Introduction to Yukon

(continuer en français) – Last updated: February 18, 2023

The Klondike Gold Rush (more) between 1896 and 1899 put the Yukon on the map. More than 100,000 adventurers from all over the world travelled to this inhospitable region to pursue their dreams of fortune. Some of them succeeded, keeping the dream alive for future generations. Today, the many visitors to the Territory continue to be interested in this epic adventure, also attracted by the grandeur of a nature barely touched by human presence.

The creation of the Yukon Territory in 1898 was a direct response to the sudden increase of activity that required an appropriate administrative framework. Institutionally, the Territories and Provinces tend to converge in their statutes, led by executives from elected assemblies.


Dawson City

The best place to experience the atmosphere of the Gold Rush is in Dawson City. The boomtown of 40,000 people has shrunk to less than 2,000 today. But many of the old buildings are maintained by Parks Canada, which dispatches costumed guides through the streets, so it still feels like the days of the prospectors. It’s also a good base for exploring the surrounding wilderness (more).


Succeeding Dawson City in 1953, Whitehorse became the capital of the territory. Since then, the city has hesitated between its Gold Rush past and its aspiration to become a modern city with all the amenities. It serves as a base for the many small-scale mining operations in the region as well as for communities scattered over a vast territory (more).

Miles Canyon

The canyon is located just south of Whitehorse, its rapids were a dangerous obstacle during the gold rush, many prospectors lost their cargo and sometimes their lives. Forced to land and bypass the difficulty, the gold seekers fostered the creation of the town. Since then, an electric dam has raised the water level and slowed down its flow. It is now a pleasant place for short walks in the woods.

SS Klondike

For years, nearly 300 steamboats plied the Yukon River, mainly between Whitehorse and Dawson. They carried travellers and supplies to the villages along the river. On the return trip they brought back the valuable ore from the mines. The SS Klondike operated until 1955 and has since been handed over to Parks Canada as a reminder of a bygone era.

Yukon River

The river is 1980 mile, 3190 kilometres long, and after the Yukon it flows into Alaska. It was an essential means of transportation in the early days of settlement, passing through a mountainous region that was difficult to penetrate. Following the discovery of gold, about 350 paddlewheelers plied the river, but its powerful and turbulent course made it difficult to navigate. Between Whitehorse and Dawson City, a parallel route eventually replaced it as a means of transportation.

Klondike Highway

The distance between Whitehorse and Dawson City is 330 miles, 530 kilometres, along the Klondike Highway, which is slightly more direct than the Yukon River. The road was gradually developed to facilitate communications between the two cities. Before modern means of transportation, the road was long and threatened by weather conditions. Roadhouses were located every 20 to 25 miles, 30 to 40 kilometres.


The village is located on the Klondike Highway, about a third of the way along the long route between Whitehorse and Dawson City. This is where the highway crosses the Yukon. In the past, steamboats loaded wood here, today there is a gas station. The population is partly Aboriginal, which influenced the design of the school, which also serves as a gathering place for the village, with a gymnasium and auditorium.

Bonanza Creek

It was here, in this creek, that gold nuggets were discovered on August 16, 1896. This was the start of the Klondike Gold Rush. Eventually, individual prospectors gave way to companies, who replaced the shovel with huge dredges, filtering the soil and turning it into huge pancakes once the gold was extracted. The dream remains and the gold miners can still be seen in the rivers of the Klondike.

Top of the World Highway

The Top of the World Highway connects Dawson City to Alaska, named for the fact that the road winds its way over hilltops, dominating a landscape of dwarf forests. Built in 1955, to drive it, it is necessary to start by taking the ferry at Dawson City. The road is not paved nor maintained during the winter and is therefore cut off for many months.

Dempster Highway

The Dempster Highway is a 550-mile, 880-kilometre, road from Dawson City in the Yukon to Tuktoyaktuk, on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Initially motivated by oil, the Dempster Highway has become a tourist attraction, drawing many travellers curious about the vast northern landscapes and the midnight sun, as well as passing through the Tombstone Territorial Park. Not to mention the little thrill of adventure on an unusual road (more).

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  1. I’ve always wanted to visit the Yukon and in fact, we were scheduled to go the year my husband died. I have not been able to find anyone willing to travel there with me and it’s not a journey I fancy on my own. Their loss, but sadly, also mine!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Yukon is a region with good infrastructure, but it covers only a tiny fraction of the land. The wilderness begins on the roadside and right outside the towns. It does take equipment and experience to get through it. I understand that an individual trip is not easy to organise. You have made a lucid assessment of this.


    • Outside of Whitehorse and Dawson there is not that much accommodation, so this may be a good idea. Now there are few roads. To travel the Dempster Highway, it is difficult to do otherwise. Beware that rental companies often exclude this route from the insurance contract.

      Liked by 1 person

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