Royal Visit 2016: Carcross boasts connection to Klondike Gold Rush, Donald Trump

A small Yukon town with roughly 290 people is about to come under the global spotlight — all thanks to an upcoming visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Carcross is located about 70 kilometres from Whitehorse on the Klondike Highway, and on Sept. 28, Prince William and Kate are set to visit the community for a series of activities, starting with a traditional welcome from the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and then heading to Montana Mountain, which is a picturesque mountain biking area. There the royal couple will meet with teens who participate in Single Track to Success, a community wellness program that gets kids out on the land, before returning to Victoria.

“British Columbia and Yukon are among the most beautiful places in the world and home to many Indigenous communities,” Kensington Palace said in a news release.

“They want to help the people of British Columbia and Yukon to celebrate what makes Canada great and to showcase some amazing places to the rest of the world.”

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Amazing places indeed, Carcross may be small, but it has a rich and varied history.

Where: Southern part of the Yukon, on the Klondike Highway south-southeast of Whitehorse.

What’s in a name? The village of Carcross was originally named Caribou Crossing by miners who reached the junction point of the Tagish and Bennett lakes as they were en route to the Klondike fields in Dawson City.

Don’t tick off a bishop: Caribou Crossing was later changed to Carcross in 1902 thanks to the lobbying of Bishop Bompas, who was upset the village’s mail was going to other Caribou Crossings in B.C. and Alaska.

Yukon’s oldest operating store: Matthew Watson’s General Store, which opened in 1898.

A connection to Donald Trump? The historic Caribou Hotel in downtown Carcross was originally built in Bennett, B.C. in 1898 at the start of the Klondike Gold Rush and was then-called the Yukon Hotel. It was located near Friedrich Trump’s (Donald Trump’s grandfather) Arctic Restaurant and Hotel.

Global News complete coverage on the Royal Tour 2016

Speaking of gold: There are two men buried in the Carcross cemetery who are credited with discovering the Bonanza Creek gold strike, which sparked the Klondike Gold Rush: Skookum Jim Mason (Keish) and Dawson Charlie (also known as Tagish Charlie or Ḵáa Goox).  On Aug. 17, 1896, the men, along with George Carmack, staked their claims after finding gold in Rabbit Creek, a tributary of the Klondike. The trio of men then renamed the creek Bonanza. The stampede to the Klondike began weeks later when gold was found on Eldorado Creek, a tributary of Bonanza.

The world’s smallest desert: One kilometre north of Carcross is a 260-hectare expanse of sand known as the world’s smallest desert. The sand was formed after the last glacial period and was once the bottom of a large glacial lake covering the entire valley. Today, the sand mainly comes from nearby Bennett Lake, carried by the wind.

The historic and haunted Caribou Hotel: After the gold rush, the Caribou Hotel was floated down Lake Bennett to Carcross in 1901 by then-owner W.A. Anderson, who renamed it The Anderson Hotel. In Jan. 1903, the hotel was sold for a reported $9,000 to “Dawson Charlie” (more on him below), who did an extensive amount of renovations and renamed it the Caribou Hotel.

After Charlie’s death in 1908, Edwin and Bessie Gideon rented it from Charlie’s estate but shortly after they took it over, the hotel burned down. It was rebuilt and re-opened in 1910. Bessie Gideon died in Oct. 1933 and since her death, it has been said she haunts the hotel.

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There have been reports of doors being slammed, floors creaking and sightings of Bessie, mostly on the third floor. She has been seen putting bubbles in the bathtub, knocking or banging on floorboards and looking out the windows. It’s such a long-standing ghost story that in Sept. 2015, Canada Post recognized the Caribou Hotel’s resident ghost in their ‘Haunted Canada’ stamp series.

A once-mighty rail hub: In 1898, the community became an important stopping point for the White Pass & Yukon Railway. Construction on the railway was completed on July 29, 1900 and commemorated with a hammered-in gold spike. The community kept its rail depot until the station’s closure in 1982. Now the old station is used in the summer months by White Pass and Yukon Route for scenic rail excursions.


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