Skagway

Overview

Introduction

Located at the northern end of the Inside Passage, Skagway, Alaska, emerged in the late 1890s as a makeshift gold-rush town of tents and shacks with a population of 8,000-10,000 adventurers who arrived by boat with supplies for the hellish trek overland to the Yukon gold fields. Of course, the town had its temptations, too: painted ladies, gambling houses and 80 saloons. A famous person from that time is Jefferson R. "Soapy" Smith, a con artist who ran Skagway and swindled new arrivals out of their savings. (He was killed in a shoot-out in 1898.)

Today, Skagway's rushers arrive on cruise ships. Besides Juneau, Skagway is the most popular port in southeast Alaska. The town has become something of a gold-rush theme park: Much of Skagway has been painstakingly restored and designated as the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Locals dress in 1890s costumes and give tours in vintage autos. Dance-hall girls kick up their legs in restored saloons, and Soapy Smith is immortalized in the play Days of '98.

Although some may find Skagway overly cute and contrived (not to mention crowded when cruise ships are docked), the town can be a fun place to visit and relive the past with the friendly residents.

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