Yukon's newest gold-rush millionaire feels like a Clampett

Shawn Ryan of Dawson, Yukon, and his family are just back from a European vacation. It was their first vacation, and it's hard to imagine one more deserved. After years of prospecting in the Yukon, living in a tin shack, searching for the long-rumored gold veins that fed nuggets into fabled Klondike streams, the Ryans are millionaires and could rake in millions more from the modern-day gold rush that Shawn started, reports Canada's Globe and Mail.

Whether Ryan actually has discovered the source of Klondike gold has yet to be determined, but his finds have been significant enough to set off one of the biggest claim-staking frenzies since prospectors poured into the Yukon and Alaska in the 1890s. His newfound wealth comes mostly from deals signed with other prospectors giving them access to his claims.

From the Globe and Mail:

In recent years, other companies came close to making the same discovery as Ryan, but walked away after running out of money or deciding other opportunities looked better.

Ryan hung in. He and his wife, Cathy Wood, and eventually two children, pinched pennies for years, surviving mostly on an annual $10,000 exploration grant from the Yukon government. Living on the outskirts of Dawson City, they paid $250 a month to rent a 365-square-foot tin shack that had served as the local barbershop at the turn of the previous century.

Ryan, now 47 and living in what he calls an "upgraded" shack, credits his success to perseverance and a self-education in geology.

Ryan ... did his homework and discovered that the White Gold region had unique soil that provided good clues as to what might lie beneath the surface. Navigating by those clues, he dug deeper than most prospectors had in the past. Then he stuck with it, for years.

"It's just perseverance. A prospector has to believe there is something out there. Now it's just coming true. I can tell people, ‘See, I told you so.' I always believed in it," said Ryan, who is moving to Whitehorse in the coming weeks with his wife and two children, now 12 and 14. "I kind of feel like the Clampetts on the way to Whitehorse and into a bigger house," Ryan joked.