Highway #1 - Alaska Highway, Km. 1903

Alaska/Yukon Border

Photo from Alaska/Yukon Border


The first non-natives to explore the area that is now Yukon came in search of furs. Later arrivals came looking for gold. In August 1896, George Carmack, Dawson Charlie and Skookum Jim found gold in the Klondike. In the next two years more than 40,000 miners, merchants and adventurers flooded into the territory. The Yukon Territory was established as a separate political entity in June 1898 at the height of the gold rush.

Americans have played a major role in the two largest events in Yukon's history: the Klondike Gold Rush and the Alaska Highway construction. Thousands of American soldiers slogged through muskeg and snow to carve out the first pioneer road across the north. Two crews, one working east from Alaska and the other working west through Yukon, met at Soldier's Summit, on the shores of Kluane Lake.


Kluane National Park & Reserve lies in the heart of Kluane Country, a region of Yukon that is rich in cultural history, spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife. Within the Park's 22,015 square kilometres (8,500 square miles) lie some of the most spectacular mountains and glaciers on the continent. Canada's highest mountain, Mount Logan, rises 5959 metres (19,550 feet) in the midst of the largest non-polar icefield in the world. Grizzly bears, mountain sheep and an extraordinary diversity of birds make their home in the area. Visitor information, services and activities are available throughout the region.

Surveying the Border

The line that now forms the border between Yukon and Alaska was first described in an 1825 treaty between England and Russia. The two nations agreed to divide the northwest, giving Britain rights to all inland furs and Russia the rights to the sea otters' marine habitat.

The United States accepted the provisional boundary in 1867 when it purchased Alaska. But in 1896, when gold was found in the Klondike, a dispute arose between Canada and the United States with both claiming the seaports at the head of Lynn Canal. The question was settled in 1903 by an international tribunal, deciding in favour of the United States

Marking the border on the ground through the wilderness was a remarkable feat. It took more than 50 years and involved hundreds of American and Canadian surveyors. They travelled through the mountains, tundra and boreal forest by canoe, sternwheeler, packhorse and on foot. Delicate instruments were carried across rugged country by hand-drawn sleds.

First Peoples

There are eleven linguistic families of native peoples in Canada. Yukon is home to three of them: Athapaskan, Inuit and Tlingit. The Upper Tanana of Alaska and the Southern and Northern Tutchone of Yukon all belong to the Athapaskan family.

The Tutchone and Tanana Indians were among the most isolated native people in North America. Until the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942, they lived an independent subsistence life. Their traditional territories extended across what would later become the boundary and they travelled and traded throughout the area. Long before white men penetrated the interior, the Tutchone of the Kluane Lake area were trading copper, knives and tobacco with the Upper Tanana.


The boundary between Canada and the United States is known as the longest undefended border in the world. The Alaska-Yukon section of the border follows the 141st meridian of longitude from the Arctic coast to Mt. St. Elias.

The two countries can be justly proud of more than 150 years of peaceful coexistence. Canada, officially bilingual, is the world's second largest country but has one tenth the population of the United States. Yukon, with an area of 483,450 square kilometres (186,000 square miles) is even more sparsely populated than other parts of Canada.

The Yukon, Canada's northwestern territory, and Alaska, the most remote of the 50 states, are northern neighbours in North America's last frontier.

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