Town in Southeast Alaska, and one-time staging area for the Klondike Gold Rush. The northernmost town in the southeast Alaskan panhandle, Skagway is about 90 or miles North of Juneau, AK, and about 90 miles South of Whitehorse. Skagway has a permanent population of around 600 residents, with closer to 1000 during the summer months thanks to the town's reliance on tourism.
Skagway is situated at the end of Taiya Inlet, an extension of the Chatham Strait/Lynn Canal fjord (the longest fjord in North America). As a result, the town is hemmed into a narrow box valley, having steep mountains on three sides and the ocean on the fourth. The town, about 30 miles South of the Canadian border, is connected to Whitehorse by a road leading over the White Pass (where the border is located).
Skagway is by far the driest town in southeast Alaska, recieving only 26 inches of precipitation per year (in contrast to Ketchikan's 160 inches). However, Skagway can be extremely windy thanks to the influence of air currents coming down the valley from the interior of Canada.
The town itself is - to be blunt - a dive. Having only minimal services, Skagway's entire economy is based on the tourism industry. This is evidenced by the disproportionate number of saloons, as well as the tacky gold rush-era architectural style of many of the buildings. Those visiting Skagway in the winter will find most of the stores to be closed. Those visiting in the summer will find most the streets to be jammed full of camera-toting tourists, who storm the town by the thousands via the huge cruise ships that visit each day.
However, Skagway is rich with history due to its involvement in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1901. Prospectors arriving via steamship from Seattle would offload and purchase supplies and equipment in Skagway before heading over the White Pass to the Yukon Territory’s Klondike Gold Fields. This, along with the large amount of gold-related banking transactions the town picked up from returning miners caused the Skagway’s economy to boom during these years. Its population also ballooned to more than 15,000. Those days of glory were short-lived, however. As the gold rush died down, Skagway’s importance dwindled and most of its residents left town.
Today, Skagway is the site of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.