A century ago, Dawson City was a gold rush boomtown. Today the community of Dawson City is still a gold mining centre, although the main economic activity is tourism, based on the community's colourful past and historical importance. Dawson is also well known as the home of a growing arts community. Dawson is located about 536 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse, at the end of the Klondike Highway.
The town of Dawson City lies within the traditional lands of the Hän people, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. The Hän called the site where the town now stands, at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers, "Tr'ochëk" and used it as a seasonal fishing camp.
The discovery of gold in the Klondike valley in 1896 led to the establishment of a tiny community where the Klondike River flows into the Yukon. By the summer of 1898, Dawson City was the largest city in Canada west of Winnipeg, with a population of 40,000 in the immediate area. Within months, Dawson boasted telephones, running water, steam heat, steamboat services, and a wide range of elaborate hotels, theatres and dance halls.
A year later the gold rush was over; 8,000 people left town in a single summer. By 1902 Dawson City's population had dropped to 5,000, declining further in the early part of the 20th century.
In the early 1960s Dawson City was declared a National Historic Site. Preservation of buildings and historic areas, an assortment of activities related to the Klondike Gold Rush, and other tourism initiatives draw some 60,000 visitors each year.