On August 21, celebrate Discovery Day, an annual event in Yukon, Canada. The day has both historical and cultural significance. In 1896, Skookum Jim Mason, originally named Keish by his Tagish parents, discovered gold in the Bonanza Creek. This discovery triggered the Kluane gold rush in 1905, eventually establishing the Yukon as a Canadian territory.
Keish was one of the first native men to successfully straddle the worlds of both white and Indian peoples. Before he died in 1916, Keish set up a large trust fund benefiting his native community. So, Discovery Day acknowledges this history with its week-long festival in Dawson City, a fun, end-of-summer destination. Enjoy walking tours, art exhibits, a golf tournament and more on Discovery Day.
When is Discovery Day 2023?
Yukon’s Discovery Day is celebrated in the territory of Yukon, Canada, on the third Monday of August.
History of Discovery Day
Where many parts of Canada celebrate Civic Holiday on the first Monday of August, Discovery Day is celebrated in Yukon on the third Monday of August.
The origin of Yukon’s Discovery Day dates back to August 17, 1896, when George Washington Carmack discovered gold at Yukon’s Bonanza Creek. His discovery led to a gold rush, with traders and miners flocking to the region to dig for gold. Over the next two years, more than 100,000 prospectors rushed to the Klondike region, constructing the narrow-gage railway in Yukon and establishing Dawson. The race for unseen wealth continued till 1899 when the bubble burst and gold discoveries in other regions drew miners away.
After the gold rush, the Yukon Order of Pioneers convinced Yukon’s Territorial Council to celebrate Discovery Day as a public holiday in 1911. The following year, the holiday was celebrated with parades, sports events, speeches, dances, refreshments, and more. Mining is still an important economic activity in Yukon, and Discovery Day is celebrated with zeal. Miners may not have struck gold, but the gold rush led to the establishment of Yukon as an independent territory. Discovery Day in Yukon is not the same as the Discovery Day celebrated in Newfoundland in June.
Discovery Day timeline
A Yukon native man, Keish, also known among the whites as Skookum Jim Mason, discovers gold at Bonanza Creek in Yukon.
Joseph Ladue founds Dawson City and it becomes the first capital of Yukon.
The Yukon Order of Pioneers convinces the Territorial Council of Yukon to recognize Discovery Day as a public holiday.
The capital seat is moved from Dawson to Whitehorse due to the construction of the Klondike Highway.
Created by Lynn Lambert for a territory-wide design competition, the Yukon flag is adopted.
Activities are arranged on Discovery Day throughout the territory in places like Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon, and Watson Lake, also known as the “gateway to Yukon recreation.” These events include sporting tournaments, family arrangements, and festivals. Visitors from outside the area visit Dawson city to photograph Mounties in their official uniforms and watch some street theatre.
Discovery Day is a statutory holiday in Yukon so many government offices and schools are closed. Delivery of mail is also ceased for the day. However, some private businesses and sectors remain operational.
Discovery Day By The Numbers
183,287.57 square miles – the area of the territory of Yukon, Canada.
17 – the number of Canada’s highest mountain peaks located in Kluane National Park, Yukon.
43.5 miles – the length of the Yukon’s longest glacier, the Kaskawulsh Glacier.
1.0 square miles – the area of the world’s smallest desert in Yukon, the Carcross Desert.
200,000 – the number of porcupine caribou that migrate to Yukon every year.
100,000 – the number of signs in Yukon.
100 – the number of sounds that Yukon’s national bird, the Raven, makes.
70,000 – the number of moose living in the region.
40,962 – the number of people living in Yukon, Canada.
8 – the number of first nations languages spoken in Yukon.
100,000 – the estimated number of prospectors who flocked to Yukon during the Klondike gold rush.
Discovery Day FAQs
Is Discovery Day a holiday in NL?
Discovery Day in Newfoundland replaces the Civic Holiday observed in other areas of Canada.
How much gold was found in the Klondike Gold Rush?
Adjusted to the 20th century, the Klondike Kings amassed wealth estimating over one billion dollars.
Is there still gold in the Klondike?
There are still gold resources in the Dawson area, with large corporations set up to excavate and process it.
Discovery Day Activities
Discover a festival on Discovery Day
Because Discovery Day is such a popular holiday, some festivals last all weekend long. The festival at Dawson City features a Can-Can dance show, face painting, arts and crafts and writing competitions. Just be sure to allot extra travel time as local traffic tends to be heavy on these days.
Throw a party
If you’re looking to do something different from the usual Discovery Day festival, consider throwing your own party. Keep things within the gold rush theme by having gold décor and chocolate gold coins as cute party favors. You can also turn the party into a fun learning experience by having Klondike Gold Rush trivia games.
Broaden your knowledge
Take a trip to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park for free tours, Junior Ranger activities for the kids, camping and hiking. There are also informative books and movies you can watch, like "Call of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush."
5 Thought-provoking Facts About Whitehorse, A Town With The Coolest Name Ever
It has an inspired name
Whitehorse was named after the White Horse Rapids, whose rapids — before they were dammed — resembled the mane of a white horse.
It had a name change (well, sort of...)
Originally, the city's name was White Horse and later slightly modified to Whitehorse.
The Yukon River has a large presence
The Yukon River literally flows through the center of Whitehorse.
It also has a different name
Because of its many trails (approximately 700km worth), Whitehorse is often referred to as the "Wilderness City".
Size is on its side
Whitehorse is northern Canada's largest city.
Why We Love Discovery Day
It reminds people of their history
Not only does this holiday honor the Klondike gold rush, but it also reminds them of how Yukon was established as a territory. Every year on Discovery Day, Canadians honor the founding of the Yukon.
It’s a great reason to party
Why not party in the Yukon? At summer's close, Discovery Day provides an excuse to get friends and family together for a celebration and festival of delights. Discovery Day in Dawson City offers an amazing backdrop for fun events in a beautiful, natural setting.
It’s a statutory holiday
Let's be honest. Sometimes, it's great to have a day off from work or school, whatever the reason. Because Discovery Day is a legal holiday in Yukon, you get to have the day off. You might as well head to the festival and have some fun!
Discovery Day dates