The 1904 Kluane Wagon Road from Whitehorse was built after gold was discovered near Kluane Lake. The road followed the Dezadeash River and the traditional trails of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, but bypassed the current site of Haines Junction.
The 1942 Alaska Highway pioneer road generally followed the route of the Kluane Wagon Road from kilometre 1520 to Kluane Lake but diverged from the old road in this area. The community of Haines Junction grew out of an Alaska Highway construction camp built at Historic Mile 1016, where the Haines Road and the Alaska Highway intersect. The Haines Road was part of the Alaska Highway project and provided alternate access to the coast.
Maintenance of the Alaska Highway and the Canadian portion of the Haines Road was taken over by the Canadian military in 1946 and they continued to use the Haines Junction road maintenance camp. Haines Junction grew as a community when wives joined their husbands at the maintenance camp. Private service stations, lodges and businesses contributed to the steady and continual growth of a community not tied to the boom and bust economy of mining or forestry.
Haines Junction was incorporated as a municipality in 1984 and continues to be a dynamic community where volunteers and an active group of seniors support a variety of competitions, festivals and societies. Check at the Visitor Information Centre for more information on current events.
Land of High Mountains
This region of the Yukon is connected to the sea by a high mountain pass, named after the Tlingit-speaking Chilkats of coastal Alaska. The Chilkats and the Southern Tutchone-speaking First Nations of Yukon travelled through this pass for hundreds of years to socialize and trade goods. The Tutchone living at Aishihik Lake may have been the first Yukon people to use local copper for tools and arrowheads. Copper and furs were valuable trade goods which were exchanged for coastal cedar baskets, seaweed, shell ornaments and fish grease.
The Southern Tutchone name for Haines Junction is Dakwakada. The name describes it as a place where high caches, or dakat, were located. The caches stored food and other things for people travelling through the area on their annual seasonal rounds.
First Nation guides led American and European explorers into the country along the traditional trails. The extreme landscape attracted American Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka who led an early expedition to climb Mount St. Elias in 1886. In 1891, Edward Glave and Jack Dalton travelled along the route that would become the Haines Road. Glave had traveled with the African explorer E. M. Stanley and spent some time in the Congo. The mountains of this region remain an exciting challenge for outdoor enthusiasts.
Many of Canada’s highest peaks are in the St. Elias Mountains including the highest, Mount Logan (5959m). One of world’s largest non-polar icefields surrounds Mount Logan with immense glaciers and wild rivers spilling down the valleys toward the Haines Road and Alaska Highway.
Haines Junction lies in the Shakwak Trench. To the east are the low hills of the Yukon Interior Plateau. To the west are the St. Elias Mountains. These very young mountains are still growing at the rate of several millimetres a year. The peaks visible from the village rise to about 2,500 m (8,500 feet) and hide Mount Logan and the Icefield Ranges from view.
Glaciers covered most of this region during the Pleistocene era. About 9,000 years ago the glaciers dammed a huge lake, Glacial Lake Champagne, which covered this whole area. A much smaller lake has, in more recent times, covered parts of the Shakwak Valley. In the mid-1800s, the Lowell Glacier advanced to create a lake along the Alsek, Kaskawulsh and Dezadeash rivers. When the glacier retreated, a flash flood destroyed several First Nation villages and killed many people. Haines Junction is the administrative centre for the self-governing Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. Champagne and Aishihik people have lived at Haines Junction since the 1960s when the federal government, in administering the Indian Act, relocated Southern Tutchone families here from the Champagne Landing and Aishihik Lake regions. The name recognizes the origin of the two different groups.