Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska was once a lawless boom town of 30,000 who arrived with dreams of riches and then left penniless. Walk the boardwalk streets and explore the historic buildings of today’s borough with less than 1,000 people … the most northern port of the Inside Passage on the Alaska Panhandle.

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1 Klondike Gold Rush Visitors Center in Skagway, Alaska

In 1998, the Klondike Gold Rush National Park was established to protect, manage and educate visitors about the gold rush boom town of Skagway, Alaska. This building, on the corner of Broadway and Second Avenues in the historic downtown, is the National Park Service’s welcome center.

291 Broadway, Skagway, AK 99840
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2 Rotary Snowplow #1 in Skagway, Alaska

Although Skagway, Alaska, typically enjoys a mild winter climate, the WP&YR railroad needed to carry passengers to a 3,000 foot summit into the Yukon, Canada’s smallest territory, where the average snowfall is over 140 inches and the wind chill is well below zero for five months a year. This specially built engine, called Rotary Snowplow #1, was used from 1898 until 1965 to efficiently clear the railroad tracks of snow.

Broadway and 1st, Skagway, AK 99840
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3 Historic Buildings on Broadway Avenue in Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska, is a quiet town on the Inside Passage of the Pacific Ocean. Many of its 100 historic buildings are managed by the National Park Service. During the peak of the Klondike Gold Rush, its population ballooned to 30,000. Today, less than 1,000 people live year round. However, about 100 years after the last gold prospector, a new surge of adventurers started visiting from May through September: about one million tourists arrive each year by cruise ship for a few hour visit.

205 Broadway, Skagway, AK 99840
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4 Camp Skagway No. 1 Building in Skagway, Alaska

This fascinating façade with nearly 9,000 small pieces of driftwood assembled into a checkerboard design is Camp Skagway No. 1, a brotherhood of gold speculators and miners that was established in 1899 when approximately 600 men a day arrived in Skagway by steamers from Seattle during the Klondike Gold Rush. It was the first of eventually thirty camps or brotherhood halls that would be created in Alaska and neighboring Canada with a peak of 10,000 members.

253 Broadway, Skagway, AK 99840
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5 Mascot Saloon Bar Exhibit in Skagway, Alaska

During the peak of the Klondike Gold Rush, Skagway was a lawless town with about 80 taverns. After an 1899 law required a substantial licensing fee, most saloons closed including the Mascotte. But it soon reopened as the Mascot Saloon under new management and began serving its male-only customers beer, liquor, cigars and access to secret gambling rooms. In 1974, the NPS purchased and remodeled it to its original appearance including artifacts from the early 1900s.

351 Broadway Skagway, AK 99840
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300 Broadway, Skagway, AK 99840
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7 Effy Jewelry Store Roof and Mountain in Skagway, Alaska

Skagway is located in a narrow valley that was formed by glaciers within the Taiya Inlet. Ships dock right at the edge of town at the northern tip of the Lynn Canal. The borough (it is no longer classified as a city) is at the northern end of the Inside Passage on the Alaska Panhandle. I took this photo of the Effy luxury jewelry store because its roofline matched the AB mountains behind it.

300 Broadway, Skagway, AK 99840
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8 Legend of Stone Woman in Skagway, Alaska

When I toured Skagway, the sustained wind was probably 30 m.p.h. with higher gusts that really churned the waters in the Taiya Inlet. Frankly, it was hard to hold the camera. According to legend, the culprit for this strong wind is a stone woman named Kanagu. The Tlingit, who are native to the Pacific Northwest Coast, nicknamed her Shgagéi or Skagway, which is how the town was named.

315 Broadway, Skagway, AK 99840
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9 Jewelry Retailer Storefront in Skagway, Alaska

It takes less than an hour to stroll through historic downtown Skagway because Broadway, its main street, is only seven blocks long. One block on either side of the boardwalk has more retail shops that are designed for tourists. Interestingly, by the third week in September when the million-plus cruise ship passengers stop arriving, most of these stores close and their employees leave town for a warmer winter location.

336 3rd Ave, Skagway, Alaska
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10 Alaska Totem Pole in Skagway, Alaska

You will see plenty of totem poles in every town in Alaska’s Inside Passage. The originals are the craftsmanship of native clans such as the Tlingit and Haida. They almost always feature an eagle or raven because all tribe members are descendants of one of them. The poles are not religious but instead were carved and painted with only three colors to honor the dead, to tell a story or to represent a family’s crest.

5th Ave & Broadway, Skagway, AK 99840
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11 Museum and City Hall in Skagway, Alaska

The Museum and City Hall in Skagway was Alaska’s first stone building when it was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush era by McCabe College. It displays a collection of artifacts and photographs that, during an hour visit, will tell you all about the rich and colorful history of Skagway.

7th & Spring St, Skagway, AK 99840
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