Wednesday, November 30, 2016


A Territory in northwest Canada, YUKON is wild, mountainous and sparsely populated.

It's known for dog-sledding, canoe expeditions, hiking, salmon-fishing and other outdoor well as for the colourful Northern Lights sometimes seen in the night-time sky. Kluane National Park and Reserve includes Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak 5,959 m (19,551 ft) well as glaciers, trails and the Alsek River, renowned for rafting.

Yukon is the smallest of Canada's three federal territories. Whitehorse is the terratorial capital and Yukon's only city. The territory was split from the Northwest Terratories in 1898 and was named the Yukon Territory. Yukon is from the native word 'Yu-kun-ah' meaning 'great river'. Population in 2010 was estimated 33,992.

Geography: The territory is about the shape of a right-angle triangle, bordering the American state of Alaska to the west, the Northwest Territories to the east and British Columbia to the south. Its northern coast is on the Beaufort Sea. Its ragged eastern boundary mostly follows the divide between the Yukon River Basin and the MacKenzie River watershed to the east in the MacKenzie mountains.

The southwest is dominated by the Kluane icefields in Kluane National Park and Reserve, the largest non-polas ice-fields in the world. Kluane National Park also contains eight of Canada's highest mountains, including the five highest, all in Saint Elias Mountains. A number of glaciers flow out of the icefields. Permafrost is common...throughout Yukon, especially the northern part.

Two major faults...the Denali Fault and the Tintina Fault have created major valleys called trenches (the Shakwak and the Tintina). The Haines Highway and the Alaska Highway north of Haines Junction are built in the Shakwak Trench. Its edges have rich mineral deposits including Klondike gold and the lead-zinc deposits near Faro.

The volcanoes in Yukon are part of the circle of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean...known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. Yukon includes more than 100 separate volcanic centres that have been active.

The Saint Elias mountains are part of the Coast Mountains which range from southern British Columbia to Alaska and cover the southeastern Yukon. There are numeous mountain ranges in the far north, the northeast, central Yukon and north of Dawson City and along the Dempster Highway.

Most of the territory is in the watershed of its namesake...the Yukon River which flows into the Bering Sea; the Southern Yukon is dotted with a large number of large, long and narrow glacier-fed alpine lakes which flow into the Yukon river system. Other rivers flow directly into the Pacific Ocean or directly into the Arctic Ocean.

The long sunshine hours in the short summer allow a profusion of flowers and fruit to blossom. Most of the territory is boreal forest, tundra being the main vegetation zone only in the extreme north and at high elevations.

Climate: Most of Yukon has a sub-arctic climate, characterized by long cold winters and brief warm summers. The Arctic Ocean coast has a Tundra Climate...generally very dry, with little precipitation, but is wetter in the southeast. Precipitation is much greater in the mountains...and the snowpack continues to melt well into summer, resulting in high water in July and August.

Natural Resources: Mining was the mainstay of the economy until recently. Abundant gold was found in the Klondike region, leading to the Klondike Gold Rush in1898. Other minerals actively mined include copper in the Whitehorse area...with lead, zinc, coal, gold and silver in other areas. The world's largest known deposit of tungsten is in the MacKenzie Moutains. Non-metallic minerals mined have included jade and barite.
The fur trade was very important to the Yukon First Nation economy, but low prices
and the impact of 'animal rights activists' have devastated the traditional economy.

Klondike Gold Rush was the seminal event in the Yukon's history. Led by Skookum Jim Mason, he and his party discovered gold in Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River in August 1896. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people braced numerous hardships to reach Klondike gold fields in the winter and spring...after the discovery became known in 1897. With the influx of American stampeders,
the Canadian government decided to create a separate territory to better control the situation.

History of Yukon: Human habitation dates back to the Ice Age...the original inhabitants are believed to have arrived over 20,000 years ago by migrating over the land bridge from Asia. In the 18th century, Russian explorers began trade withe the First Nations people along the Alaskan coast, beginning the establishment of trade relations throughout the region. The famous Klondike Gold Rush began near Dawson City in 1896. Due to the influx of people, Yukon was made a separate territory. The second major event in Yukon's history is the construction of the Alaska Highway during the Second World War, for the transportation of war supplies. Eventually, Whitehorse became the largest city in the Yukon.

Yukon First Nations: Estimates show that by the 1,830th year, the number of indigenous people made 4,700 people. The main part of the territory of modern Yukon was occupied by various Athabaskan tribes. The Arctic coast of modern Yukon, including Herschel Island, there lived Inuit (Eskimo)...and in the south, lived continental Tlingit whose language together with Athabaskan languages were included into Na-Dene language family.
Covered with snow, Mount Elias in the extreme southwest of Yukon was unsettled.

Nineteenth Century: Fur trade began in the first half of the 19th century. Hudson Bay explorers and traders from MacKenzie River trading posts used two different routes to enter Yukon and created trading posts along the way. FortYukon was established in1847 at the juncture of the Porcupine and Yukon Rivers. In Alexander Hunter Murray's journal, he gave valuable insight into the culture of the local Gwich'in people in 'First Nation' at the time. While the post was actually in Russian Alaska, the Hudson Bay Company continued to trade there until expelled by the American traders in 1869, following the Alaska Purchase. A new trading post, Rampart House was established along the Porcupine River, but it also proved to be inside Alaska's boundary. Gwich'in people played off the Hudson's Bay Company against American traders from the Alaska Commercial Company.
Anglican and Roman Catholic missionaries
followed in the wake of the fur trade.
In 1894, concerned about the influx of American miners and the liquor trade, the Canadian government sent inspector Charles Constantine of the Northwest Mounted Police to examine conditions in the role in the acculturation of the people in the Yukon districts.

Twentieth Century: After the Gold Rush, the population declined precipitously reaching a low of 4,157 in 1921...and remained steady until the 1940's. The next important event in Yukon's history was the construction of the Alaska Highway during the Second World War, opening up the territory to road traffic. The war also saw the construction of a number of airfields as part of the Northwest Staging Route. Unfortunately, the influx of construction crews had a devastating effect on some First Nations, who suffered from a large number of deaths from diseases to which they had no immunity.

Other highways built during the 1950's and 1960's resulted in the decline of the riverboats that had provided the main means of transportation until the 1960's. In the 1950's the White Pass & Yukon Route pioneered the use of intermodal containerized shipping. Mining activity also revived. Gold mining came back to the Klondike and other areas with the large rise in gold prices in the lat 1970's.
Today the Canadian Government is investing in clean energy research and environmental protection of the territory...with the goals being the increased involvement of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples in the northern economy.

Animals: The large mammals found througout the territory include caribou, wolves, grizzly bears and American black bears. Higher elevation have Dell sheep and in the south, Rocky Mountain goat. Polar bears are found on the Arctic coast. The mule deer and its predator, the cougar are becoming increasingly common in the south...and coyotes are increasing their range in the northern Yukon. Elk and bison have been introduced.

Many species of rodents inhabit the areas: squirrels, lemmings, porcupines, pikas, beavers,various voles, porcupines, muskrats...wolverines, martens, ermines, weasel, American mink, lynx, Arctic fox and river otters. More than 250 species of birds have been sighted in Yukon.

Various fish are found in rivers and streams. There are no reptiles inYukon...but a few frogs.

Flags and Symbols: Motto (on licence plate) The Klondike
Flag: By order of the Terratorial Council, it was assented to December 1, 1967.
Coat of Arms (topped by a Husky dog) was approved by Queen Elizabeth II, February 24, 1956.
Flower: Fireweed...a magenta-purple, which by late July covers the hills and roadsides.
Bird: The Raven became its official bird in 1986...sometimes referred to as 'the crow'. It's an intelligent bird...been known to open boxes, use tools and communicate with other animals.
Tree: The Sub-Alpine Fir is found in most areas of Yukon...the territory adopted the tree as its symbol in part because of its fame among the Aboriginal people for its healing powers. Medically, they would boil the needles to make a cold-fighting-tea rich in Vitamin C...and also to use the sap to treat lung ailments.

Experiencing rapid growth in the 19th century due to the Gold Rush,
the peoples living in The Yukon, realized they needed governmental representation.
As a result, the Yukon Act in 1898 designated YUKON
as a separate territory with Confederation.

Information compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr...July 1, 2016


  1. SHERRIE WRITES: "Love all your writing on Yukon.
    Great history there...and I like how you share it with us.
    You are a great teacher, Merle."

  2. In the writing research, it seemed very detailed, yet, logically it told the Yukon story. So pleased you enjoyed it, Sherrie...thanks for your interest!