16 October 2010

Klondike Gold Rush & the All-American Route, Pt 1

The Yukon Territory and the old Territory of Alaska were tied together primarily by gold. The first major population surge into the north country was spurred by the Klondike gold rush. This in turn brought about the White Pass and Yukon Railway and the short-lived Klondike Mines Railway.

More than that, the rush brought about the push that resulted in the "All-American route" into the interior. This was the infamous Valdez Glacier-to-Klutina Glaicer route to what is now Copper Center where I live. It was probably the toughest gold route ever, lasting only one season--long enough to kill off plenty of people and discourage many more.

But among the handful that finally made it into the Copper Valley, some of those went on to seek out Chief Nicolai and eventually secure the famous Nicolai copper lode claim that ultimate resulted in the formation of the world-wide copper conglomerate known as Kennecott--the theme of my Phase I project.

The Yukon remains prime mining territory in its own right, but because of its relative isolation and lack of infrastructure, including a first class railroad line--or any railroad line for that matter--it languishes to this day, almost wholly dependent now upon summertime tourism. 

Early Map Showing the Path up the Valdez Glacier:  The "All-American Route"

The 45 mile route up the Valdez Glacier required ascending the Chugach Summit at nearly 5,000 feet, then ascending another glacier before reaching  Klutina Lake.   Travel on the glacier was only safe during winter when snow cover over the glacier was packed and hard, but it also meant the traveler was subject to frequent storms and the occasional avalanche. Additionally, those ever-present exceedingly deep crevices meant certain death for any who fell through.  Three thousand five hundred attempted the trip. Less than a tenth of that number actually made it all the way through to Copper Center, and many of those died of survey. Most of those who attempted the glacial crossing turned back and returned to the states. (Click map for larger image).

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