Mining exploration in the Silver Trail region led to the growth of Minto Bridge as a transportation hub. At the turn of the 20th century, the settlement consisted of two roadhouses and several miners’ cabins. Mining activity was centred on Haggart and Johnson creeks and Dublin Gulch.
In 1903, the discovery of gold on nearby Highet and Minto creeks and along Mayo Lake prompted the territorial government to build a 39 kilometre wagon road from the summer steamboat-serviced townsite of Mayo Landing to Duncan Creek. When the road was completed in 1904, Minto Bridge became a key distribution point along the route. The following year, a 282 kilometre (175 mile) long winter overland trail from Dawson City to Minto Bridge was built, creating a year-round connection for travellers and supplies. As exploration continued, more roads were built from Minto Bridge to gold-producing creeks and, later, to the silver mining claims near Elsa.
As mining in the region grew, the settlement at Minto Bridge became more established. The mining recorder’s office was moved to Minto Bridge, and in 1910 the first post office in the district was opened. By the early 1920s, roadhouses were located every 16 kilometres from Keno City to Mayo. They provided accommodations and meals for drivers and miners, as well as stables for the horses. At this time, it cost as much to haul ore overland from Keno to Mayo as it did to ship ore from Mayo to San Francisco.
The increased traffic created the need for a better roadbed. In the late 1930s, a steel bridge replaced the original wooden bridge. Ultimately, better roads lessened the need for lodges, such as those at Minto Bridge. In 1951, the settlement was flooded for a hydroelectric project.
People of Minto Bridge
Even in its heyday, the settlement of Minto Bridge had a small population of permanent residents. Amy Patterson operated a roadhouse in the early 1900s. In 1908, Scottish-born George Cunningham and his wife Betsy arrived at Minto Bridge to run a roadhouse and store. They were one of the first families to arrive. In 1920, George became the postmaster until the family moved to Mayo so that their children could attend school. William Hayden and partners Gus Schogren and Frank Chasni ran local roadhouses into the 1920s. Rupert and Harriet Steeves operated a roadhouse for Treadwell Yukon Co. into the 1940s.
By the 1920s, new modes of transport and better roads decreased the need for roadhouse services and the population of Minto Bridge dwindled. The roadhouses continued to be used by local traffic. By the late 1930s, the community itself served as a base for mining and trapping activities and consisted mostly of single older men living in small cabins.
The last resident of Minto Bridge, Charlie Hodinott, left in 1947. When geologist Hugh Bostock visited the site in 1948, Steeves’ roadhouse had been torn down and only a few small cabins remained.
In 1972, Ralph and Norma Mease acquired land on this side of the Mayo River. They have lived and farmed here for over 40 years, raising their family, farming, supplying chickens, turkeys, fresh vegetables and hay to central Yukon. A single cabin relocated to the farm from the original Minto Bridge settlement remains on their property.
Welcome to the Minto Bridge Trail
This walking trail takes you along the riverbank through the boreal forest. The trail passes along the banks of the Mayo River, through stands of birch and spruce thriving on permafrost.
Interpretive panels located along the trail describe the wildlife along the way. Please keep this trail beautiful for all: respect wildlife, carry out your litter, leave flowers for everyone to enjoy.
Life on Frozen Ground
Permafrost is any soil or rock that remains frozen (below 0°C) throughout the whole year. Plants that grow on top of permafrost form a layer that insulates the frozen ground from the almost constant sunshine of the northern summer. This helps keep the ground frozen, while allowing plants to thrive on top.
“Drunken forests", such as this one, can be found where some permafrost has thawed, causing the ground to shift and the trees to tilt and grow at odd angles.
Trail at a Glance
Trail length: 1 km loop
Elevation gain: 20 m
Level of difficulty: Easy
The trail follows the Mayo River for the first 0.5 km and then loops back through the boreal forest.
Wood Frogs are uniquely adapted to life in the north. As the days shorten the Wood Frog stores large amounts of glucose in its liver and seeks shelter under leaves on the forest floor to hibernate. When the frog’s feet begin to freeze, the liver releases the stored glucose into its blood stream to act like antifreeze and prevent cells from bursting. Sound uncomfortable? The Wood Frog doesn’t seem to mind. It spends many months each winter frozen solid. When spring finally arrives, the heartbeat and breathing return, and the frog emerges ready for another summer.
Wood Frogs are the only amphibian found in abundance throughout Yukon. They live in ponds and rivers as far north as Old Crow.
You can learn more by picking up a copy of the brochure at the Binet House (Mayo), Alpine Interpretive Centre (Keno), or other visitor service stations across the territory.
Wareham Dam flooded this section of the Mayo River in the early 1950s creating a wetland home for water loving plants and animals. Fresh nutrients are delivered to the plants during spring runoff flooding, and animals make their home on the grassy islands and still water sloughs of the flooded river.
Life on the Edge
Life in the boreal forest is tough and only the strongest survive. Plants have adapted to the long cold winters and short growing season in many different ways.
Don't be such a sap
The white bark on Alaska Paper Birch reflects the winter sun instead of absorbing it. This prevents the sap from warming up before the spring thaw and keeps the tree’s cells safe from bursting should the temperature drop suddenly. When the actual air temperature begins to warm, the sap will start flowing, signaling the start of another growing season.
I’m Likin’ It
Lichens are the ultimate cooperators. A lichen is made up of a fungus and algae living together in a symbiotic relationship; the algae produces food, and the fungus gathers water. Working together as a lichen, both the fungus and the algae survive the harsh northern conditions.
Low-bush Cranberry has very thick, waxy, evergreen leaves that keep the plant from freezing completely and drying out during the winter months. It grows close to the ground and is protected by an insulating layer of snow during the coldest of winter months.
It's Easy Being Green
Look closely at the bark of Trembling Aspen. How is it different from other trees? These hardy northern trees store high concentrations of chlorophyll in their bark tissue to compensate for the long, leafless winter season. They get a jump start on the growing season by photosynthesizing even before their leaves bud.
At the Root of It
Black Spruce is able to grow on permafrost because it has a shallow root system that stays on top of the frozen layer. This specialised root system means that Black Spruce are some of the few trees that can survive in Canada’s North.