On the Klondike Trail: Paddling the Yukon River

It was meant to be an 8-month work contract, but she’s fallen under the spell of the Canadian North and is now calling Yukon home. Her sister has joined her for the summer, so of course, we had to visit.

After a long flight, we arrive in Whitehorse at 11 pm to bright twilight. Natasha, Maxine, and her friend Brett welcomed us.

The next morning, Natasha suggested a walk along the ridge overlooking Yukon’s capital city of Whitehorse. There are many easily accessed trails surrounding the city offering overviews of the Whitehorse valley.



Later we picked up a rental motorhome at CanaDream with the intent to travel the Southwest Yukon and Southeast Alaska.

The Yukon government campgrounds open the holiday May weekend. Camping is on a first-come basis, and spots are in high demand as Yukoners, eager to go camping after a long winter set up camp. As suggested, we stayed at the nearby private Takhini Hotsprings campground instead, where we enjoyed the hot pools the next morning.

With over 18 hours of daylight in May, we had time for an impromptu afternoon canoeing trip.

We rented a canoe from Kanoe People in downtown Whitehorse at the affordable cost of $40.00 per day. They equipped us with the necessities, a canoe, paddles, life jackets, bailer, and bowlines. For an additional fee, transportation can be arranged. But with some careful coordination and help from Brett’s parents, and with Brett as our tour guide, we set out at 4:00 pm for an adventure along the mighty Yukon River.

On our way to launching at Marsh Lake, we stopped for an overview of Miles Canyon where we would be canoeing through later in the day.

Yukon River

The river twist and turns, flowing through marshes, clay cliffs, forested hills, and rolling mountains.

Paddling the Yukon River

We stopped for lunch (or should I say dinner) at Brett’s favourite spot along the route — here you can see why.

Enjoying the view

With renewed energy, we paddle on admiring the stunning views around every bend.

Still water on the Yukon RiverEntering the Yukon gorge, Miles Canyon to unusually calm waters.

Entering Miles Canyon gorge

During the time of the Klondike gold rush, as paddlers attempted to reach Dawson, Miles Canyon was a feared and treacherous section of the river. Now the water level is managed by a series of dams rendering the rapids smooth and navigable. 

Navigating Miles Canyon

Klondikers on raft navigating Miles Canyon on the Yukon River, Yukon Territory, ca. 1898 — Photo Credit: University of Washington Libraries, via Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre

Miles Canyon

We arrived at Schwatka Lake, our upper bodies aching from paddling 30 km (20 miles). It was 10:30 pm and the sun had yet to set.

After a full and memorable day, we understand the Yukon’s tourism motto — “Larger Than Life.”

5 thoughts on “On the Klondike Trail: Paddling the Yukon River

    • Igor, this was our first visit to the Yukon and surely not our last. The territory is so vast and wild, a stunning place to explore Canada’s natural environment, particularly at this time of year since there is so much daylight. – Thank you for following along. – Ginette

  1. This is all so familiar to me. I lived in Atlin for over nine years, and Whitehorse for one, and spent 2 summers cooking in a wilderness lodge outside of Mayo, 2 summers cooking in a gold mining camp outside of Dawson city, etc. It was a very rich time in my life. I loved the endless summer daylight, and x-country skied all winter.

    • As first timers to the Yukon, we didn’t realize just how vast the region is. We also visited Haines Junction, Haines, North of HJ and the Kluane National Park–and there’s still so much more for us to see, Atlin and Dawson on future visits for sure. Likewise, we loved the endless daylight and wilderness. You get to do twice as much in one day! We left wishing that every Canadian could get a chance to see the beauty of the North. -Ginette

  2. Pingback: On the Klondike Trail: Whitehorse to Skagway | White Postcards

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