Yukon - Charley Rivers National Preserve

History of Yukon - Charley Rivers

Where Nature Meets History

The discovery of gold and the ensuing Klondike Gold Rush changed the land along the upper Yukon River forever. When gold was discovered in the Klondike in 1897, a mad exodus from Circle Mining District, up the Yukon into Canada, drained most of the population from that area, almost over-night. Upon discovering this valuable ground was already staked, this population slowly began to spread back down the Yukon, into the area now encompassed by Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Many of these nameless, faceless miners neither staked nor worked their claims, but instead headed for the beaches of Nome—where gold was discovered in 1899. But after the expectations of the Nome strikes failed to pay off, some of the miners who had previously tried their luck in the Klondike, came back to the region for further exploration.

By the mid-1930s, the dynamics of mining had changed. No longer was it only solitary miners working their claims by hand. Huge dredges and tractors came into the country that could process thousands of cubic yards of gravel in a single day, something a single miner would take years to accomplish.

Over the years, communities developed at places with names like Sev- entymile, Star City, Ivey, Nation and Derwent. Today, all that remains of these are points on a map and an occasional cabin ruin. The Yukon River, in its heyday, served as a kind of highway with heavy miner and sternwheeler traffic all up and down its length. To accommodate this traffic, the Alaskan version of roadside motels—known as roadhouses—were established roughly every 20 miles. Two of these remain today: Slaven's Roadhouse at the mouth of Coal Creek and the Woodchopper Roadhouse at the mouth of Woodchopper Creek.