Day 13 – Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada and onward to Skagway, Alaska

Whitehorse was only about an hour away from the campsite so a relaxing morning sleeping in an extra half hour and a leisurely breakfast awaited.

After packing up we talked to a wonderful couple from Whitehorse who come here to camp, boat and fish on their days off. After talking for probably an hour and a half and getting recommendations for Whitehorse and the afternoon trip  it was on to Whitehorse.

Whitehorse, Yukon has been the capitol city of the Yukon since 1953 and is the northern terminus of the White Pass & Yukon RR from Skagway, Alaska which ferried prospectors to the riverboats plying the Yukon River to the northern goldfields surrounding Dawson in 1900.

Whitehorse’s second boom time was during the construction of the AL-Can Highway in 1942 when many workers converged on this small town. Construction worker population grew form 2,500 to 3,800 with 1,800 tons of materials and equipment being shipped by rail from Skagway each week in 1943.

This, the only city of the Yukon Territories, has a population was 33,897 people per the 20111 census. A pleasant place to visit as it provides all the services of any town or city. Many attractions and good food establishments are here for the visitor to enjoy.

Parking at the Visitor Center downtown it was off to a recommended spot for lunch, Klondike Rib and Salmon BBQ. Such a fun atmosphere to enjoy as was the wonderful meal. I will definitely go back there for another meal to try out a different menu item, mine was fantastic and very filling.

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Heading back to the Visitor Center to gather some information on the area it was time to visit a real Sternwheeler, the S.S. Klondike that sailed the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City.

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The S.S. Klondike National Historic Site is an old stern-wheeler that once plied the Yukon River carrying passengers, mail and supplies to Dawson City. With only a four and half month shipping season the boats were hauled out of the water on skids in the Whitehorse Ship Yards for the winter months of a frozen Yukon River. This interesting attraction lets you board the ship and on a self guided tour to explore the many areas of its interior at your pace.

Built in 1929 this boat was the largest on the Yukon. Sternwheelers were less vulnerable to paddle damage than the side-wheelers. Built in 1929 an accident sunk her in 1936. Refitted that winter the Klondike went from an ore hauler to carrying passengers and cargo. She carried 300 tons (270 tonnes) of cargo with a draft of only 40 inches (1 meter) and 32 – 1st class passengers.

The lower deck just above water line was for the crews quarters, the cargo, engine room, boilers and with bunks lashed to the sanctions at the aft sleeping accommodations for 2nd class passengers. The next deck held the 1st class cabins, Dining Room for the passengers and a separate one for the crew, Kitchen, Observation Lounge at the front of the ship and the Sun Deck at the stern. Above that was the Boat Deck housing the Officers Cabins. Finally at the very top was the Wheelhouse or “Monkey Island”. Situated well forward and high it gave an unobstructed view for the Master and Pilot to navigate the ship though the dangerous waters.

Next up it was a drive to the outskirts of town to visit Miles Canyon. The canyon is a cross section of volcanic rocks where the Yukon River cuts through a succession of flows south of  Whitehorse. The White Horse Rapids in Miles Canyon provided a significant challenge to the prospectors heading to theDawson City and the gold rush providing the upstream terminus of the Paddle wheelers. The rapids are now tamed by dams along the river.

Finally it was off the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center that explains the Yukon’s history during the Ice Age. Being largely ice-free during this timea local cave provided the oldest evidence of human habitation in North America has been found.

Getting a late start the following attractions were missed but sound fun and interesting making for another visit an enjoyable adventure.

The MacBride Museum houses artifacts and stories of the events and people who settled and built the Yukon.

Waterfront Walkway provides a walking path along the Yukon River connecting several parks along its path.

Yukon transportation Museum is home to the world’s largest weathervane, an old DC-3 and provides exhibits on the transportation used in the far north.

Old Log Church Museum is one of the oldest buildings in the city completed in 1900 and hides stories of the older pioneers of the region.

Yukon’s oldest brewery north of the 60th parallel, the Yukon Brewing Company.

Leaving Whitehorse late in the afternoon the route turned south on the South Klondike Highway to its terminus in Skagway, Alaska. This relatively short 2.5 hour drive of 105 miles (169 k) was a breathtaking day of travel. This 2-lane road of spectacular scenery had many turnouts for viewing vast landscapes and intimate waterfalls. Before the highest point of the road at 3,292 feet (1,003 m) at Whitehorse Pass there is an 11. 5 mile (18.5 k) 11 percent grade of roadway.

Turning west right before entering Skagway along the Dyea Road, Dyea Campsite was the location for the next 3 nights of the journey for 2 full days to explore Skagway, Old Town Dyea and the Chilkoot Trail.

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