Trip Reports

1980 YUKON RIVER TRIP REPORT

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 9151980 YUKON RIVER TRIP REPORT

While the club is on hold until May 20, it seems like a good idea to reprint a trip report from 1980 courtesy of Mark S. who has finished scanning 30 years of club newsletters.

After much delay I am finally putting down a 'few words on the Yukon River trip. Actually, I did write a report some weeks ago; it ran to almost nine pages, and being a compassionate man, I had not the heart to inflict it upon anyone. Instead I will make a few more general comments about the river, the Chilkoot Pass, and maybe a few words of advice to those who might wish to do the trip in future.

 

 

The Yukon River cannot be considered a wilderness river. It has been travelled by thousands of people since 1896, and who knows how many thousands in the distant past. So the castoffs of man are everywhere along the banks. If present day canoeists left them, they would be considered litter, but in the Yukon they are considered relics. There are abandoned cabins, old Indian cemeteries, ghost towns, beached gold dredges, whisky bottles, tin cans, boots, beached sternwheelers at numerous places along the shore as a vivid reminder of those who went before. It is hard to say which of these impressed us most, but a couple stand out--the Indian cemetery at Little Salmon with its tiny spirit houses at one time containing all that was valuable to the deceased occupant; the old stern-wheeler, now a rotting hulk, pulled up at Hootilinqua Island; and, of course, Fort Selkirk, once a city of several thousand, now reduced to a few dozen dilapidated buildings.

The river itself has many faces. It starts out narrow and fast flowing in Whitehorse, only to open, after a few dozen miles, into capricious 30-mile-long Lake Laberge. It then narrows again, almost to stream size with a rushing current that bubbles and gurgles along for a joyous 30-mile ride before the river matures and widens. Thereafter, the river settles down to steady growth as each tributary river in turn adds its, load. Eventually after 300 miles, the river is in places a mile wide, filled with innumerable islands that turn the water into a veritable maze and make it impossible to tell what is shore and what is island.

But some aspects of the river never changed. It was always fast flowing, carrying us along unrelentingly, with no going back, and always accompanied by the gentle rasping of silt against the bottom of the canoes.

The country through which the Yukon flows probably cannot be compared with the Nahanni, but it is beautiful enough to keep the cameras clicking. The area around Lake Laberge and the area a bit downstream from Fort Selkirk where the mountains come close to the river are especially beautiful.

We did not witness a great deal of wildlife. Eagles were spotted; moose tracks were abundant, but we saw no moose. The river was full of salmon, and we even had salmon for dinner one night, thanks to a local fisherman. Grizzly bear inhabit the region; one ate five pounds of our cheese and gave us all quite a fright.

After 13 days on the river we decided to stretch our legs by hiking the Chilkoot Pass. The train ride from Whitehorse to Skagway (6 hours for 110 miles) is a must, even for those who have no desire to hike. The hike itself though is worth every effort. We were blessed with unusual weather-- four days of gorgeous sunshine, which contrast with the rain and even snow which are common on the Chilkoot. I'm glad we
missed it.

The Chilkoot trail stretches 33 miles. It rises 3700 feet from sea level to the pass, 3000 of these feet in 3 miles. It descends, on the other side, less than 1000 feet. This, the section on the Canadian side just below the summit of the pass, is an area of unsurpassed beauty, an area of Arctic meadows, crystal clear lakes, shining mountain peaks capped in glaciers and snow fields. It was this that made the struggle up the steep, boulder-strewn path on the other side all worthwhile.

Several people in the Club have expressed interest in doing this trip next year, so I'll offer a few words of advice. First, and most important, if you wish to avail yourselves of charter plane airfare, which will save you $300 or so each, act soon, or better yet, now. Our trip was booked long before the trip schedule was ever drawn up, and you will have to do the same. Secondly, if you plan on doing both the river trip and the hike, do the hike first. Some of us found that two weeks in a canoe can create leg problems. Late July or early August, both by our experience and statistically, is a good time to do the trip. We had good weather on 75% of the days, which is about average. But the Yukon is unpredictable, so be prepared for anything. We had virtually no mosquitoes; in fact, I never used repellent during the entire trip. May you be so lucky. Should Someone take the initiative to plan this trip for next year, I will be happy to give more specific information, well as lend a few maps and books.
Larry N.

1980 Yukon River Route

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 802

Lac Laberge

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 902

Lac Laberge

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 903

Lac Laberge

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 905

Lac Laberge

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 906

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 915

Little Salmon Spirit Houses

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 917

Five Finger Rapids

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 922

 1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 926

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 933

Dawson City

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 935

 Dawson City

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 941

Chilkoot Trail Route

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 944b

White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 946

 Chilkoot Trail

 1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 949

Chilkoot Trail - Mountain Goats

1980 08 Yukon River Slide Show 951