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Welcome to the Yukon

The word “Yukon” comes from the name given to the river by the original Athabascan Indians: “yu-kun-ah.”

Gold was discovered in the Yukon in 1896 at Bonanza Creek by George Carmack, Dawson Charlie, and Skookum Jim. By 1899, Dawson City had a population of at least 40,000 people.

Although almost $100 million in gold was mined, there were fewer than 9,000 people in the entire Yukon 10 years later. And, even today, the Yukon’s population is under 30,000.

That Dawson, Yukon Feeling

There was nothing demure and modest about Dawson City. There was money to be spent, and Dawson was where you spent it.

This remote corner of Canada had high French fashions. The simple roadhouses of other parts of the north were replaced by elaborate hotels with fine New York City dining.

Canada has put a big effort into preserving Dawson, so count on being able to experience the finery of turn-of-the-century Dawson in decadent fashion.

Dawson: It's So Pretty In Pink

They say that during the gold rush, house paint was in such demand in the booming town of Dawson that people took anything they could get – including “reject” colors that weren’t popular elsewhere.

Almost every historic Dawson building is pastel.

The new Westmark hotel incorporates two very typical features in an effort to blend in: a false front facade and a palette of Dawsonesque pastels.

Yukon River Travel: You Take the High Boat, I'll Take the Low Boat

Carefree tourists once breezed down the Yukon between Dawson and Eagle on the Yukon Queen.

A custom agent in Eagle, Alaska – scanning the Yukon River with binoculars from his second story home on the waterfront – greets all river travelers entering Eagle from Dawson City, Canada.

The more rugged and traditional mode of Yukon travel – on a handmade raft – has grown increasingly less popular than it once was, when hordes of college-aged Boomers made the trip. (Local people say the fall-off in adventure river travel can be blamed on “the internet.”) But it’s still done.

This Lower 48 rafter sleepily greets the dawn in Dawson City, ready to push off downriver. He’s equipped with dried food in plastic bins, an inflatable mattress, a homemade paddle – and a leakproof canoe for backup.

Paddle Boats

The Keno, a sternwheeler built in 1922 in Whitehorse, drew only 21 inches of water, fully loaded.

The boat made her last run in 1960. She’s now on display by the river in Dawson City.

Below is a more recent riverboat for the Yukon.

+ Map of the Taylor (Top of the World) Highway
+ Map of the Historic Eagle Trail & Telegraph Line

While in Dawson City, Don't Miss...
• History tour
• Diamond Tooth Gertie’s
• Museum
• Jack London Cabin
• Native Cultural Center


When the ground stays below freezing for two years or more, it’s officially permafrost. Much of the land in the Yukon and Alaska is what is known as “discontinuous” permafrost.

Summer heat, conducted down from buildings and roadways, goes down to the permafrost, which then melts – leaving a slump in the ground.

“Frost heaves” (where the ground pushes up) is also a problem, especially on roads. That's why even new roads may become bumpy in Alaska.

Dawson City Website
Much of what you need to know about visiting Dawson can be found here.

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