Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dredge No. 4

We packed up and left the RV park about noon, headed up a road along side Bonanza Creek toward a gold dredge. Bonanza Creek flows into the Klondike River. Dredge No. 4 is now a historic site and run by the Canadian Parks System. We took an hour and a half tour with a very knowledgeable guide who explained all about dredges.

They were brought into the area in the early1900’s, shortly after gold was discovered in the area. All the gold around Dawson is the gold dust or gold flake kind. There are very few nuggets. The only way to get the gold out is to dig up the dirt and use a gold pan or a sluice box. All the individual miners do their mining with pick and shovel, but some major companies got into it in a big way. They built huge machines that were capable of excavating a whole river valley down to 60 feet deep, and processing the gold dust out of it.

Although the dredge was run by only four men it took over 100 men working in the surrounding area to keep the water flowing into it and preparing land for the dredge to work in. They were run by electricity that was generated many miles away in hydroelectric plants on the McKenzie River. It was these dredges that drove the industrial development of the area since they needed electricity to run and were very sophisticated pieces of industrial equipment for the time.

The dredge we toured was first used in 1913 and worked until 1959 and extracted $9 million in gold over its lifetime. Of course, that was at from $20 to $35 per ounce. Today the price of gold is about $650 per ounce so they would probably be profitable again. There is a lot of mining going on in the area, but it is now all done with front end loaders and backhoes. No one seems to be getting rich, but they make a living.

Dredge No. 4 was built in Ohio and took three months to ship to Dawson City. Some of it came by train but the big parts were shipped to the Bering Sea and up the Yukon River on a barge.  Rather than put pictures here we have posted them all in our gallery on the Klondike Loop album.

We had thought about going to the museum in Dawson City today, but decided we had seen enough in the past couple days so we stopped at the grocery store and then headed out toward Whitehorse. We passed the turn off to the Dempster Highway where Mom and Dad made their sojourn above the Arctic Circle, and stopped at a pull out about 30 miles from Dawson City for the night.


  1. Dad toured one of the dredges, while I stayed in the camper and read.

  2. I have a new appreciation for how precious gold is. Glad I only have to go the jewelry store and buy it.