Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

There is one National Park site in downtown Seattle:  Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Seattle Unit.  A unit of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is also located in Skagway, Alaska.  Tom and I went visited that park almost 20 years ago, but we had never been to the Seattle unit.

The Seattle unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park was our first hop-off stop on the Emerald City Trolley tour.  The park is located in downtown Seattle near Pioneer Square.

The park site in Seattle opened in 1979 to celebrate the role of Seattle as an outfitting and transportation center for people heading for the Klondike Gold fields.  The gold rush started when some miners came off a ship in Seattle in 1897 carrying sacks of gold.  The country caught “gold fever” and more than 100,000 prospectors headed to Alaska and the Yukon territory.

The museum does an excellent job of telling the stories of these miners – their hopes and hardships.  We noticed some special stations around the museum.  I thought they were Jr. Ranger stations, and I went to the front desk to ask for a Jr. Ranger book.  But it turns out they are part of the “Explorer’s Passport 1897.”  I picked up a book for me and one for Val.  We collected embossings and rubbings throughout the museum to fill up our books.

I especially liked the individual stories of people who caught “gold fever.”  One was a woman who signed up to cook meals for three men.  She ended up setting up a restaurant and boarding house and eventually married a dentist, settling in Alaska.  Another was a young Swedish immigrant named John Nordstrom.  He staked a claim, found a little gold, and sold his claim.  John split the money with his partner and returned to Seattle.  He used the money to build two houses – one to live in and one to rent.  With the money remaining he went to college, got married, and started a store.  Nordstrom department store.

The only disappointment in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park was the gift shop / bookstore.  They only had a few books on the gold rush.  I wanted to read more about the individuals like John Nordstrom.  But there were no biographies of prospectors at all.

We enjoyed our visit to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Seattle Unit very much.  It was definitely worth the trip to Seattle.  Be sure you check it out next time you are in Seattle.

  • Kristine Moye

    I’ve known a few people that liked to pan for gold. This would be an interesting place to visit.

    • revkaren54

      Seattle was a provisioning and starting point for the Klondike Gold Rush. The park in Skagway, Alaska, gives a better idea of the hardships faced by the would-be miners. You can still find gold, but it is a lot of hard work.