Highway #1 - Alaska Highway, Km. 1489

Mendenhall Valley

Photo from Mendenhall Valley

Mendenhall Landing, Kusawa Lake Road, Km. 5

In July 1903, Dawson Charlie (Káa Goox), a co-discoverer of the Klondike Goldfields, staked the Discovery Claim on Fourth of July Creek in what was to become the Kluane goldfields. Significant gold finds were quickly staked on the surrounding creeks and more gold-bearing creeks were located to the southwest of Kluane Lake that fall.

The easiest route to the Kluane goldfields was a trail from Whitehorse but the way was rough and freight costs high. The Takhini River was navigable for some of its length and White Pass & Yukon Route soon announced a schedule of sternwheeler service to Steamboat Landing, here at the mouth of the Mendenhall River.

The Takhini River route eliminated about 80 kilometres from the 225-km land route. Dawson Charlie may have been the first to use this landing when he shipped his horse by boat in July 1903.

People came to Steamboat Landing to pick up their freight and mail and catch up with friends. Large get-togethers were held year round but especially at Christmas. In June, First Nation trappers came to Steamboat Landing to play ball games. The old-timers played fiddle at dances two or three times a week.

JoJo Roadhouse at Mendenhall Crossing on the old Kluane Wagon Road. Little Jim (Kapukin'iya) was a Southern Tutchone prospector who staked ground on Fourth of July Creek. His father-in-law operated a raft at the roadhouse and charged the Kluane stampeders a fee to cross the Mendenhall River.

After the Kluane rush subsided, the Kluane wagon road was used by miners, outfitters and other residents of small communities along the route. George Chambers had a store at Champagne and the Jacquot brothers, who ran an outfitting business at Burwash Landing, had a big shed at Steamboat Landing to store the supplies shipped from Whitehorse via Takhini River.

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