On June 28, 1900, Skagway became the first incorporated first-class city in Alaska!
In 1910, was declared the “Garden City of Alaska” by the Skagway Commercial Club. Fertile soil, adequate moisture, and long summer days are believed to translate into bountiful crops.
On June 25, 2007, the city was dissolved and Skagway Borough was formed, also the first of its kind in Alaska.
Located at the northernmost point of the Inside Passage, Skagway has historically been considered the gateway to the 1898 Gold Rush.
It’s located at approximately 59d 27m N latitude and 135d 18m W longitude and is located in the Skagway Recording District. The entire area includes 452.4 square miles of land and 11.9 square miles of water.
The municipality has a population of 920 (2016 census estimate), however, the summer population almost doubles.
One of the first white residents of Skagway was Billy Moore, a former steamboat captain. He believed that gold would be found in the Yukon and in 1887 built a dock and a trading post in anticipation of the gold rush. He was proven right 2 years later when prospectors began to arrive on steamships and prepared for their overland journey north into the Yukon to Dawson City.
The first part of their expedition was certainly the most difficult. Prospectors had to transport more than 2000 pounds of provisions over the Chilkoot Pass into Canada. The trail passed through British Columbia to Carcross, in the Yukon. This proverbial “Ton of goods” was required for each person to prevent starvation in the remote Yukon Territory. In order to transport such large amounts of food and supplies stampeders were required to make many trips over the treacherous Chilkoot Pass.
Once in Carcross, they would need to build a boat capable of making the 600-mile journey north to Dawson City, via the Yukon River. Skagway’s neighboring town of Dyea was at the beginning of the Chilkoot Trail and what began as a tent city in 1897 quickly grew into a town of 3,500 with restaurants, hotels, and saloons.
Jack London, the author of The Call of the Wild, traveled the Chilkoot Trail in 1897. There are even scenes from some of the movie adaptations of his book that were shot in Dyea.
Skagway’s most famous citizen is Jefferson Randolph Smith, also known as Soapy Smith. He was an American con artist and gangster in the American frontier; he died in a shoot-out in 1898 and is buried in the Skagway cemetery.
However, with the building of the White Pass & Yukon Railroad from Skagway in 1898, Dyea quickly faded away. The old townsite is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark even though there is hardly any evidence that the town ever existed.
A portion of the downtown area is designated as the Skagway Unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. It has over 1,000,000 visitors during the summer cruise season is the embarkation point for the famous Chilkoot and White Pass trails, and has 5 churches, 1 library, and 1 financial institution.
The White Pass & Yukon Route train is the most popular land-based excursion in Alaska.
There are approximately 240 hotel/motel rooms in 8 properties ranging from modern to historic, including 3 beds and breakfasts and 1 cabin-style cabin. Some of these businesses are open year-round.
Parking is available during the summer for over 250 recreational vehicles, in addition to numerous tent camps.
Our nearest traffic light is 80 air miles south in Juneau or 110 road miles north in Whitehorse, Canada.
Visitors can drive to Skagway, which is 108 miles (174 km) south of Whitehorse on the South Klondike Highway. The highway passes through the town of Carcross, which played an important role in the Klondike Gold Rush.