In 1924 the "Lucky Swede", Charlie Brefault, staked a lead-zinc-silver claim on Galena Hill behind the townsite and named it after his sister, Elsa. Treadwell Yukon purchased the Elsa Claim and it became one of that company's richest mines. The Elsa community grew up at the entrance to the mine to support it and other mines in the area.
Yukon mining communities rise and fall with the price of metals. In 1947 Elsa became the administrative centre for United Keno Hill Mines and reached a population of about 700 people. After the mine closed in 1989, a small maintenance crew remained to protect the otherwise abandoned town.
The South McQuesten River valley lies below the townsite. A First Nation family, the Germaines, has trapped and hunted in this area for generations. The valley is rich with moose, beaver, martin and lynx. The McQuesten Lakes, further up the valley, have lingcod, whitefish, pike and inconnu. Nets were set in the narrows of an emptying creek, and Jenny Germaine reports "lots of fish there". "Keno, in summer time we stayed there, picked lots of blueberries. We also had a house in Keno. We hunted gophers and whistlers, we used to walk there. There was graylings in Cristal Creek." After the prospectors started settling here, the Germaines provided fish and wild game to the mining camps.
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