It was raining when we left Dawson City this morning but it mostly cleared up except for a few brief showers throughout the day. Our first few miles along the Klondike Highway were through the piles of rock left by dredges in the gold mining days. These stretched for a long way out of town. At one point, we passed an active alluvial mining operation and I have to say that there is nothing attractive about this process at all. It just involves moving dirt from one area to another with a bit of sifting in between. Nothing is done to remediate the land as this area is so remote that no one would care.
Today was not as interesting as other days for us. For the first few hours we just drove through forest and we only found one area that was photo worthy – a lookout across an ancient geological fault line.
There are always some interesting buildings to see on the highways around here and this lodge at Moose Creek still operates, although probably not in the same way as it might have done in its heyday. I think that the drivers of these two cars are still waiting for someone to come out and pump some gas for them.
We hadn’t thought that it might be difficult to find somewhere to buy lunch along the way and it wasn’t until we reached the little town of Pelly Crossing at around 2.00 pm that we could find a store and buy something to eat. They really didn’t have anything for lunch except some sandwiches that really needed to be microwaved, but I was so hungry that I ate them cold anyway.
This town is the home of the Selkirk First Nation. Initially, the community had a ferry crossing over the Pelly River and a bridge was constructed in 1950. After its completion, sternwheeler traffic on the Yukon River came to a halt as goods could now be transported by road. Fort Selkirk, which was located near the confluence of Pelly and Yukon Rivers, was virtually abandoned. The local community now survives through hunting, trapping, fishing and guiding. We ate our lunch in the car by the riverside park as it was raining. By the roadside there was a beautiful patch of wildflowers that I did my best to turn into a nice photograph.
The Yukon Highway from Dawson to Carmacks, where we are staying overnight, travels to the south. The major rivers here flow to the west and join the Klondike River which was so famous in the gold rush days for its riverboats that carried passengers and freight downstream from Whitehorse to Dawson. We crossed many of these rivers on large bridges – the Pelly, the Stewart and finally the Klondike itself.
Just out of Carmacks is the area of the re-settled town of Minto. Minto is in the western part of traditional Tanana Athabaskan territory. After gold was discovered north of Fairbanks in 1902, steamboats began to travel on the Tanana River, bringing goods and people into the area. Old Minto, on the banks of the Tanana River, became a permanent settlement but the town was relocated in 1969, due to repeated flooding and erosion. The present site is 65 km north of the old site. The area is rich in silver.
Father downstream are the Five Finger Rapids. Thus was a dangerous place on the river during the Klondike gold rush and river travel times. Until the rapids were removed by dynamite, steam bots had to winch their way through this area resetting in quite some danger and lots of hard work.
Tonight, we staying at the famous Carmacks Hotel in the town of the same name. It is situated at at the confluence of the Nordenskiold and Yukon rivers, approximately 180 km north of Whitehorse and 360 km south of Dawson City. Its name comes from George Carmack who, in 1891, found coal nearby. He created a trading post and began by engaging in commerce with local people, before opening a coal mine in the south bank of the Yukon River. The focus of his entrepreneurial energy switched a few years later when he discovered gold near Dawson City and is responsible for starting the Klondike Gold Rush.
Carmacks was one of the major ports at which the riverboats stopped along the way to Dawson City. As the settlement grew, ‘Carmack’s Landing’ became an important riverboat stop. Large wood camps in the area provided fuel for the sternwheelers. At each camp, Like Carmacks, around 800 cubic metres of wood were cut in winter and stacked for the coming navigation season. Coal was found near here and in the early 1900’s over 8,000 tons of coal a year were being shipped to Dawson City. As Carmacks continued to grow, a store was built in 1904. Shortly before the First World War, record high prices paid for fox pelts made fox farming a popular industry in the Yukon. Today, Carmacks has a full time population of about 500 people.