alan skeoch
Nov. 16, 2022

The White Pass Railway passed over Dead Horse Gulch.  A chilling place where an estimated 3,000 hoses are remembered.
Mot all died in tis hellhole .   There were other gruesome deaths.  Some gold seekers never even fed their horses .  Couldn’t afford 
to pay imported cost  of hay.  And there was nothing for the horse to eat even if it managed to reach White Pass.

History of the White Pass Trail - Klondike Gold Rush National Historical  Park (U.S. National Park Service)

These horses appear to be carrying imported hay.  Sold at high prices to the few
men who tried to take their horses on to Dawson City.

The bridge across Dead Horse Gulch. - University of Alaska Anchorage -  Alaska's Digital ArchivesEPISODE 341 YUKON DIARY: DOING THE YUKON IN REVERSE ORDER: DEAD HORSE GULCH  – Alan Skeoch

The terrible deaths of 3,000 horses by men who should have cared for these helpless

animals is one of the big stains on the whole Gold Rush adventure.  The horses were overloaded

and some simply fell over backwards as they scaled the White Pass..  At night the loads were left
on the horses making their lives even more miserable.  No food for the horses.  No care at all.  Those that
survived the climb to White Pass were often abandoned to starve to death.  

The treatment of these poor animals is documented below.  Many of their bleaching bones  remain in
DEAD HORSE GULCH as a reminder of neglect and gold fever.

History of the White Pass Trail - Klondike Gold Rush National Historical  Park (U.S. National Park Service)

skeletons of dead horses in a river bed
3,000 animals die along the White Pass Trail giving it the nickname “the Dead Horse Trail.” 

Alaska State Library, Case & Draper Photo Collection, P125-018.

The Trail Turns Deadly

“When the trail was opened by Captain William Moore it was designed for lightly loaded horses and experienced horsemen. It was not designed for the hordes of gold seekers who were bombarding the trail. Within one year of the discovery of gold in the Klondike thousands of people had attempted to cross the trail. Animals were brought up to Skagway on the same steamships that carried people and freight. Ship conditions were very harsh for everyone. Some animals were forced to stand for two weeks straight and did not get the luxury of food and water. If they did not die on their way to the Skagway they were killed in accidents, shipwrecks, or on the trails. Horses, mules, oxen, sheep, and dogs were loaded down, forced to wait in long lines, and exhausted by the trail leading over the pass. It was not uncommon for the trail to be blocked by a fallen horse.There were often long periods of waiting in lines on the trail. Stampeders refused to unload their horses that were weighed down with hundreds of goods as to not waste time reloading them.”

“I must admit that I was as brutal as the rest but we were all mad-mad for gold, and we did things that we live to regret.” -Jack Newman, packer on the White Pass Trail, ca.1897

“At times the trail became impassable due to harsh weather conditions, rain, and mud. Many stampeders retreated leaving their outfits strewn along 40 miles of trail. Horses were not equipped with the constant physical demands, boggy mud holes, and slippery rocks. No one knows the exact amount of animals that took the two trails but it is estimated that 3,000 horses died in a one year period on the White Pass Trail, earning it the nickname “Dead Horse Trail.” It was a brutal journey for man and beast alike. “

What the heck is Liarsville? - Skagway Tours

“The horses died like mosquitoes in the first frost and from Skagway to Bennett they rotted in heaps. They died at the rocks, they were poisoned at the summit, and they were starved at the lakes; they fell off the trail, what there was of it, and they went through it; in the river they drowned under their loads or were smashed to peices against the boulders; they snapped their legs in the crevices and broke their backs falling backwards with their packs; in the sloughs they sank from fright or smothered in the slime; and they were disemboweled in the bogs where the corduroy logs turned end up in the mud; men shot them, worked them to death and when they were gone, went back to the beach and bought more. Some did not bother to shoot them, stripping the saddles off and the shoes and leaving them where they fell. Their hearts turned to stone- those which did not break- and they became the beasts, the men on the Dead Horse Trail.” -Jack London, Journalist. The God of His Fathers, Doubleday Page & Co., New York, 1914, p. 70-80

Jack London … horrific description of inhumane horse treatment

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