DAWSON CITY

For many people, coming to the Yukon means coming to Dawson City.

Located in the heart of the Klondike, Dawson is one of the most recognizable places in the territory.

Known for the Klondike Gold Rush with its colourful history and unforgettable characters, Dawson is a town just waiting to be explored.

Who amongst us hasn’t walked the dusty streets and not imagined going back to a time when Dawson was an American-style frontier town with dance halls, theatres and saloons? At the height of the Klondike Gold Rush, Dawson was the largest Canadian city west of Winnipeg with a population of 30,000.

The Dawson City Visitor Information Centre (VIC) sits on the site of the former Alaska Commercial Company trading post built in 1897. At the time, it was the largest trading post on the Yukon River.

Following its demise by fire in 1951, a replica of the original building was constructed in the 1980s.

The Yukon Government and Parks Canada share the facility, and welcome visitors asking questions about the Klondike immortalized in the writings of Robert Service, Jack London and Pierre Berton.

Peggy Amendola, Dawson City Visitor Information Centre supervisor says, “The great community spirit personified by the Dawson VIC team stems from the staff, all born and raised in Dawson City.

“We dress in historical period clothing that gives authenticity to the visitor experience.

“We are all active in the community, whether it’s camping, canoing, hiking, biking or the arts scene.”

The team also gives back to the community by volunteering at a number of events from the International Gold Show to the Dawson City Music Festival, Canada Day celebrations and participating in the Annual Dawson City Women’s Shelter Triathlon.

Amendola says some visitors make their way to Dawson because of family lore that has preserved the stories about relatives who set out for the Klondike, hoping to find gold.

Others come seeking information on the building of the Alaska Highway because they had a military family member stationed in the Yukon during its construction. Others still, are looking to travel the Dempster Highway and hike in the Tombstone Mountains, seeking the solitude of nature as only Tombstone can offer.

Open seven days a week during the summer months and with services offered in English and French, the Dawson City VIC “A-team” understand how important it is to help people succeed with their own quest for discovery.

“We have met people who worked on Dredge #4 located on Bonanza Creek and have brought their photos to share with us,” says Amendola.

The Dawson City VIC team has earned several Golden Host nominations with Peggy Amendola, herself, winning the Golden Host Award in 2001.

Across the street from the Dawson VIC, travellers can visit the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Cultural Centre and the Northwest Territories Information Centre. Other Klondike attractions include the Dawson City Museum, Parks Canada Tours and the S.S. Keno National Historic Site of Canada.

While it is said that Robert Service and Jack London didn’t stay long in the Klondike, they built their reputations on the stories and the characters coming out of the Gold Rush.

Alicia Debreceni and Karen Keeley are communication officers with the Department of Tourism and Culture. This summer series will introduce readers to the Visitor Information Centres throughout the Yukon.

PHOTO: GABRIELA SGAGA