A land of two worlds woven together, the Yukon offers a mix of the modern and the ancient, both visible through the land and its people.
The Yukon was originally inhabited by First Nations who lived a semi-nomadic life, hunting and traveling in small family groups, living off the land. The first visitors to the northwest were Russian explorers who traveled along the Alaskan coast in the 18th century. In 1789, Alexander Mackenzie traveled north down the Mackenzie River to the Arctic coast. In 1825, Sir John Franklin, in search of the Northwest Passage, mapped the Arctic coastline from the mouth of the Mackenzie River to the Alaskan North Slope.
At this time, many Yukon First Nations groups were trading furs with Russian, American and British traders for tobacco, guns and other European goods. The Hudson’s Bay Company set up trading posts in the mid 1800s. In March 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the United States and shortly thereafter independent American traders moved into the region by steam boat. American whalers began operating along Alaska’s Arctic coast in the 1850s and traded whale meat for furs.
The 1870s saw the arrival of gold prospectors from gold fields in British Columbia and news of the Klondike gold reached southern Canada and United States and within months, thousands of hopeful gold seekers headed north. The building of the Alaska Highway in 1942-43 brought more than 30,000 U.S. Army personnel into the Yukon and by the 1950’s and 60’s the population had almost doubled.
Today the mineral industry forms the base of the Yukon’s economy. Tourism, government services, retail trade, construction, and fur production also support the territory’s economy.
A land of two worlds woven together, the Yukon offers a mix of the modern and the ancient, both visible through the land and its people and is divided into eight regions: South Alaska Highway, Southern Lakes, Kluane, Whitehorse, Campbell, Silver Trail, Dawson City and North Yukon.
South Alaska Highway Region
The South Alaska Highway region features the community of Watson Lake, known as Canada’s “Gateway to the Yukon”. Welcoming visitors to the true north, the region contains pristine lakes, boreal forests and wild rivers and is home to the Signpost Forest and the incredible Northern Lights Space and Science Centre. Common activities in the region include fishing, white water canoeing, horseback riding, cross country and downhill skiing and ice fishing. Teslin is a picturesque lakeside community along the Alaska Highway. Originally a summer home for the coastal Tlingit, Teslin is an active year-round tourism center.
Southern Lakes Region
The Southern Lakes region is a playground of waterways and trails and includes the communities of Carcross, Tagish, Marsh Lake and Atlin, BC. A historic village, Carcross is home to the world’s smallest dessert, the gold rush era White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, and the oldest operating general store in the territory, the Matthew Watson General Store.
The region of Kluane is known as the soul of the Yukon and is home to Haines Junction, Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek. You know you have arrived in Haines Junction when you reach the Village Monument, a sculpture depicting a mountain setting that sits on the edge of the Alaska Highway. The Kluane National Park and Reserve consists of valleys covered in glacial ice and was created as a wilderness park accessible only by the most experienced mountaineers.
Canada’s most westerly city, Whitehorse has the largest population north of 60 at 24,151 people. Originally named after the rapids at Miles Canyon, Yukon’s capital city is a major city with a small town personality full of interesting architecture, history and natural beauty. The Beringia Centre brings dynamic archaeological exhibits to life. The Grey Mountain lookout is not to be missed and affords visitors a breathtaking view of the entire city. Whitehorse is home to the world’s largest weathervane, a former army plane restored by the Yukon Flying Club.
Tucked away in the east-central Yukon, the secluded Campbell region features vast tracts of wilderness ideal for backcountry adventure. A community of only 600 people, Ross River offers a wealth of recreational opportunities including the longest suspension bridge in the Yukon.
The Silver Trail communities of Mayo and Keno City provide access to an area rich in mining history and scenic vistas. The village of Mayo offers all the necessary tourist amenities and operates the Binet House Interpretive Centre which houses a collection of historic photos, interpretive information and an extensive geology display. Five Mile Lake Campground, a wonderful recreation area for swimming, boating, and walking is located just on the outskirts of Mayo.
Dawson City is most well known for being at the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1896. Visitors can try their luck at the Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall, Canada’s oldest legal and most unique casino. The hall is an exciting entertainment experience that features casino gambling, live can-can girls and a complete food and beverage service, all presented in true gold rush Klondike style. The Jack London Cabin and Interpretive Center and the Dawson City Museum offers visitors guided tours of the past. Tombstone Territorial Park was established to protect the life, landforms and heritage of the Yukon and is a place where people can step into the natural world and experience the beauty of the northern mountains firsthand.
The North Yukon, along the Dempster Highway, offers a journey few tourists will ever have a chance to experience with an Arctic magic that can only be experienced, not described. Everything is different, from the color of the light to the wildlife. The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nations community of Old Crow can be accessed by scheduled air service.
With a rich history and distinct culture, the Yukon has a wide variety of attractions and activities.
Wherever your interests lie, one thing is for sure, the Yukon has something for everyone.