During the Klondike Gold Rush, more than 100,000 prospectors tackled rough terrain to search for gold. As these newcomers focused on striking it rich, Alaska Native and First Nations communities adapted to cultural changes that reshaped their lives and surrounding lands.
This summer, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway has updated its seasonal walking tour schedule with outings that explore several aspects of the area's late-1800s history.
The free, ranger-led excursions last for 45 minutes and include stops at various locations in the downtown Skagway National Historic District. Tour themes include:
• Gold Rush 101 (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.): Rangers share details about the characters and legends of gold rush-era Skagway during this introductory tour. As guides put the community's past into context, they also stop at two to three period structures. Tours end at the Moore Homestead Museum, a restored frontier family home.
• Untold Stories (daily at 10 a.m.): The topics featured in this tour vary by the day and the guide, ranging from Alaska Native people to immigration, colonization and discrimination in the frontier era. Women's history-themed outings spotlight pioneers such as Harriet Pullen, who cooked for stampeders before becoming owner of the upscale Pullen House hotel.
• Buffalo Soldiers of Skagway (daily at 2 p.m.): The popularity of this limited-edition tour landed it on the daily schedule for 2019. Guides discuss members of the 24th Infantry, one of four segregated regiments of African American soldiers stationed in Skagway in 1899. The Buffalo Soldiers maintained law and order in the Klondike Gold Rush days, and later made history as part of Alaska's first YMCA.
Skagway visitors can also tour the Jeff Smith's Parlor Museum, former home base of the outlaw Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith. Smith directed his con men from the tiny rooms of this downtown building for three months before losing his life in a gunfight. Today, the structure is outfitted with turn-of-the-century artifacts, taxidermy, animatronics and other curiosities.
Skagway's free, ranger-led tours meet at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center at Second Avenue and Broadway. Wheelchairs, strollers and service animals are welcome, and tours are capped at 30 people per outing.
Reservations are recommended, since daily summer excursions typically fill up by 10 a.m. Tour reservations are accepted at recreation.gov; after arriving in Skagway, guests who have booked online must pick up tickets at the visitor center.
Remaining same-day tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the visitor center.
The 2019 walking tours at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park continue through late September.