Raise your glass to the Sourdoughs in saloons across Alaska this year. Even more visitors are expected to take in Alaska’s frontier charms during this 150th anniversary year marking the U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia, for $7.2 million—approximately $120 billion today. Quite the government scandal! The fur seal revenue possibly brought in an embarrassing $300,000 annually (oil and gas riches eventually trickled out of the earth, starting in the 1950s). Back in 1897, though, Alaska revealed a glimmer of its mineral riches when gold fever struck. The following saloons, which pioneers patronized during the territory’s earliest gold rushes, are good places to stop as you revisit Alaska’s first years under the U.S. flag.
Imperial Saloon (Juneau, est. 1891): Toast a drink to Juneau’s founders, Richard Harris and Joe Juneau, prospectors whose gold discovery in 1880 inspired mineral exploration that would lead to the grand Klondike discovery.
Seaview Inn & Bar (Hope, est. 1893) / Salty Dawg Saloon (Homer, est. 1896): Grab a drink where the Sourdoughs got their first rush of competition from Americans who poured into Turnagain Arm to find gold in the Klondike region of the Yukon in northwestern Canada.
Copper Center Inn Bar (Copper Center, est. 1896): When you sit in this roadhouse on the way to the Klondike, you can just imagine the gold promoters ready to lead parties to supposed goldfields, only to abandon them and run off with their money.
Red Onion Saloon (Skagway, est. 1898): This authentic gold rush bar may have opened as the Klondike was winding down, but the prospectors never stopped coming. Skagway served as a point of departure for gold rushes in Circle (1896), Coldfoot (1899) and Fairbanks (1902), and the continual gold rush in the Forty Mile Country.
Board of Trade Saloon (Nome, est. 1900): Wyatt Earp, who made his money mining the miners in a saloon he co-owned, the Dexter, would have walked Nome’s boardwalks and possibly checked in on this saloon competitor before he left behind his Alaskan adventure.