this wild northern territory, be sure to include these immersive cultural and outdoor experiences:

 

Live the culture
Take a guided tour or experience a campfire talk in a territorial or national park with an aboriginal who has generations of knowledge to share. Take a guided interpretive hike in Tombstone Territorial Park and stumble on to old hunting blinds, stone tools, and even cemeteries created by the Tr’ondëk Hwëchen whose history traces back thousands of years. Enjoy a nightly campfire talk on area wildlife and traditional practices given by an elder of the Champagne Aishihik First Nations at majestic Kathleen Lake Campground in Kluane National Park and Preserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), near Haines Junction.

Pan for gold
Gold Bottom Mine Tours offers the only authentic operating placer gold mine tour in the Klondike. Learn the art of panning in the creek and listen to the incredible stories about life in the goldfields. Now that you’re an authentic prospector, make your own golden dreams come true at Free Claim #6 where you can try your luck. Visitors are welcome to bring their own pan and take away whatever they find. Spend your winnings at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, a local gambling hall and entertainment venue in a historic building in downtown Dawson City. Catch one of three nightly can-can shows and get the real turn-of-the-century Gold Rush experience.

 

Witness the dancing aurora borealis
Yukon’s pitch-black winter sky offers the perfect backdrop for the world’s most spectacular light show. Tour operators throughout Yukon offer unique ways to experience this awe-inspiring phenomenon. Soak in an outdoor hot tub as you watch the neon lights dance across the sky harmonising with the view of surrounding mountains, keep warm around a campfire, or take a dogsled ride out to a secret spot for the best view in the house. Better still, soar within the aurora oval with Aurora 360 and enjoy eye-level viewing of the lights on a private chartered flight, the only experience of its kind in North America.

Take a road trip
Yukon’s Alaska Highway nudges alongside the UNESCO site of Kluane National Park, a staggering collection of Canada’s five tallest mountains and the largest ice-fields outside the North and South poles. The Dempster Highway takes you far off the beaten track along an unsealed road that passes through diverse geological terrain through the iconic Tombstone Territorial Park, and on past the Arctic Circle to Canada’s northern coast. In fact, it’s the only way in Canada to cross the Arctic Circle by road – a bucket-list road trip for sure!

Take a hike
Make the most of this incredible wilderness destination that’s begging to be explored. Hike the iconic trails, including the Chilkoot and Cottonwood, across mountains and alongside rivers, each one alive with history and resplendent with flora and fauna, flourishing under hours of intense sunlight during summer. Visit yukonhiking.ca for information on self-guided hiking.

 

Educate yourself: First Nations cultural centres
Yukon is home to some of Canada’s most informative cultural centres, perfect for viewing rare artefacts and ancient forms of transport, as you wrap your brain around the different cultures and stories of the indigenous people. Dawson City Museum tackles some of the history of the local Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people up until the time of the fur trade and eventual gold rush. A permanent exhibit of traditional First Nations bead work, tools and trade goods can be found at the MacBride Museum of Yukon History, in capital city Whitehorse.

The Northern Tutchone people of today and yesteryear are celebrated at the Tagé Cho Hudän Interpretive Centre in Carmacks, and the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre in Dawson City displays the culture and traditions of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people. Alternatively, learn about the Vuntut Gwitchin people, the most northern community in the territory, as you close your eyes and listen to the audio recordings of the elders share their traditional stories at the John Tizya Centre in remote Old Crow, Yukon’s only town situated above the Arctic Circle. And in Whitehorse, at the Kwanlin Dun Centre, celebrate the heritage and contemporary way of life of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation people.

Explore the lands and customs of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations people at Da Kų Cultural Centre in Haines Junction. Get to know the vibrant language and traditional artwork and lose yourself in a bygone era as you listen to stories around a campfire during a guided tour.

For more information about Yukon visit www.travelyukon.com.

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