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Discovery Day

Discovery Day 2019 and 2020

Discovery Day in Yukon is celebrated on the third Monday of August to remember the discovery of gold there in 1896.

YearDateDayHolidayProvinces and Territories
201919 AugMonDiscovery Day YT
202017 AugMonDiscovery Day YT

On August 17, 1896, George Washington Carmack discovered gold while he was salmon fishing on the Klondike River. Although Carmack occasionally prospected, he was not dedicated to searching for gold, even though he travelled to Alaska in 1881 when gold was found in the Juneau area. His lack of success had him travel to the Yukon Territory where he fished and spent time with the Tagish Indians.

While fishing with two Tagish friends, Carmack, as he often did, swished some sand in his prospector’s pan. He found some gold, but not enough to note. That night, while camping, he saw a large gold nugget on the creek bank.

This discovery sparked the Klondike gold rush, with more than 100,000 people attempting to reach the Klondike gold fields. However, few prospectors had the success that Carmack did. He died in 1922 a wealthy benefactor in Vancouver. It is estimated that more than seven billion in US dollars’ worth of gold was removed from the area.

After the gold rush, the Yukon Order of Pioneers persuaded the territorial council to create a public holiday known as Discovery Day in 1911. The following year, a large celebration, including a parade, speeches, sports, balloons, football and more, were held in Yukon in celebration of Discovery Day.

Celebrations and Traditions

Discovery Day activities are held in many recreation areas of Yukon, including Watson Lake, known as the gateway to Yukon recreation, as well as Whitehorse, the capital of the province. In Dawson City, the gold rush is celebrated with family days, runs, golf tournaments and festivals.

There is also historical street theatre performed in Dawson City and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have a strong presence, encouraging photographs by tourists.

Many people visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Stagway to enjoy their free tours, spend time in nature or hike the many trails in the area. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy typical foods of the Yukon on the holiday, including moose, mountain goat, buffalo burgers, musk ox chops, caribou and porcupine burgers.

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