Skagway, with a winter population of 880 (December 2000) and a summer population that hits several thousand when four or five cruise ships are in port,
lies at the head of spectacular Taiya Inlet, the northernmost section of Lynn Canal. Put another way, it is 90 miles northeast of Juneau, the capital of Alaska, at
59° 27' North Latitude, 135° 18' West Longitude.
The most common explanation for the origin of name of the community is that it comes from "Skagua," the Tlingit word for "the place where the north wind blows." However, many people believe
that this is incorrect, and suggest that it refers to either the head of the inlet, or to the fish called hooligan.
Although the Tlingit people had used the location for centuries, they abandoned it when the Klondike Gold Rush began in 1897 - in the last census, only 34 Skagway residents claimed American Indian heritage.
The first non-native settler was Captain William Moore, who arrived in 1887. His belief that the White Pass would become a major route into the interior was proven
true ten years later, and that status continues to this day as the White Pass is the route of both the South Klondike Highway and the White Pass & Yukon Route railway.
The economy of Skagway today is driven by the tourist industry, primarily in the form of cruise ship traffic. The historic downtown, with its restored buildings and others
built in historic styles, is very popular on most Alaska cruise ship itineraries, and in 1999, 430,000 people arrived at Skagway on those ships, injecting $60 million into the local economy.
As well, another 150,000 people arrived in other ways, either by air, ferry or by land from the Yukon Territory.
Skagway has cool summers and mild winters, with summer temperatures of 45-67° F. and winters from 18-37°. In terms of precipitation, it has a microclimate that is
substantially different than most of Southeast Alaska, receiving only 26 inches per year, with 39 inches of snow. The Tlingit name for the location is very accurate, though - strong winds are
The city has improved their infrastructure considerably in recent years. Electricity is produced by a new hydro-electric operation at Goat Lake, a short distance up the White
Pass, or by backup diesel generators. The garbage dump has been closed, replaced by an incinerator and a recycling program.
Water is piped to homes from 3 wells at the upper end of town. The school is the envy of many communities, with 12 teachers and 132 students from Grades 1-12. Internet access is available through
two providers, and as you'll see on the Links pages, many Skagway businesses are online.
For services that aren't available in Skagway, residents generally travel to either Juneau (by air or ferry) or Whitehorse (by driving). The South Klondike Highway which connects
Skagway with the Alaska Highway is kept open year-round, although since the demise of the Yukon mines that used to ship their ore from Skagway, the level of winter maintenance is slightly reduced.
During the winter, Skagway is a fairly popular destination for Whitehorse residents looking for milder temperatures and a breath of salt air.
The dozens of links that follow will allow you to look in much more detail at the services and attractions of Skagway.