Robert Henderson, the first prospector on Hunker Creek, came north in 1894 but never gained Klondike wealth.
Henderson mined at Quartz Creek, in the Indian River drainage, before relocating to Gold Bottom, a tributary of Hunker Creek, in 1896. He told Carmacks of his mine on the Klondike drainage but did not learn of the Bonanza strike until it was too late to stake ground there.
Henderson’s Gold Bottom claims were never big producers and since Henderson had not bothered to record his claims, “Big Alex” MacDonald was able to overstake the ground. Andrew Hunker staked Discovery Claim on another branch of the creek and the major drainage bears his name.
For Henderson, the bitterest pill was not the great wealth he never found but the lack of recognition for finding the first gold in the Klondike. Years after the discovery, the Canadian Government awarded him a small pension and named him a co-discoverer of the Klondike Goldfields.
Robert Henderson spent much of his life prospecting and looking for precious metals. In 1932, the year before his death at age 76, he flew into the Pelly River, still prospecting for his big strike.
Valleys in the Klondike Goldfields were swampy until the early mining techniques of digging shafts and open pits brought some gravel up to the surface. This gravel was very useful for road construction.
The miners transported their supplies on pack animals in the summer and via dog sleds in the winter. Freighters lobbied Commissioner William Ogilvie for good roads before there was a government structure to build them. Some roadhouse owners built their own tracks as they handled the distribution of supplies to the miners.
The government built the Ridge Road in 1899 along the ridge between Bonanza and Hunker creeks. It was constructed for heavy weights hauled by horse and wagon and the Hunker Creek miners were quick to bring in large mining equipment. The Ridge Road was the major route into the goldfields until 1902 when a safer, flatter road system was built in the valleys.
Both Yukon Gold and Yukon Consolidated Gold companies had hydraulic operations on Hunker Creek and portions of it were dredged. The majority of smaller Klondike mining operations adapted to steam-powered equipment and Hunker and Dominion operations were known for use of the locally invented self-dumping ore bucket. Family operations managed to survive and at least one mine remained in the same family for almost a hundred years.
There are working claims throughout the Klondike region. Please respect other people's property and livelihoods and do not trespass.