Yukon Nuggets

  • Looking south along Broadway from 4th Ave. in Skagway. Exteriors of Hegg's Photographic Office, Rainer Hotel, Pioneer Store are shown. Date: 1900. Yukon Archives. Anton Vogee fonds, #218.

1898 Yukon Nuggets

Eric A. Hegg


He captured the Klondike. Almost single handedly. And because he did, the images of the great Klondike Gold Rush are as fresh today as they were in 1898.

Eric Hegg was a studio photographer in Bellingham, Washington when news of the gold strike in the Klondike reached the west coast. Here, he thought, was a chance to make some money. Hegg loaded up his pack with the tools of photographers...cameras, tripods, glass plate negatives, and chemicals to develop his pictures on the spot.

He boarded the Skagit Queen in Seattle, in September of 1897, and headed up the inside passage for Dyea. As one of the first photographers in the region, he saw first hand the arrival of hordes of gold seekers in the spring of 1898.

What Hegg was able to capture on film has become the Yukon's legacy of the Klondike. His photos of the would-be miners struggling with heavy back packs up the White and Chilkoot passes tell a gripping tale of hardship and endurance. His photos of dead horses, of "Cheechakos" collapsing on the trail, of heaps of supplies piled high in the snow tell in dramatic detail the Klondike story as no written account could.

Incredibly, he was on the scene when a great avalanche of snow buried hundreds on the Chilkoot Pass in the spring of 1898. His gripping photos show men feverishly digging in the snow, searching for survivors. At least 63 men died in the disaster.

Hegg went on to Dawson with the large flotilla which left Lake Bennett when the ice went out in 1898. Along the way he took pictures of people, equipment, and the hand hewn boats they had built. In Dawson he photographed buildings, mining camps, and the people who made and lost a fortune.

His pictures of those Dawson days of long ago are a priceless legacy of Yukon history. Many of them survive to this day because of sheer luck. The glass negatives Hegg used were heavy. When he left Dawson to photograph the new goldstrikes in Nome, Alaska in 1900, Hegg couldn't take the plates with him. So he left them in Dawson with his former partner, Ed Larrs. When Larrs left the Yukon, he couldn't carry the plates either so he left many of them in-between the walls of their studio.


Many years later a woman who rented the building found the glass plates and wanted to turn them into a greenhouse. But someone familiar with photography recognized them for what they were. Thus much of the Klondike legacy was saved.


Eric Hegg retired from the world of photography in Washington State in 1953. There were other gold rush photographers but perhaps more than any other, Hegg captured the Klondike.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.