Hougen Group

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Five miners and a woman pose by one of the gravel dumps on No. 17 Below, Bear Creek. Date: ca. 1901. Yukon Archives. Adams & Larkin fonds, #9074.

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Miners pose with shovels near a sluice box on No. 13, Bear Creek. Date: ca. 1901. Yukon Archives. Adams & Larkin fonds, #9054.

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Gold dredge at Bear Creek. Date: ca. 1920. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #7074.

Bear Creek

It was the largest industrial complex the Yukon had ever seen. This operation, near the mouth of a little Klondike Valley Creek, was home base for one of the world's richest gold mining companies.

When the townsite was built in 1905, Bear Creek, just six miles from Dawson City, was a community like no other. It had everything a modern industrial town could want. The huge machine shop was state of the art, able to build the complex parts and equipment needed to keep the big gold dredges running, as they turned the Klondike Valley upside down in search of gold. The garage had enough gear to repair the myriad of machines which supplied the dredges.

Joe Boyle's VIP house was used to house only the most important visitors - usually people with money to invest in the Canadian Klondike Mining Company, and later, Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation's many holdings. Most of the seasonal workers lived in Dawson, but many full-time employees lived in Bear Creek and considered their community far superior to that of Dawson City.

And the dredges around Bear Creek employed a lot of people. As many as three hundred would work the dredges from April to November, and at times there were as many as eight dredges digging the ground around the community.

When Big Joe Boyle's enterprise collapsed in 1917, Bear Creek entered what would be called today a recession, which would last until 1932. When YCGC was refinanced and reorganized, it became one of the largest gold mining companies in the world. Bear Creek was an island unto itself in those halcyon days when gold by the ton was taken from the creeks which ran into the Klondike river. The largest wooden-hulled dredge in the world was part of the Bear Creek operation. It was built on Bonanza Creek in 1899.

So rich was the ground it worked that in a single day, while dredging on claim 67 below discovery on Hunker Creek, its huge buckets dug up 800 ounces in gold nuggets.

In November of 1966, the last of the great Klondike dredges ceased operations. Bear Creek's days as a thriving community were over. Today, this entire little town is a museum filled with memories of those days when Bear Creek was the real heart of the Klondike.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin