Twelve-mile Camp: Boat building

Today, it is hard to imagine that anyone would leave their farm, their job, their home and set out on a search for gold that began with them hauling a ton of gear by hand 29 miles over a glacier that rose from sea level nearly 5,000 ft. and lead to the prospectors descending and ascending uncharted rivers in an unmapped territory, but between four and six thousand men and women did.

When they reached the Upper Klutina River, the stampeeders exchanged their hand sleds for boats. Some had hauled boats over the glacier with them. These were "knock-down" boats of steel, canvas or wood. Most, however, had to find suitable trees in the forest, fall them, set up a whip-saw for cutting planks, design, and finally build their boats.

Bourke wrote in his journal, "The building of boats put an end to sledding for this season and to tell the truth we were not sorry for it." However, most prospectors found that whip-sawing a 20 ft. log into planking proved an incredibly boring way to spend a day in paradise.

Margeson reports that his fellow prospectors built everything from crude, unmanageable craft that cost at least one gold-hunter his life to elegant looking craft which were "fine enough to grace the waters of any aristocratic summer resort."

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