This is a land deeply infused with a rich and colourful history that still supports a healthy population of muskrat, beaver, fox, wolf, bear, eagle, trumpeter swan, moose and spectacular Canadian wilderness.
Weather conditions in northern environments range widely between extremes. The only fact you can bet on with the weather is that it can change instantly. This means that although we may enjoy fine weather, we must also be prepared for changes. On any given day you may experience sunny, hot, dry weather that is interrupted by periods of rain or, on rare occasions - even snow. In general, the weather is moderate with average temperatures of 16oC (62F) in July, and 14oC (56F) in August. When packing, please be prepared for heat waves and cold spells.
In 1896 the discovery of gold near Dawson City altered the history of the Yukon River forever. It became the main route for 30,000 goldrushers as they floated in an armada of over 6,000 boats to their dreams of adventure and wealth in the Klondike gold fields.
Over the next fifty years towns and villages sprang up along its shore and paddlewheelers carried people and supplies up and down its waters. When modern highways were introduced into the region the river became redundant. Homes and entire villages moved to locations closer to the roads and the Yukon River was allowed to return to its natural state.
You will be paddling wilderness rivers. They are Grade 1 rivers and therefore suitable for novices. Your experienced guides will teach you the skills you need to navigate the river safely. There should be plenty of wildlife, opportunities for fishing, and time to relax and explore the remnants and relics of the rivers’ historic past.
Day 1: Arrival in Whitehorse. We will meet in the evening around 7 pm to discuss the adventure ahead, go over some basic paddling strokes, distribute dry bags, and answer any last minute questions. Air arrangements should be made to be present for the evening meeting. We will leave a message at your accommodation detailing where we will meet if you are out sightseeing.
It is not practical to give a day by day itinerary for the river. We will paddle approximately 50 km/31 mi per day. Our plan is establish camp on the many islands and sandbars which characterize the river. This will lessen the remote possibility of bear encounters as well as reduce our contact with those pesky mosquitoes. The following, highlight some of the more interesting features of the river:
Days 2-8: We will pick you up from your accommodation around 7:00 a.m. and head to our put-in at Johnsons Crossing. We are looking to cover about 40 km per day. Although this sounds like a significant distance, the current of the river makes this a reasonable goal. The river, in its initial stage, is wide and the current slow. At 100 Mile Creek the character of the river changes. The wide open river valley disappears, the river narrows, and the willow covered marshes give way to a shoreline of spruce trees and clay banks.
The additional volume from the Boswell, Swift and Indian Rivers results in more gravel bars and islands appearing. The river valley widens and large clay banks with distinctive eroded features called hoodoos become more frequent. It is in this stretch of river that we will experience "Roaring Bull Rapids". Other than a "rush", the rapids are not technical or dangerous.
We will arrive at Hootalinqua, where the Teslin River joins the Yukon River. Hootalinqua was an important depot, with NWMP post. Although the permanent population was never more than about a dozen, a telegraph station and trading store was located here. A number of buildings still stand.
Days 9-10: As the river widens out at Hootalinqua, it takes on a completely different character - calmer. At Shipyard Island we will stop to see the 130-foot Evelyn. She was built by the Bratnober Company in Seattle in 1908 - working for the Upper Tanana Trading Company and then the huge North American Trading & Transportation Company (NAT & T), she supplied the trading posts along the tributaries of the lower Yukon River until 1913.
At the confluence of the Yukon and Big Salmon rivers is Big Salmon Village. It is the site of an ancient fishing village. During the goldrush a NWMP post, telegraph station, riverboat stop, and trading post was located here. Our paddle will continue to the confluence of Little Salmon and Yukon rivers. Little Salmon village is believed to be the oldest permanent Indian settlement on the upper Yukon.
Day 11: Layover day at a campground near Carmacks. Time to do laundry, relax.
Day 12: After breakfast, we will meet some new paddlers who will be joining us on our way to Dawson City. We will be picked up and driven to Minto, about an hour past Carmacks (Carmacks is about 2 hours from Whitehorse). We will load our canoes and begin retracing the Klondike adventure to Dawson City.
The sight of Fort Selkirk on a high bank remains one of the trip's highlights. The Hudson's Bay Company established it in 1848. Only accessible by water, Fort Selkirk includes a campsite with well water, tent sites, kitchen shelter with cook stove, bear-proof garbage containers, and a warming cabin.
Day 13: We plan to spend a second day at Fort Selkirk. The area has some hiking trails and plenty of history to explore. It will also give tired first day muscles a little time to adjust.
Fort Selkirk has long been a gathering place for First Nation peoples. Stone tools discovered near this site have been dated to 10,000 years old. In 1848, John Campbell descended the Pelly River to establish a Hudson Bay Company trading post at the junction of the Yukon and Pelly River. In 1852 the coastal Chilkats, who had previously maintained a monopoly on trade with the local First Nation peoples, reacted to this challenge by looting and then burning the trading post. Campbell fled for his life and it was thirty years before white men returned to the region. In 1889, Arthur Harper re-established a trading post here, calling it Harper's Landing.
In 1894 Bishop Bompass erected a mission house and school. In 1899 the North West Mounted Police built a station here and a post office was opened. With the opening of the Klondike Highway, and the subsequent demise of riverboat traffic, Fort Selkirk was abandoned in the 1950. Today the Canadian Heritage Branch has restored the settlement with the Taylor & Drury store, Mounted Police building, Protestant and Catholic Churches, and schoolhouse among the more than 30 buildings that are open to the public.
Days 13-17: Once past Fort Selkirk, the surrounding country is at least as impressive as ever. Certainly there is no shortage of historic sites along the banks. The White River (120 km from Dawson) sees a dramatic difference in the colour (and the sound) of the Yukon River. The colour is the result of a combination of glacial silt, and ash from a volcanic eruption about 1,250 years ago. The ash layer now makes a convenient dating tool for archeologists at sites throughout most of the south and central Yukon.
At Stewart City (100 km from Dawson) the river is slowly reclaiming the site. The Stewart River, which joins the Yukon near Stewart City, was one of the earliest of the Yukon's placer mining areas. Prospectors were probably working on the river by 1880, and in 1885, several fairly rich bars were discovered. Arthur Harper soon set up a post at the mouth of the river to serve these miners. However, when much richer deposits of gold were discovered near Fortymile in 1886, everybody moved there.
The Stewart didn't attract much attention again until the Klondike rush; a fair-sized town was built, with a sternwheeler dock, a NWMP post, a large warehouse, two hotels, a large number of cabins, and an even larger number of tents. The population may have reached 1,000 over the winter of 1898-1899. Although the boom ended, the island maintained a population of between 25 and 50 into the late 1930s. Several buildings have been moved back from the river's edge in recent years.
As we get closer to Dawson, a number of old woodcamps and homesteads have been taken over by new owners and new cabins have been built to replace the old ones. The relatively fertile islands were particularly popular spots for combined wood-cutting/farming operations. Little or nothing remains at most of these sites. Some have been lost to river erosion, or were moved to new locations when the original site was no longer viable.
Days 18-19: The anticipation heightens with each bend in the river as we near Dawson City. This same thrill and anticipation must have been present with the Klondike goldrushers after their long journey. Finally the Dome, Dawson's well-known landmark, can be seen in the distance. One more bend and we have arrived!
We should arrive in Dawson City in the late morning/early afternoon. We will stay at the Bunkhouse in Dawson City. It is a hostel like accommodation, very clean, hot showers, and located in the heart of Dawson. Plans are to take a short orientation tour of the town on Day 18. On Day 19 we will drive to the original goldfields and the lookout (Dome). There will be plenty of time to concentrate on individual interests.
Day 20: We will leave Dawson after breakfast and return to Whitehorse, arriving late afternoon. Along the way we will stop at Braeburn Lodge, a.k.a. Cinnamon Bun Airstrip, for the largest, and best, cinnamon bun around.
Included: Transportation from the point of origin and return, camping fees, cooking gear, camp stoves, tents, meal preparations, canoes, canoe carts, paddles, life jackets, canoe dry bags, two night's hotel in Dawson City, meals/snacks/beverages on the expedition, tarps, major first aid supplies, emergency radio or satellite phone, professional guides and all meals while on the river.
Also see tour packages in:
Canada Yukon Outdoor: Water Drifter Canoeing/Kayaking/Rafting Wildlife Viewing
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