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Striking Gold

Did you know that Dawson City, the centre of the Canadian gold rush, is named after a geological surveyor? George Dawson's exploration of the Yukon in 1887 made it easier to reach the Klondike when news of gold in 1896 set off a steady stream of gold seekers.

Photograph of a group at the entrance to the Crow's Nest gold mine, Nova Scotia, 1891

Entrance to the Crow's Nest gold mine,
Nova Scotia, 1891

As early as the 1800s there had been an interest in the search for gold. People wanted to make their fortunes, but during the gold rush most people ended up spending what money they had without ever finding gold.

William Logan did not think Canadians should waste too much time searching for gold. He wanted to look for resources that were more useful in everyday life. He tried to interest people in things like slate for making fireproof roofs, flagstones to improve roads and iron ore for manufacturing.

Canada's major gold discovery did not come until the end of the 19th century in the Yukon. George Dawson (Geological Survey of Canada director from 1895 to 1901) explored the Yukon in 1887. His geological analysis and river mapping made it easier for the gold seekers to reach the region later on, when gold was found in the Klondike in 1896. Dawson also sent Joseph Tyrrell, another famous geologist, to the Klondike gold fields in 1898. Tyrrell was so excited by what he saw that he resigned from the Geological Survey of Canada and worked in the Klondike as a private geologist for the next seven years.

Newsworthy Nugget

In his final years with the Geological Survey of Canada, Joseph Tyrrell's salary was $1,850 a year.

In His Own Words

"The gold taken from the bottom of the gravel often contains large nuggets. The deposits may have been formed by the meeting of two streams, one flowing down French Gulch, and the other along the edge of the glacier which once went down the valley. I am informed that a man with a rocker will rock two to four tons of dirt in a day; that one man had rocked out $2,800 in a day, and that in many places a miner could rock out $1,000 a day."

(Joseph Tyrrell, July 26, 1898)

Photograph of Dawson City, Yukon, showing people crossing a footbridge and walking along a wooden street lined with wooden houses, 1898

Dawson City, Yukon, in 1898, home base for countless gold seekers during the Klondike Gold Rush; photo taken by Joseph Tyrrell

Photograph of miner washing gold, Saskatchewan River, Alberta, 1898

Washing for gold on the Saskatchewan River, Alberta, 1898;
photo taken by George Dawson