Throngs of enthusiastic people made their way North to the Klondike Goldfields, yet most were ill prepared for the harsh conditions that awaited them.
Bennett ... The whole population is under canvas. The majority of tents are formed into boat-building camps. But there is at least one business ‘street’ known as Main-street ... The hotels and saloons are of course, predominate ... Nevertheless, there are surprising few drunken brawls, and for the general good order which prevails great credit is certainly due to the North-West Mounted Police.
-Flora Shaw, May, 1898
The bustling tent city, ringing with the hammers of boat builders, emptied abruptly when the ice went out on Lake Bennett. In late May, 1898, over 7,000 vessels took to the water—everything from large steamers to crude rafts.
In May, 1898, Superintendent Sam Steele ordered the Bennett and Tagish detachments to register all small boats and their passengers. This measure enabled the Mounties to answer inquiries about missing relatives from all over the world. Today, researchers still consult these registers, following the trail of those who joined the great rush.
Just before we got through the rapids some men in their boat saw something in the swirling water, and hooked the boat hook to it. It was a drowned man. They dragged him ashore and told the nearest person what they had found, they hurried away in their boat and the next person did the same, calling to anybody to tell the Mounties.
-William Hiscock, 1898
Inexperienced stampeders lost boats, gear and even their lives in the treacherous waters of Miles Canyon and the White Horse Rapids. Superintendent Steele decreed that each boat plying the rapids must be accompanied by an experienced pilot—many of whom were Mounties. This decree saved countless lives.