Hougen Group

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Grand Forks in it's heyday.

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Grand Forks - 1920. The town is dying.

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Grand Forks

You probably never heard of Grand Forks, Yukon. That's not surprizing since it doesn't exist anymore. But for a fleeting glorious moment, it was the Klondike's real gold rush town. Oh sure, Dawson City was known the world over and it had everything - schools, banks, churches, saloons, fancy stores, office buildings - everything.

So did Grand Forks. But it also had one thing Dawson didn't have - location, location, location - as they say in real estate. Grand Forks was smack-dab in the middle of all the action - located at the confluence of Eldorado and Bonanza Creeks.

So why is Grand Forks so little known? Well because, in the mid-1920s, the place disappeared. Today there is nothing left. Hardly a piece of clapboard from which most of the buildings were made. And there were a lot of them.

Belinda Mulroney built the first roadhouse at Grand Forks in 1897. That was a full year before the hordes of gold seekers would arrive to transform the face of the Klondike valley.

The roadhouse was called the Magnet. And it was. It drew countless thousands to the creeks where gold was discovered in 1896. Like some kind of magic, in 1898, buildings began to blossom in the valley of Bonanza Creek, while above on the nearby side hills, inventive miners were finding the 'motherlode' of gold. Cheechako and French hills, and others, all yielded much more gold than the creeks below, where the gold rush all began.

From the hills, and through the gulches like Big Skookum and Adams, miners came to Grand Forks to shop, send their kids to school, go to church or even have their pictures taken by Kinsey and Kinsey, who had set up a state-of-the-art photographic studio.

Eight Mounties were stationed at Grand Forks, but none were ever needed to escort the horse-drawn wagons that carried countless millions of dollars worth of gold nuggets in moose hide bags to the banks in Dawson. The journey was a full day's trip over roads that Grand Forks residents always complained about. Just like today.

By 1903, the town was incorporated and had more than three thousand citizens.

All goods were delivered to Grand Forks over the Bonanza road, the same road that today takes tourists to see where Carmack and Skookum Jim discovered the gold, and to see the last remaining fully restored dredge - old number four - that was in part responsible for the demise of this once vibrant town.

You see, Grand Forks' reason for living was also its reason for dying. It was right in the middle of good gold ground. When large consortiums took over concessions in the Klondike, they built massive gold dredges and sent them ploughing up the valley of Bonanza Creek - grabbing the gold as they travelled.

By 1921, the dredges reached the outskirts of Grand Forks. There was gold underneath the town, so the residents had to move; the buildings were torn down and the ground turned upside down. Today, nothing remains of Grand Forks.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin