Saturday, June 4, 2016

Dawson City, Yukon, Canada - Stop 18 on our Trek North to Alaska

We started Thursday with sunshine and a mix of clouds, but we encountered rain later in the day.

We exited the Alaska Highway (we will pick it up again upon our return trip) to take The Klondike Highway heading toward Dawson City.

In the early part of the day, the road conditions on the Klondike were better than on the Alcan.  Not built until 1950, we suspect the engineers designing the Klondike Highway learned a few things from mistakes made with building the Alcan, particularly dealing with permafrost.


We stopped for cinnamon buns at Braeburn Lodge, one of the checkpoints for the famed Yukon Quest International Dog Sled Race.  These are the crème de la crème of cinnamon buns—humungous, filled with gobs of gooey cinnamon and topped with lip-smacking streusel.  A 5-cheese rating for sure from Rambling RV Rat!

Even Tabby Loved the Cinnamon Buns!

A nearby sign says “Watch Out for Braeburn Elk Herd”.  We saw no herd—nor any other wildlife except for a trumpeter swan sitting on a nest in the wetlands and a fox jumping in front of us as Mom was driving.   No decent pictures of either to share, as usual!

We crossed the Carmacks Bridge, the only bridge crossing of the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City, and we stopped at the Five Finger Recreation Site to admire the lovely vista.  It is just amazing how the colorful weeds and wild flowers add to the beauty of these canvases.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site

Pretty Weeds...

...And Wild Flowers

Our initial plan was to stay overnight in a pullout in Stewart’s Crossing.  However, we made such good timing, we decided to head directly to Dawson City.  Of course, once we made this decision, the road conditions were not as favorable.  We arrived in Dawson City about 6 p.m., originally intending to stay in a full hook-up RV park—that is until we drove inadvertently right past the full hook-up RV parks and suddenly found ourselves right in front of the George Black Ferry Service for crossing the Yukon to the Top of the World Highway.

What the hay—we line up for the ferry.  After all, there is the Yukon River Provincial Park right across the river where we can boondock for just $12 Canadian/night.  The Park receives excellent reviews (far better than any of the full service RV parks in the area) and is noted for its spacious sites to accommodate big rigs.

I saw a sign that said the ferry service is provided by the Yukon government free of charge.  How nice, I thought.  Then the sign said "use the ferry at your own risk".  Well, thank you very much.   Now I was scared to think that this dinky little ferry is what will carry Big Boomer and the 5th wheel across this powerful, swift-moving river.  This ferry ain’t nothing like those we have taken in the past like the Cape May, NJ Ferry or the Staten Island, NY Ferry.  Daddy assures me we are safe—we are well below the maximum limits.  After all, huge tanker trucks use this ferry.  I was relieved Mike/Claudia were not on the same ferry.  They could notify Aunt Laurie in case we sink!   

But the ride across is not bad, and we arrive safely in a mere 6 minutes into West Dawson.  West Dawson is truly “off the grid” living.  Its 200 residents have no electricity, no running water, and worst of all, no Wi-Fi!  These folks are modern day pioneers in my book!

We set up the rig on a big back-in site with a view of the river and enjoyed Mom’s spicy skillet nacho dinner while sitting alongside our campfire.

We arrived at the Visitor Center at 9 a.m. on Thursday and were thrilled to learn than our Canadian Parks Discover Pass affords us free access to most of the places we wish to visit in Dawson City.

The Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 turned Dawson into a vibrant city, the largest in Western Canada.  At its peak, Dawson City had a population of about 40,000.  Known as “The Paris of the North”, it had fine food, good drink, and high society fashion (not to mention “women of the evening”) available for purchase.  It was the Capital of the Yukon Territory until 1953, when it relinquished the role to Whitehorse. 

Today, about 1,300 people reside in Dawson City, although this number dips dramatically in winter for those who seek warmer climates.  Tourism and mining are its main industries.  Incredibly, things have not changed much since the turn of the century.   The historical flavor of the City is maintained throughout its buildings and boardwalks.  There are costumed portrayers of noted Yukon men and women to take you back in time.  And Dawson City just got a paved road on Front Street a mere 5 years ago. 

We toured the S. S. Keno, which holds two distinctions for paddlewheelers:  it was the smallest of all those that traveled between Whitehorse and Dawson City AND it was the last to traverse the Yukon waters, taking its final voyage in 1960.

We attended a lecture at the Jack London Museum, and viewed the cabin home of the author of “The Call of the Wild” and “White Fang”.   Jack London has the honor of being the first American writer to make a million dollars.

We visited Dredge #4, a Canadian National Historic Site.  Built in 1912, it was a very efficient way to mine gold.  In fact, in just 1 minute it could do the work of 3 men working 24 hours a day each!  Unfortunately, Dredge #4 sank from a dam collapse in 1960.

Dredge #4

One of the Claims along Bonanza Creek

The weather turned ugly with torrential downpours, so we called it a day.

On Saturday, we arrived at the Visitor Center by 9 a.m. to participate in a walking tour entitled “Then and Now”.  Sasha and Sue of Parks Canada provided an incredibly entertaining, yet fully informative 1.5 hour program, giving us access to several buildings within the Historic Complex owned and operated by Parks Canada.

The Bank

The Post Office

The Tavern

We continued the day with a self-guided walking tour to view some other buildings from yesteryear.  That's where we met a gentle furry friend along the way.  Just like the dog Stanley in Jasper, this dog loved Mom and her brown, insulated bag with lunch goodies!  That's why I nicknamed this doggie Stanley II!

The Altar Within St. Mary's Church

Masonic Temple

The Palace Grand, Where We Met Stanley II

Stanley II Investigating Mom's Bag

We walked up a very long, steep road to visit the Dawson City cemeteries.   But what a terrific view of the River from this perch!  Percy DeWolfe is buried there.  Percy is best known as “Iron Man of the North” due to his stamina and his dependability as a mail carrier for 40 years.  Percy would transport mail between Eagle, Alaska and Dawson City, a 100+ mile trek, within a mere 2 DAYS.  In summer, he would travel by boat; in winter, via dog sled.  Fast forward 70 years.  Sasha and Sue told me it now takes 2 WEEKS for a letter to get from Dawson City to Eagle, going first to Whitehorse, then down to Vancouver for the main Western Canada postal hub, then over to San Francisco, then to Eagle, Alaska.  Progress within the postal service—ain’t it grand!

View from the top of King Street

We met up with costumed interpreters Sue and Sasha again at the Commissioner’s House, home to Martha and George Black between 1912 and 1918, when George was Commissioner of the Yukon.  Terrific tour guides, great history and artifacts (all the furnishings were original to the home), and high tea out on the porch!  Who could ask for more!


Check out Bullwinkle on the wall...

...and this cool chair made from moose antlers

Maestro Mike giving us all a captivating performance

We drove up to Dome Road, getting an impressive view of the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers.  Got there just minutes before the heavens opened up the water faucets--again!

View of the confluence of the Klondike/Yukon Rivers from Dome Road

We came back to the campground to dry out and have a scrumptious steak dinner.  We ended our evening walking along the shore of the Yukon to see the paddlewheeler graveyard.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Dawson City, and we were glad we gained an extra day to maximize our tourist endeavors.

Tomorrow we cross back into the United States!  Hooray—back to full Wi-Fi and cell phone service!

Talk to you soon!  


  1. We'l be doing the Klondike Loop in about a month, a great post as to what we can expect. You mention no Wi-Fi in West Dawson, how was the cell service? Thanks!

  2. No Wi-Fi in West Dawson--on other side of Yukon. Visitor Center within Dawson City has Wi-Fi, and is set up with tables/chairs to perform online tasks in comfort! Our Verizon cell and mobile data service worked fine for us in most of Dawson City.

  3. RE: Canadian Parks Discover Pass - what type of venues did you visit that provided free access with the pass. We're considering getting one and wondering if it's worth it. Thanks.

    1. The Discover Pass thus far has given us access to Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, Waterton Lake National Park, walking tours presented in Dawson City, Commissioner's House in Dawson City, SS Keno in Dawson City, SS Klondike in Whitehorse, etc. And we will use it on our return trip at other Canadian National Parks. So for us, it has paid for itself.