What to Expect
Skagway is a study in contrast and survival. Our roots date back to when the coastal Tlingit Indians of Southeast Alaska first used the area 10,000 years ago as a trading route to the Yukon interior. They called it “place of the bunched up water (from the wind).” A few white settlers followed in the 1800s, but there were few visitors here until the Klondike Gold Rush hit in 1897-98. Skagway was the focus of the world as the primary jumping off point for nearly 100,000 stampeders bent on reaching the gold fields in the Yukon. This rollicking event shaped the future of the north as we know it today.
Skagway is not just about its storied past. It’s a small community at heart that survived with the changing winds – and it does blow here often. The White Pass & Yukon Route railroad outlasted the gold rush and other booms and bust of the past century. Now instead of hauling freight and supplies to the Yukon, it hauls more than 300,000 visitors a year. The town is also the headquarters for Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Established in 1976, the park has preserved many of the town’s gold rush buildings, maintains the historic Chilkoot Trail, and is a vast cultural resource. The town also has several museums and authentic historical attractions, as well as many wilderness adventure tours that take you out of town and into the mountains at our doorstep.
Over the past 40 years, Skagway’s tourism has grown, and with it the number of artists and writers in the community. The first NWWS symposium in 2010 was a great success, and the community has supported this annual event.
COVID-19 affected Skagway like no other community in the world. With the loss of both cruise ships and a closed border – the two main sources of the town’s nearly one million visitors annually – the tourism economy sank to basically nothing in 2020 and has begun to rebound slowly in summer 2021. While in the economic dumps, Skagway was one of the leaders in the state of Alaska in preventing the spread of COVID among residents, and as of summer 2021 had a resident vaccination rate that exceeded 80 percent. Still, with the return of cruise passengers and other travelers in late summer 2021, Skagway is being very cautious and careful to keep everyone who lives or visits here safe. Please observe masking and sanitation guidelines in local establishments. Thank you!