The present-day location of Canadian Customs is also the site of one of the White Pass & Yukon Route railway stations. The station was named Fraser, probably to honour a politician from eastern Canada who had helped the railway company in its early days.
Construction of the White Pass railway began in May of 1898 and was completed to Whitehorse in July 1900. The 180-kilometre (110 mile) narrow-gauge line ran from Skagway, at tidewater, through Alaska and British Columbia to Whitehorse, Yukon.
Fraser is located on the stretch of track between the Summit, site of the International border, and Bennett, at the south end of Bennett Lake.
This section of track was built during the winter of 1898-99, a winter that saw exceptionally heavy snowfall and cold temperatures. Not only did this section of track have to be constructed at the worst time of the year, but it also involved the most back-breaking work: cutting a railway roadbed through solid rock.
In those days, there was no heavy equipment available for blasting. Rock debris had to be hauled by hand or by horse-drawn wagons, and in some places near the Summit, the slopes were so steep that even horses couldn't be used.
In the words of the company's first president, Samuel Haughton Graves,
“Between Skaguay (sic) and Fraser, near Log Cabin, a distance of 28 miles, there was not a wheelbarrowful of gravel or loose earth ... the line was entirely on solid rock or bridges.”
Welcome to Canada and the Yukon
This section of the Klondike Highway from the U.S. border to Log Cabin passes through terrain not usually accessible by road - a sparse and sometimes eerie subalpine landscape of lakes and stunted trees. This transition of vegetation between the treed lower elevations and the true alpine above the treeline is sometimes referred to as a 'moonscape'.
The small twisted alpine firs that you see have survived decades of fierce winter storms. Every winter the dense and matted lower branches are buried under the snow while the sparse and distorted upper branches are exposed to icy winds. These misshapen firs (shown below) are also known as mopheads and have a pleasant smell which is characteristic of alpine fir.
Subalpine and alpine regions are fragile environments and are easily damaged. There is very little soil over the glacial carved gravel and rock. When walking in these areas, visitors will leave the fewest traces if they follow an existing track in single file. Where there is no trail it is best to spread out across a wide area or walk along gravelly lakeshore, creek bed or through rocky terrain where vegetation will not be disturbed.
An average of 721 centimetres (24 feet) of snow falls at Fraser each year. Snowplows are sometimes guided only by the orange and black tips of the poles you see lining the road. Many people take advantage of the abundant snow to ski at the summit on sunny spring days.
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