Located nine miles northwest of Skagway, the ghost town of Dyea is the starting point for the famed Chilkoot Trail. The old town site sits at the head of Taiya Inlet. During the Klondike gold rush of 1898, Dyea was where miners began the long trek into the Yukon Territory, and at its peak, the town provided a temporary home to some 10,000 people.
Two factors caused Dyea to disappear: a devastating avalanche on Chilkoot Pass in April 1898, and the completion of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in 1899. Just four years later, only six people lived in Dyea.
Little remains to be seen at Dyea except for the Slide Cemetery, where 45 men and women who died in the Palm Sunday avalanche of 1898 are buried. Walk through the forests that now cover old Dyea to find a few crumbling buildings and wharf pilings extending into the bay.
It’s hard to imagine that this was once Alaska’s largest city. The town site is now part of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and not far from old Dyea is the trailhead for the Chilkoot Trail and the free Dyea Campground.
The Park Service leads free 1.5-hour walking tours (907/983-2921) of the old Dyea town site Wednesday–Sunday at 2 p.m. in the summer, but you’ll need to find your own transportation from Skagway.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition