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Skagway, Alaska – Gateway to the Klondike
The tiny town of Skagway is located in a valley at the top of the Taiya Inlet, which is right at the northern tip of the Lynn Canal, and is situated approximately 90 miles from Alaska’s capital, Juneau.
Skagway has a very small permanent resident population of just under 1,000 people. However, this number more than doubles during summer when the town receives an influx of up to 900,000 tourist visitors. Skagway has become a very popular port of call for cruise ships.
Much of the history of this town is strongly associated with the “Klondike Gold Rush”.
Skagway – Gateway to the Klondike
The town of Skagway began as little more than a way-point for prospectors on their way through to the Klondike Gold Fields. A 160 acre homestead settled near the mouth of the Skagway River was intended to serve as a place for miners to stop and stock up on their way through the ranges.
As more ships brought ever more prospectors and miners to the region, plenty of those people realized they weren’t prepared to make the trek all the way out to the gold fields. Many of these stayed on in Skagway to provide goods and services to other miners passing through. The population swelled to almost 30,000 residents and the town grew until it became the largest city in Alaska at that time.
These days, the small town of Skagway boasts a permanent tribute to the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s stands in the form of the “Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park”. There are currently 100 buildings standing, built to resemble the “Historical District”. Jeff Smith’s Parlor still stands as one of the most historic landmarks, because at one time it was operated by the town’s most intriguing citizen; Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith.
Soapy Smith – a Local Legendary Villain
During the years of the Gold Rush, in approximately 1897-1898, Jefferson Randolph Smith II, aka, Soapy Smith was known as the old-west crime figure that was the last of his kind.
While giving an outward appearance of being a kind and generous man, willing to help the poor and the needy, Soapy Smith was also a swindler, a gangster and a con man. He was also somewhat of an underworld boss, leading a gang of confidence men into the region with the specific purpose of parting hard-working men from their hard-earned money. He was shot in the famous Shootout on Juneau Wharf.
Soapy Smith’s tombstone reads: “He died for the honor of Skagway”.
Things to do in Skagway
Skagway offers visitors plenty of activities and adventure trips to enjoy. River rafting on the gentle Taiya River is a great way to experience the surrounding beauty of the region, or combine a hike on the famous Chilkoot Trail with a leisurely float on the river.
Hard-core hikers will of course want to make the most of the trail and hike it in all its glory and length. The Chilkoot Trail hike takes between 3-5 days and is only accessible by foot. The trail is 33 miles long and considered to be a difficult hike – therefore only recommended to people with reasonable fitness levels.
Driving around Skagway will give you plenty of options to be entertained; you can visit many nearby walking and hiking trails, surrounded by the majestic mountains and birch forests in the area.
Choose from activities such as heli-hiking, horseback riding, frontier excursions, sled dog adventures, ice-field expeditions, float tours and much more.
Of course, if you’re visiting during the beginning of July, you can join in the annual Soapy Smith party, compete in the costume contests and take part in the annual Soapy Smith wake.
A great day trip from Skagway is the drive to Whitehorse, via Carcross. Visit our Avis rental car outlet to secure your hire car for the day. This drive offers you some of the most incredibly beautiful scenic photo opportunities not to be missed. Don't forget to stop at Emerald Lake along the way. Once you arrive in Whitehorse you can spend a couple of hours walking around before heading back to Skagway for a late afternoon beer at the saloon and some souvenir shopping.
Avis Car Rental Sales in Skagway – Your Portal to the Rest of the World
Skagway, along with Haines; another one of our Avis Rental locations, is also part of the “Golden Circle,” which has been dubbed the most unique and scenic drive in the world.