Bennett is located at the head of Bennett Lake, part of the Southern Lakes chain – source of the mighty Yukon River. During the Klondike Gold Rush, Bennett was one of the many boomtowns that sprang up along the route to goldfields.
When word of the Klondike gold strike reached the outside world in the summer of 1897, a steady stream of hopeful “stampeders” began making their way over the Chilkoot Trail – a traditional Tlingit trade route leading from Dyea on the S.E. Alaska coast over Chilkoot Pass to Lindeman Lake, one of the headwater lakes.
Few made it all the way to the Klondike that fall. Most were halted in their tracks upon reaching the frozen lakes. Here they bided their time milling the lumber and building the boats that would carry them to Dawson City – the newly established centre of mining activity in the Klondike district.
While some of the stampeders built their boats at Lindeman, others chose to push on to Bennett Lake to build boats there. This would allow them to avoid negotiating the rapids on the One Mile River that flowed from Lindeman into Bennett. Meanwhile, those using an alternate route over the White Pass built their boats in Bennett as well.
As the winter wore on Bennett became a bustling tent city. And then, on the 29th of May, the ice began to move. There was a frenzy of activity and within 48 hours over 7000 boats of various descriptions had set off for the gold fields. No sooner had they left than a rag tag fleet of sternwheelers began operating between Bennett and Canyon City on the upper Yukon River.
From Canyon City, a horse drawn tramway, running on wooden rails, was used to carry goods around the treacherous Miles Canyon and the dreaded White Horse Rapids immediately below. Bennett at the northern terminus of the coastal trails became the established freight transfer point and began to take on the trappings of permanance. On July 6, 1899 the White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) railway reached Bennett from Skagway, on the Alaska coast.
Bennett, in its role as freight transfer point, continued to boom. But its heyday was short lived. A year later the rail line was completed bypassing Bennett and Canyon City; eliminating two freight transfer points. It was now possible for goods and passengers to be transported from Skagway to Dawson City with only a single transfer point from railway to riverboat in the new town of Whitehorse situated below the rapids.
The town of Bennett died as quickly as it was born. Today St. Andrews Church is the only remaining gold rush structure in Bennett. Bennett is located within Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site of Canada part of the Klondike Gold Rush International Historic Park. There is no road access to Bennett so a visit would involve taking the WP&YR from Skagway or Carcross, hiring a floatplane from Whitehorse or hiking the Chilkoot Trail.