Yukon River Canoeing
The Yukon is synonymous with the Klondike Gold Rush and this portion of the Yukon River highlights this more than any other. We will stop to visit Fort Selkirk, an important settlement from the goldrush through to the 1940s. Buildings still stand to represent a bygone era. We will canoe past Stewart City and Sixty Mile. It is from Sixty Mile, that Robert Henderson, began the search that eventually led to the great goldrush. And what feelings must have accompanied the goldrushers as they rounded the bend in the Yukon River and saw Dawson City for the first time. It is an anticipation that many who have done the Yukon River trip with us have expressed. We will spend time in Dawson City, exploring its rich history, visiting the original goldfields, and enjoying the period entertainment.
Activity Level Low Moderate
Group Size Medium
Dates and PricesBook Now
- Day 1 Pick up and travel to Minto
After breakfast, we will be picked up by our driver and taken to our destination, Minto, about 3 hours from Whitehorse. Here we will load canoes, review paddling safety and technique, and begin our paddle to historic Dawson.
- Day 2-8 On the river
It is not practical to give a day by day itinerary.
We will paddle approximately 50 km/31 mi per day. Our plan is establish camp on the many islands and sandbars which characterize this stretch of river. This will lessen the remote possibility of bear encounters as well as reduce our contact with those pesky mosquitoes.
The following highlight some of the more interesting features of this stretch of river:
The sight of Fort Selkirk (125 km from Carmacks) on a high bank remains one of the trip's highlights. The Hudson's Bay Company established it in 1848. Only accessible by water, Fort Selkirk includes a campsite with well water, tent sites, kitchen shelter with cook stove, bear-proof garbage containers, and a warming cabin. Our trip down the Yukon River normally includes an overnight and layover day at Fort Selkirk. Fort Selkirk has long been a gathering place for First Nation peoples. Stone tools discovered near this site have been dated to 10,000 years old.
In 1848, John Campbell descended the Pelly River to establish a Hudson Bay Company trading post at the junction of the Yukon and Pelly River. In 1852 the coastal Chilkats, who had previously maintained a monopoly on trade with the local First Nation peoples, reacted to this challenge by looting and then burning the trading post. Campbell fled for his life and it was thirty years before white men returned to the region. In 1889, Arthur Harper re-established a trading post here, calling it Harper's Landing. In 1894 Bishop Bompass erected a mission house and school.
In 1899 the North West Mounted Police built a station here and a post office was opened. With the opening of the Klondike Highway, and the subsequent demise of riverboat traffic, Fort Selkirk was abandoned in the 1950.
Today the Canadian Heritage Branch has restored the settlement with the Taylor & Drury store, Mounted Police building, Protestant and Catholic Churches, and schoolhouse among the more than 30 buildings that are open to the public. Once past Fort Selkirk, the surrounding country is at least as impressive as ever.
Certainly there is no shortage of historic sites along the banks. The White River (120 km from Dawson) sees a dramatic difference in the colour (and the sound) of the Yukon River. The colour is the result of a combination of glacial silt, and ash from a volcanic eruption about 1,250 years ago. The ash layer now makes a convenient dating tool for archeologists at sites throughout most of the south and central Yukon.
At Stewart City (100 km from Dawson) the river is slowly reclaiming the site. The Stewart River, which joins the Yukon near Stewart City, was one of the earliest of the Yukon's placer mining areas. Prospectors were probably working on the river by 1880, and in 1885, several fairly rich bars were discovered. Arthur Harper soon set up a post at the mouth of the river to serve these miners. However, when much richer deposits of gold were discovered near Fortymile in 1886, everybody moved there. The Stewart didn't attract much attention again until the Klondike rush; a fair-sized town was built, with a sternwheeler dock, a NWMP post, a large warehouse, two hotels, a large number of cabins, and an even larger number of tents. The population may have reached 1,000 over the winter of 1898-1899. Although the boom ended, the island maintained a population of between 25 and 50 into the late 1930s. Several buildings have been moved back from the river's edge in recent years.
As we get closer to Dawson, a number of old woodcamps and homesteads have been taken over by new owners and new cabins have been built to replace the old ones. The relatively fertile islands were particularly popular spots for combined wood-cutting/farming operations. Little or nothing remains at most of these sites. Some have been lost to river erosion, or were moved to new locations when the original site was no longer viable. The anticipation heightens with each bend in the river as we near Dawson City. This same thrill and anticipation must have been present with the Klondike goldrushers after their long journey. Finally the Dome, Dawson's well-known landmark, can be seen in the distance. One more bend and we have arrived.
- Day 8-10 Dawson City and travel day
We have scheduled at least one complete day in Dawson to allow you time on your own to visit the sites that are of most interest to you. We will also drive to visit the original goldfileds and the lookout [Dome]. We will leave Dawson after breakfast on the last day and return to Whitehorse, arriving late afternoon. Along the way we will stop at Braeburn Lodge, a.k.a. Cinnamon Bun Airstrip, for the largest, and best, cinnamon bun around.
A complete itinerary along with maps, clothing and equipment list, will be issued upon registration.
Day 0: Arrival in Whitehorse
inclusions and exclusions at a glance
- Transportation from the point of origin and return
- Snacks/beverages on the expedition
- All meals while on the canoeing portion**
- Meal preparation
- Canoes, life jackets, paddles
- Canoe dry bags
- Canoe carts
- Any park fees
- Camping fees
- Two nights hotel in Dawson City
- Exceptional guides for the entire journey
- Cooking gear/camp stoves/water filtration
- Tents & tarps
- Emergency radio/satellite phone/major first aid supplies
- We can provide sleeping bags, sleeping pads, backpacks, poles for rent
- Transportation to point of origin, transfers, personal equipment, accommodation and food other than included in the itinerary.
- Gratuities are not included. Our guides make every effort to ensure your holiday is all you expected and more. Recognition of a job well done is always appreciated; $10-20 per day per guide is recommended.
SEA to SKY will pick up for all expeditions that originate in Whitehorse. Should any problems or miscommunication arise, please email our office and we will forward you the guide team's contact info. (cell number and email address).
GETTING TO WHITEHORSE
Air Canada has daily flights to Whitehorse. Air North has scheduled flights from Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver. Please check with your travel agent for details.
Whitehorse Pick up & Hotels
The following represent a cross section of available accommodation in Whitehorse. Former clients have stayed at these and have indicated a satisfaction with them. The asterisk [* ] means a budget and clean accommodation. The Yukon Inn has agreed to discount their rate for our clients. Indicate that you will be doing a trip with us and you should receive a preferred rate.
Best Western Gold Rush Inn
High Country Inn
Midnight Sun B&B
[*] Beez Kneez Hostel
[*]Hide on Jeckell Hostel
[*] Family Hotel
You don't need to have paddled before. Experience helps, but we will show you everything you need along the way. Our guides will assist you and teach you basic paddling skills.
In Canada, where are there NOT bugs? Fortunately, we are not deep in the forest or muskeg, where the mosquitoes and/or blackflies cover you like a blanket. Typically, if there is a breeze, there are no bugs. If it is calm, there are bugs. On the actual west coast, there are relatively few mosquitos and no-seeums, but some. It is helpful to have a bug net for your head and some bug spray with you.
There is never an intention for you to flip and get soaked, but sometimes it happens. We provide you with dry bags for your clothing and gear. We also show you how to properly use them to make sure your things stay dry.
Tips, or gratuities, are not mandatory. However, please consider what service is actually being given to you. While you might think that the company should just pay the guides better, it is not so simple. We do work in a competitive market, and pay rates are a function of the trip prices. If we could double prices, we would pay guides significantly better. At Sea to Sky, we have some of the better pay rates in the industry, and we are always pushing our competitors to increase pay rates for guides, but there is only so much we can do. Guides are seasonal workers. They shift off of their summer season to winter activities, or fill in with retail work, which is usually little more than minimum wage, often to periods of no work between seasonal jobs. It is a hard job, and wearing on the body.
The guides carry most of the group gear, so they have heavier loads than you have, all for you, because they would not be carrying much of the extras on a personal trip. Your guides are teaching you, helping you through challenges, cooking for you and serving you your meals, providing a safety envelope for you, and if you have a really good guide, they are filling you up with a deeper experience of being in the place you are visiting by telling you about the flora, fauna and history of the place.
So, how much should you tip your guides?
If you ate every meal out in a day, at a good, but low-cost restaurant, you would probably tip between $10 and $15 per day. If you were travelling and visiting a city and ate all your meals out, this is about how much you would tip for the day, low end. I would submit that the guides are feeding you all three meals in a day, AND serving you in so many more ways. That makes $10-$15 a day a minimum consideration, really. 10% to 15% of a trip price has been another rule of thumb that has been used. If your trip price is $2000, then $200 to $300 split between the guides is reasonable, and falls within that standard. Like most humans, guides are motivated when they are recognized and valued.
Your circumstances matter. If you are a student and clearly struggled to put together the cost of the trip, or have other circumstances that limit your ability to tip, guides understand and honour your appreciation, no matter what the size. However, if you have a large income or high net worth and means, a small tip might be a slap in the face. If you have means and you clearly and vocally appreciated the guides and all they did, and then leave a $50 tip after a 7 to 9 day trip, that amount would probably be insulting. If you have a fairly large income or net worth, you likely spend it on higher end restaurants, and maybe higher cost wine, drinks or desserts. You might even give a $50 tip for a dinner meal out-for ONE meal, so just consider your ability to tip and the level of service you received over the whole trip.
The largest tip any of our guides has received from one person is $1,500.00 for a 9-day trip. This was highly unusual, and was because we went way out of the way to replace her boots in the middle of the trail because her boots were falling apart, and was on top of paying for the boots and the transport out to the trail. That was extraordinary service, and an extraordinary tip. On average, guides usually receive about $75 to $125 from each guest for each guide.
At Sea to Sky, we also split the tips between the lead and assistant guides, and proportionally with any drivers. We have a strong culture of teamwork and both the lead and assistant guides play essential roles for you, so we ensure both share equally in the tips for the trip. Tips are not shared or taken by owners and managers not on your trip, unless you send it separately and specify it is for service before or after a trip.