The original Yukon gold strike and some of the richest pay dirt in the world were found on Bonanza Creek, an otherwise-insignificant tributary flowing north into the Klondike River. A century's worth of mining has left the stream bed piled into an orderly chaos of gravel heaps, the result of massive dredges. The National Park Service has preserved and interpreted a number of old prospecting sites; however, most of the land along Bonanza Creek is owned privately, so don't trespass, and by no means should you casually pan gold.
The Discovery Claim, about 16km (10 miles) up Bonanza Creek Road, is the spot, now marked by a National Historic Sites cairn, where George Carmack, Skookum Jim, and Tagish Charlie found the gold that unleashed the Klondike stampede in 1896. They staked out the first four claims (the fourth partner, Bob Henderson, wasn't present). Within a week, Bonanza and Eldorado creeks had been staked out from end to end, but none of the later claims matched the wealth of the first. Just over 12km (7 1/2 miles) up Bonanza Creek, Parks Canada has preserved Dredge no. 4 (tel. 867/993-7200), the largest wooden-hulled gold dredges ever used in North America; it's open June through early to mid-September daily 9am to 5pm, with tours (C$6) offered hourly to 4pm. Dredges -- which augured up the permafrost, washed out the fine gravel, and sifted out the residual gold -- were used after placer miners had panned out the easily accessible gold along the creek. Dredge no. 4 began operation in 1913 and could dig and sift 13,800 cubic m (487,342 cubic ft.) in 24 hours, thus doing the work of an army of prospectors. You can do some free panning yourself at Claim 6, 15km (9 1/4 miles) up Bonanza Road. Bring your own pan (BYOP)!