Whitehorse, YT - June 2014
Jun 22, 2014
|My last blog was all about the White Pass & Yukon Railway which ran from Skagway to Whitehorse until 1982.
Whitehorse got it's name from the early minors that visited the area in the late 1800's because they thought the white frothing rapids of the Yukon River looked the mane of white horses. The rapids are no longer visible due to the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the Yukon Energy Corp. This made traveling the river much safer. Nevertheless, this is still a very fast moving river.
The Yukon River was used as passage to get to Dawson Creek and the gold fields. Whitehorse was just a tent and cabin city until 1900, when the railway was completed. The city boomed moving freight and gold stampeders from Skagway to Whitehorse by rail, then Whitehorse to Dawson Creek by sternwheeler.
The population of Whitehorse went from 500 to 8000 during the nine months that it took to build the Alaska Highway in 1942. After the war, Whitehorse continued to be a transportation hub and a communication center for the territory. In 1958, Whitehorse was officially named the capital of Yukon. Until then, Dawson City had been the capital.
We visited the Yukon Transportation Museum. Really well done! Those gold stampeders were a group of crazy person's using all sorts of modes of transportation trying to get to the gold fields. The ingenuity of the ground, water and flying machines built is remarkable.
In front of the museum is the world's largest working weathervane. It is a DC-3 placed on a specially designed pedestal built in 1981. It was placed in front of the museum in 2009. The design allows the planed to rotate with the winds. It only takes a 5 knot wind to turn the plane. The nose is always pointing into the wind as if in a perpetual flight. Very cool!
Next door is the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. During the ice age in the northern hemisphere, the land between Alaska and Siberia became a land bridge. This bridge was part of land that did not have glaciers because it was too dry. This is called Beringia. This is when giant mammals like the mammoth, the giant short faced bear, giant bison, and the scimitar cat lived. Beringia disappeared at the end of the last ice age, but evidence is still found in the Yukon, Alaska and Siberia. These animals are huge. Be sure to visit this museum when in Whitehorse. There is a "twofer" deal to visit both museums.
Along the river in downtown Whitehorse is the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site. After a short film, you board the old sternwheeler to browse the decks and try to imagine the unique boats navigating the swift waters of the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson Creek. At 1,979 miles, the Yukon River is the fifth longest in North America. The only serious obstacles to navigation along its entire length were Miles Canyon ( few miles upstream from Whitehorse), and the White Horse Rapids, which were bypassed by the White Pass & Yukon Route railway. Whitehorse, located immediately below the White Horse Rapids, was the shipment point for freight and base of operations for the British Yukon Navigation Company (BYN) sternwheel fleet.
The distance between Whitehorse and Dawson Creek was 460 miles and took 36 hours with several fuel stops along the way. Fuel was wood. Wood camps were set up all along the river at 50 to 100 miles. The trip up stream was twice as long, more treacherous and required a lot a manipulation to overcome rapids and other obstacles. You must visit this historic site to learn more. The story is fascinating.
The one hike we took was at Miles Canyon. The section of the Yukon River was extremely treacherous. Narrow and high from thousands of years of water and ice carving the basaltic volcanic rock canyon. Originally named the Grand Canyon by early miners, in 1883 it was renamed Miles Canyon for General Nelson Miles. The canyon is not anywhere the size and grandeur of our Grand Canyon, but it is impressive.
We were only here for 2 1/2 days, but managed to see and do a lot in between rain drops. While exploring downtown, we spotted an Elks Lodge. There are not supposed to be any in Canada. What a surprise. It is no longer active. The building is rented out to the various community organizations for events.
Whitehorse has a lot to offer and well worth any length visit. Did you know that 65% of the voting population of the Yukon Territory lives in Whitehorse? The latitude of Whitehorse gives the residents short winter days and 20 hours of daylight in the summer.
One more thing..We are still getting our Direct TV Satellite to work! Probably will be the last though.