Thousands of hopeful prospectors lined up on the Chilcoot Pass in northwestern Canada to reach the lucrative gold fields of the Klondike region.
Photograph by B.L. Singley, courtesy Library of Congress

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  • On August 16, 1896, prospectors discovered gold on the banks of Bonanza Creek, in the Klondike region of what is now Yukon Territory, Canada. In just six months, more than 100,000 hopeful Canadians and immigrants tried to reach these lucrative gold fields in what became known as the Klondike Gold Rush.
    The Klondike was an incredibly difficult area to reach and even more difficult to mine. The region could only be accessed by icy passes through rugged mountains, and the rapids of the Yukon River. The trek to the gold fields was so treacherous that the government of Canada forced all prospective miners to have at least a year’s worth of food and other supplies before entering the region. (These supplies could weigh as much as a ton, forcing prospectors to make many trips to the gold fields and back.) Once in the Klondike, prospectors had to contend with frozen streams and permafrost—making mining nearly impossible.
    Although gold was abundant and continues to be mined in the region, few prospectors became rich in the Klondike Gold Rush. By the turn of the century, people would dismiss an unpopular idea with the phrase “Oh, go to the Klondike!”
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    abundant Adjective

    in large amounts.

    access Noun

    ability to use.

    bank Noun

    a slope of land adjoining a body of water, or a large elevated area of the sea floor.

    contend Verb

    to sincerely assert.

    discover Verb

    to learn or understand something for the first time.

    dismiss Verb

    to reject.

    gold Noun

    valuable chemical element with the symbol Au.

    gold field Noun

    geographic area where gold is mined.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    lucrative Adjective

    profitable or money-making.

    mine Verb

    to extract minerals from the Earth.

    mountain Noun

    landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

    pass Noun

    gap or break in rugged terrain, such as a mountain ridge.

    Encyclopedic Entry: pass
    permafrost Noun

    permanently frozen layer of the Earth's surface.

    Encyclopedic Entry: permafrost
    prospector Noun

    person who searches or mines land for precious metals.

    rapids Noun

    areas of fast-flowing water in a river or stream that is making a slight descent.

    Encyclopedic Entry: rapids
    region Noun

    any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

    Encyclopedic Entry: region
    rugged Adjective

    having an irregular or jagged surface.

    stream Noun

    body of flowing water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: stream
    ton Noun

    unit of weight that equals 2,000 pounds.

    treacherous Adjective

    very dangerous.

    trek Noun

    journey, especially across difficult terrain.

    Yukon River Noun

    (3,187 kilometers/1,980 miles) river in western Canada and the U.S. state of Alaska, draining into the Bering Sea.