Dawson City group plans to scatter gold to trigger second gold rush

The Klondike Visitors' Association hopes to raise $100,000 for gold that it will spread along Bonanza Creek. The goal is to lure tourists to the town to pan for gold themselves.

Gold Rush 2, a tourism campaign, is crowdfunding for gold nuggets, which will be scattered along Bonanza Creek

A file photo of Dawson City. The Klondike Visitors Association hopes the Gold Rush 2 tourism campaign, which involves dropping real gold nuggets into Bonanza Creek, will attract new visitors to Dawson City. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A Dawson City tourism group wants to reboot the most storied period in Yukon's history.

The Klondike Visitors Association is pitching Gold Rush 2: a tourism campaign that would offer a gold-rush-esque experience to visitors of the town famous for wealth and debauchery at the turn of the century.

The association hopes to crowdfund $100,000, which it will use to buy "real Klondike gold." That gold will then be scattered along the banks of Bonanza Creek to simulate a modern-day bonanza.

You read that correctly.

The tourism group wants people to pay for gold that will be — literally — tossed into the river.

Its goal is to lure visitors up to Dawson to pan for gold themselves.

'Weird initiative'

"If you've ever seen some of these crowdfunding campaigns, sometimes people give money to potato salads or grilled cheese," said Paul Robitaille, spokesperson for the association.

"We want people worldwide to maybe give a little bit of money to support this weird initiative."

Paul Robitaille is marketing and events manager of the Klondike Visitors Association. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

The original 1897 Klondike Gold Rush brought tens of thousands of prospectors to Dawson City — some of whom made millions — and led to the establishment of the Yukon Territory.

Though Gold Rush 2 has more modest aims, Robitaille is confident the gimmick will pay off.

"People are going to support it because it's fun and it's weird and it's uncommon, but also because it'll be their opportunity to be part of a gold rush," he said.

The gold nuggets, purchased with money raised through Indiegogo, would be spread across Free Claim #6, a claim originally staked in 1896 and now owned by the Klondike Visitors Association.

Robitaille said no new permitting was necessary because the association simply plans to place gold at a claim that's already designated as a free gold panning site.

As of Friday morning, the organization had raised $829 USD.

The Downtown Hotel is a popular tourist destination in Dawson City. The Klondike Visitors Association says its Gold Rush 2 campaign will be 'fun,' 'weird,' and 'uncommon.' (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Capitalizing on history

Robitaille said the gold rush still looms large in the collective imagination.

"There's many TV shows being made that focus on the Gold Rush. You see roller-coasters being built in southern [Ontario] that are named after the Yukon and are gold rush-themed," he said.

"So we thought, why not capitalize on the idea and do something that's outside the box, that's fun, that highlights something unique about Dawson City?"

Robitaille hopes the campaign also lets the wider public know that there are still gold mining activities happening around Dawson, such as Goldcorp's Coffee Mine Project.  

Ultimately, he said, Gold Rush 2 is "mostly about having fun."


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