Alaska Highway

Roadtrip 2017 Alaska/Canada…Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – Days 10-11

We had stayed the night at the Downtown Campground in Watson Lake.  It was warm and cozy under all the blankets in the camper shell as it was raining.  So we just couldn’t motivate ourselves to get up.  We left Watson Lake at 9:30 BC time.  The weather was gloomy but the scenery and fall colors were spectacular.


We are late in the season, so traffic is non-existent.  We can stop along the road and take pictures.  Very rarely are we seeing any other vehicles.

Just before Teslin in the Yukon Territory, you cross Nisutlin Bay Bridge.  This is the longest water span on the Alaska Highway at 1917 feet.  It is a grated bridge deck so it makes a very cool sound as vehicles drive across it.  We stopped at the over-look just before the bridge for lunch and just listened to the bridge.  While there we met Buzz and Toots Tollman from Nebraska.  They were celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary and Buzz’s 75th birthday with a trip to Alaska.  They were a very cute couple.  She kept saying, “Our kids are so worried about us”.


After lunch, we headed over the bridge.  Funny how you can get excited about a simple noise.


We stopped near the South Canol Road, where several World War II vehicles have been salvaged and are on display.  Canol (Canadian Oil) project provided a 4 inch pipeline, telephone line, airfields, pumping stations, tank farms, and camps, during World War II.


Teslin Bridge is the third longest water span on the highway.  It was constructed with a very high clearance to permit steamer boats of the British Navigation Co. to pass under enroute from  Whitehorse to Teslin.  However, with the opening of the highway, the steamers were no longer used to move freight.


The Milepost book suggested we stop at Johnson’s Crossing, which is a small store and cafe.  They have cinnamon buns.  It is also one of the original travel lodges on the highway.  (Johnson’s Crossing is what the locals call the Teslin Bridge)  The bathroom stalls and walls are chalkboards.  Chalk is provide to write your message.  In the cafe we purchased a cinnamon bun and a turnover, both were good, but we liked the turnover best.  They wrap the pastries up like presents!!


We got our first look at the Yukon River.  The Yukon River is 2000 miles long.  It drains 3/4 of the Yukon Territory and 1/3 of Alaska.  There are only 4 vehicle bridges, 2 foot bridges, and 1 ferry that cross the Yukon on it’s long journey.  This would be our first crossing but not our last.


By late afternoon, we had arrived in White Horse.  We found a camping spot at the High Country RV park.  After a brief stop at the visitor’s center, we headed out with a list of attractions to see.


The Whitehorse Fish Rapids was built in 1959, to provide salmon a way around the dam on the Yukon River.  It is the world’s longest wooden fish ladder, with water flowing from July to September, during spawning season.  We were lucky as it was the last day, that the fish center was open to the public.  To access the area you must cross a bridge over the Yukon River, our second crossing.


The fish ladder was really interesting, even though there were no fish…


The dam is for hydroelectric power and is owned by the Yukon Energy Corporation.


There is a foot bridge that crosses the Yukon River in White Horse, our third crossing.  This gave us good views of the dam and the river below.


Our next stop was at the SS Klondike. This is an old stern wheel ship that has been refurbished.  The exhibits inside are set-up to look as if it is ready to haul freight and passengers.  Normally you have to pay to enter, but the attendant said that the boat was closing in 15 minutes for the season so we should hurry on board to catch a glimpse.


We looked at everything we could in those 15 minutes, then walked around the outside of the boat.


The SS Klondike was built in 1929 was the largest river boat on the Yukon River with a capacity of carrying 300 tons of goods.  It ran aground in 1936 and was partially salvaged to build a new boat.  It was restored at the Whitehorse shipyard and moved to it’s present location using 8 tons of Palmolive soap flakes to lubricate the skids as it moved on the streets.


We were too late to go inside the Old Log Church, but walked around the grounds. The church was built in 1900 and rectory in 1901.  The museum contains the stories of the early clergymen of Whitehorse.


We went to the Real Canadian Superstore, which is the Canadian version of Walmart.  To obtain a grocery cart, you had to pay $1/a loonie.  We guess that is to cut down on theft of carts.  We found a special on a roasted chicken dinner and a discounted green salad.  We ate well that night.


Back at the campground we discussed our trip plans over dinner and decided that we had enough time to take a side trip to Skagway, Alaska.  So as not to back-track, we booked the vehicle ferry from Skagway to Haines for later in the week.  It was $150.00, but this would save time and gas, and be a fun adventure.

After a good night’s sleep, we went to the Territorial capitol and asked if they had a tour. David volunteered to give us a tour and tell us the history of the territory.  The Yukon Territory has approximately 38,000 citizens, of which 28,500 live in White Horse, 3500 live in Dawson City, with the rest scattered amongst small towns and settlements.  The territorial government has 4500 employees.


White Horse got it’s name form the rapids located in Miles Canyon, as they looked like giant prancing horses.  The rapids were covered when the hydroelectric dam was built. Dawson City has gold in the nearby rivers.  During the Klondike gold rush, 30,000 people descended on the area.  Large dredges became the “river mines”.  To help with the influx of people a railroad was built in 1900 from Skagway to Whitehorse, eliminating the dangerous journey by foot, horse back and canoe/raft.


Main office/station of the railroad to Skagway

By then, gold had been discovered in Nome, Alaska and most “stampeders” left Dawson City.

One of White Horse’s most notable residents was a man by the name of Joe Boyle.  As a soldier in World War I, he became the lover of the Queen of Romania.  It is speculated that he influenced her, so as to steer the course of the war…they are trying to get a movie made about it, so stay tune.

The legislative building was built in 1970.  In the foyer, there is a large stain-glass mural that depicts the history of the territory.  There are 24 panels and the mural is 120 feet in length.


The ship’s bell from the HMCS Yukon is displayed.


Like the NWT, the Yukon also has a Mace that was designed in 1966.  The legislator is currently made up of 11 Liberal Party, 6 Yukon Party, and 2 New Democratic Party.  There are 2 sessions that are a maximum of 60 days long.  They have a commissioner instead of a governor.  The difference between a territory and a province, is they don’t own any crown(federal) land, they can not prosecute serious crime, and power is delegated to them by the Parliament of Canada.  The tapestry at the back of the room, is an abstract fireweed, the Yukon’s floral emblem.


We were able to go into the legislative lounge to look at tapestry panels.  Each is in 3 pieces, with 3000 individuals helping to stitch the tapestries.  They depict the role of woman in the territorial history.


There was also a cool model of a train that was built to serve the needs of the ‘Stampeders” during the gold rush as a type of moving dredge, but it was also it’s own small town. It had a hotel, restaurant, and store.  It also had dance hall girls and livestock.  Unfortunately the train met it’s demise in a train accident in which it fell through the ice.


We had really enjoyed our time at the legislative building and we had one last stop in White Horse, the world’s largest weather vane.  This was originally a C-47 that was built during 1942 and flew missions in Asia during World War II.  It was then converted to a DC-3 for civilian use.  In 1970, it blew an engine on takeoff and stripped of parts and parked at the Whitehorse airport.  In 1981, it was then restored by the Yukon Flying club and mounted on a rotating pedestal.  It acts as a weathervane, with it’s nose pointing into the wind.  It was a fairly windy day, so we watched it for 10 minutes as it moved back and forth….way cool.


We stopped at the displays at the junction of the Alaska and South Klondike highways.


Skagway here we come!!!