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Western Alaska

Gold was discovered in some locations on the Kenai Peninsula and near the Russian River in southwestern Alaska in 1849. Near the settlement of Wrangell on Telegraph Creek gold was also found in 1861. The Russians could barely hold a claim because they were worried about a surge of foreign prospectors into the territory. They were also embattled in conflicts in other locations. This is part of the reason why Alaska was sold to the US in 1867.

Because the path to one went through the other it is hard to differentiate between the Alaskan and Yukon gold rushes. The Alaskan and Canada’s Yukon Territory gold rush is tied to the development of Alaska. The Alaska, the Yukon and the Last Great gold rushes were an attempt by an approximate 100,000 potential prospectors to go to northwestern Canada to the Klondike area during 1897 to 1899 in the hopes that they could prospect for gold successfully. In 1896, large quantities of gold was found in the Klondike and in 1897 when news of the gold found its way to San Francisco and Seattle, there was a rush of potential prospectors to the creeks that were thought to hold gold.

The trek to the Klondike involved crossing some difficult mountain passes, going long distances and was even more arduous as a result of having to carry heavy loads. Some prospectors became wealthy as a result of discovering very rich gold deposits. However, most of these prospectors arrived after the best of the gold fields had been laid claim to. Ultimately only about 4,000 prospectors struck gold. Once gold was found in Nome, AK, there was an exodus from the Klondike and in 1899 the Klondike gold rush was finished. The Klondike Gold Rush will live on forever in films like The Gold Rush, books such as The Call of the Wild, and by photographs of the prospectors climbing Chilkoot Pass.

From the 1880’s and onward, prospectors had started to prospect for gold in the Yukon. There was a great deal of excitement by the locals when in 1896 the rich gold deposits were originally found next to the Klondike River. The extreme wintertime climate and the remoteness of the area kept the news from getting to the outside world until the next year. In 1897, the original Klondike gold rush was the result of more than $1,139,000 (in 2010  this would have been worth $1 billion) in gold at the northwestern American ports.

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