The Golden Trail


110 pages
ISBN 0-590-71504-6





Reviewed by Edwin G. Higgins

Edwin G. Higgins was a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.


The Golden Trail is a short (110 pages) account of an important event in Canadian history that had far-reaching consequences in opening up the North. Based on interviews, diaries, and published reports of people who were there, it gives a fascinating account of the 1896-99 gold rush to the Yukon. At that time the Yukon was largely an unknown land with not more than 500 white men. Most were concentrated in the town of Fortymile in the Yukon and Circle City in Alaska, where gold had been found. George Cormack married a Siwash Indian and, together with some of his relatives, found a gold nugget and staked claims on Rabbit Creek. Under the moss and overburden lay millions of dollars in gold. When Cormack showed his gold, within days Fortymile was a ghost town. In two years Grand Forks was the new town and the home of 40,000 miners.

Other finds followed and on a fork of Bonanza Creek 40 claims each produced a million dollars or more. When the news of these finds finally reached the outside world, thousands of men and women set out for the gold fields. Forty thousand survived the hardships of crossing the Chilkoot Pass. Circle City too was abandoned and the new centre became Dawson City.

Dawson became a cosmopolitan city where every luxury was available. The rich and famous walked its streets. The glimpse of its characters leaves one wishing for more details. But its days were numbered: in 1899 gold was discovered on Nome Beach and thousands left Dawson for the new strike.

This is a good vignette of the gold rush, the characters, and the hardships. It gives a glimpse of the way of life that ended the depression of the nineties, brought prosperity to Edmonton and West Coast cities and opened the unknown north. It should whet the appetite for further reading about the great rush, the role of the North West Mounted Police, and the Canadian Yukon and its authors and poets.


Berton, Pierre, “The Golden Trail,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,