A Road to the Coast
The traditional First Nation trading routes from the coast over the White and Chilkoot passes were overrun by southern gold seekers during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898. The old trails were packed flat and wide by thousands of stampeders. Passage of goods over the Chilkoot Pass was improved with an aerial tramway and a private toll road was constructed on a section of the White Pass route. Mining developments in Yukon and Alaska caught the interest of a few British businessmen looking for investment opportunities. Construction of the 180-kilometre White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) narrow gauge rail line from Skagway began in 1898 and was completed to Whitehorse in 1900.
A wagon road between Whitehorse and Carcross was built in stages in the early 1900s. In 1907, a twenty-mile road was built from Robinson, about 15 km south of here, to the western mining districts. A 19-kilometre road was also built along the beach from Carcross south to a steamboat landing for the silver mines on Windy Arm.
The Klondike Highway generally parallels the railway line south to Carcross and then follows the old wagon road route to Windy Arm and the British Columbia border. The coastal mountains were a formidable barrier and a through road to Skagway was not completed until 1980. Two years later, the railway between Whitehorse and Skagway ceased operations.
The highway is open year-round as the result of a maintenance agreement between Canada and the United States.
The old Klondike Gold Rush townsite of Log Cabin is the highway access point for hikers on the Chilkoot Trail. The historic trail is 53 kilometres long and takes four to five days to hike comfortably. [Photo caption: Stampeders at the Chilkoot Pass.
Kookasoon Lake is very shallow and therefore warm enough for a swim on a hot summer day.
Robinson Roadhouse, a flag stop along the White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) railway, became a staging centre for mineral exploration in the Wheaton River district. Stop to read the series of interpretive panels that tell this fascinating story.
The beautiful range of colours in Emerald Lake results from light reflecting off a bottom layer of white marl (calcium carbonate) sediment.
"The World's Smallest Desert" runs from Lake Bennett to the base of Caribou Mountain. Strong winds blow off the lake to form dunes that reach over 100 feet high.
Venus Mill is a monument to the dreams of John Conrad who, in the early 1900s, owned silver mines in the Windy Arm mining district.
South Klondike Highway
Leave the Alaska Highway to drive the scenic Klondike Highway into the Southern Lakes District. The Southern Lakes are a chain of major lakes that flow into the famous Yukon River. You can circle through this region to see unique landscape and communities. Watch for opportunities to buy locally-made arts and craft items. There are many friendly tourism-related businesses offering fun and recreational activities.
The historic communities of Tagish, Carcross and Atlin, British Columbia are set in areas that the original First Nations found rich in hunting and fishing resources. In the Yukon, you will be travelling through the traditional territory of Kwanlin Dun and Carcross/Tagish First Nations.
The Southern Tutchone-speaking Tagish people have occupied the Carcross village site for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. An active trade with the coastal Tlingit allowed for inland migration and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation people trace their ancestry to both cultures.
After the WP&YR railway was constructed, Carcross grew as a supply centre for mines that bordered the southern lakes. The little locomotive, Duchess, sits by the Visitor Information Centre. White Pass & Yukon Route brought in the Duchess in 1899 to work on the 3.6-kilometre railway connecting Tagish and Atlin lakes.
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