DOWN THE YUKON (Historic Information)
Whitehorse, the northern terminus of the White Pass & Yukon Railroad, is two miles below the famous Whitehorse Rapids, at the head of navigation on the Yukon River. From here the traveler will board a steamer of the type seen on the Mississippi River and will find all the comforts to be had on the best of our boats that ply the rivers of the United States.
From Whitchorse to Dawson is a trip of 461 miles and takes about 48 hours. The scene is ever interesting. The river is tortuous and rapid. There are terraced hills clothed with spruce, aspen, and wild flowers. Then a bit of open country, the meadows gay with more wild flowers. Then the river cuts its way through the spurs of mountains, ramparts, and gorges. Here and there small Indian camps are passed, the women busily engaged in drying salmon. Stops are made occasionally at the telegraph stations along the river, and at the wood camps, where wood is taken on as fuel. Sometimes a bear, a caribou, or a moose may be seen swimming across the river or standing on the bank apparently posing for a picture.
The trip is unusually restful. The air is fresh and invigorating. The boats are modern and very comfortable. The staterooms are commodious and scrupulously clean. Should the weather be unfavorable the tourist may view the scenery from his chair in the spacious observation room.
There are many points of interest on the voyage. The tortuous Thirtymile River, where navigation in this Northland is seen at its best. Cassiar Bar, where gold placer mining was first done in the Yukon country in the early 8o's, and up on the mountain side near-by lies buried one of the discoverers. Tantalus Butte, now to the left, now to the right, sometimes ahead and again astern. Five Finger Rapids, Rink Rapids, Fort Selkirk, near the site of the old Hudson's Bay Post, destroyed by the Indians in 1851. Victoria Rock so named on account of resembling the profile of Queen Victoria. The Pelly Ramparts, and other interesting points.
Fifty-six Shovel-nose Pike, Weighing from Ten to Twenty Pounds, Taken by Trolling in Four Hours, Lake Minchumina, Alaska
The route is down the upper section of the Yukon River known as the Lewis River and, as far as Lake LeBarge, often spoken of as the Fiftymile River; a 28-mile trip through a flat country to Lake Le Barge.
Lake LeBarge, Y. T., is a beautiful lake, thirty odd miles in length, and it is over this lake that the early supplies are carried on the ice in the spring from White Horse to the steamers lying in wait at their winter quarters. They in turn distribute down the rivers as soon as the ice goes out, the first fresh goods arriving in the country since the close of navigation. It is here, at the foot of Lake LeBarge and at the head of the swift Thirty-mile River, where many wrecks occurred in days gone by, that "The Cremation of Sam McGee" took place in the book "The Spell of the Yukon," which made the author famous.
Hootalinqua, Y. T. Thence the steamer traverses the swift, crooked Thirtymile River to the junction with the Hootalinqua (often called the Teslin River), where there is a small trading post called Hootalinqua. Up this river, which drains Teslin Lake, is a great country for the big game hunter, including moose, caribou, sheep, and bear; fish, grouse, and water fowl.
From Hootalinqua down the river is 27 miles to Cassiar Bar where men worked pay-dirt out in 1886. The traveler in his conversation with the old timers in the country will be told again and again of the famous Cassiar diggings.
At the mouth of the Big Salmon River is the next stop, a post where extensive tradine is done with the natives for fur and where the prospectors and those mining on the Big Salmon can get supplies. Gold was first found on this river in 1881 by four miners who had made their way over Chilkoot Pass at the head of Lynn Canal and down the Lewis River.
Still further down is another trading post at the mouth of the Little Salmon, and further on is Carmack. Near here are the coal mines that today are producing coal; also stores and the first barracks of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police since leaving Whitehorse, for it is at this place that the winter trail from Whitehorse to Dawson first touches the Yukon after leaving it a few miles below Whitehorse. This winter trail makes many short cuts to reduce the distance between the two points.
Carmack, Y. T. The village was named after George W. Carmack, a squaw man, found living with the natives at the mouth of Klondike River in 1896. Robert Henderson who had discovered gold on Indian River advised Carmack to cross over the low divide into what afterwards proved to be waters of the Klondike River and prospect for gold. In the event of making a find Carmack was to have sent a native back to inform Henderson that he might stake. This was the custom of the country.
Crown at Fairbanks, Alaska
Carmack went as advised, struck rich pay on Bonanza Creek a tributary to the Klondike, the first strike made in the Klondike in 1896. He did not notify his benefactor. Henderson kept working on Gold Bottom in ignorance of Carmack's strike until the whole country was staked by men who had stampeded there from Fortymile diggings, at which place they discovered Carmack recording his find with the Government.
Five Finger Rapids, Y. T., is the next place of interest. Here many outfits were lost in the early days during the mad rush to the Klondike. On account of the numerous accidents the Canadian Government took early steps to remove these obstructions and also many of the most dangerous rocks farther down.
Glacier City, Kantishna, Alaska
Thus far, the Yukon scenery is ever varying; first, open flat country with the mountains visible on either side; then closing in until they form the near banks of the river. Now a long stretch of gravel terraces, then high cliffs of varied colored rocks. Further on there are strata of ash of possible volcanic origin, running along the sides of the bare hills. There are growths of spruce and willows—in many places hanging out over the rivers, called "sweepers," and to the unwary traveler in a small boat who allows himself to be carried in to them very dangerous.
Rink Rapids, Y. T. Five miles below Five Fingers the stream flows through Rink Rapids. To the writer who has traveled it, the Yukon seems one continual rapids from Five Fingers until Rink Rapids have been passed. Here the river is white from passing swiftly over the boulders below.
The steamer soon passes Yukon Crossing, at which place the winter trail from Whitehorse to Dawson crosses the Yukon.
Old Fort Selkirk, Y. T., the next stop, is identified with the history of this country. It was here that Mr. Robert Campbell located this trading post in June, 1848, having come into the country over the Rocky Mountains from the Mackenzie waters.
During the early rush to the Klondike the Canadian Northwest Mounted Police had a force here. Their duty was to keep track of the movements of each and every one that entered the Yukon Territory, looking after them in every way, and they did it.
The Pelly River, which joins its waters with those of the Yukon on the right "limit" of the river, opposite Fort Selkirk, finds its source in the Rocky Mountains, commonly spoken of here as the "Mackenzie Mountains." By traveling in boat up this river one can reach one of the finest big game countries in the North, either by staying with the Pelly River itself, or by going up its left fork, the Macmillan. Here is an ideal country for hunting the moose, caribou, sheep, and bear; also good fishing and grouse and water fowl.
After leaving Fort Selkirk the next stream is the White River with its source in the St. Elias Mountains. At its head, which is swift and dangerous to navigation, have been many strikes, both in copper and gold, and several stampedes have been made there at different times during the past.
Many big game hunters go every year into this country from Whitehorse, or from McCarthy, on the Copper River Railroad in Alaska. Here are to be found all of the big game animals common to the North and in such numbers that the huntsman is sure to have his bag full of the trophies he has selected from the many before killing. Willing guides with full equipments may be had at either of the points mentioned above, but arrangements should be made a considerable time in advance.
Entrance to Wrangeil Narrows
The traveler must not feel surprised when he sees or is told of the different farms existing along the Yukon and its tributaries.
Here are 6,000 square miles of farm land waiting for a market which will come as the country is settled up and its vast mineral resources developed.
The next river is the Stewart. It was discovered by and named after James G. Stewart in 1849 while hunting for natives who were out trapping and hunting. The Stewart and its left fork, the McQuestion, have been and are still great producers of gold.
Active mining began on the Stewart River in 1885, and the run averaged about $100 per man per day in summer.
Ogilvie, Y. T. The next place of interest is Ogilvie, one of the first posts established. It was here that prospectors bought supplies which they used in developing this great gold country. Opposite Ogilvie the Sixtymile River joins the Yukon, its source being near the head of the Fortymile River. The Sixtymile River located as it is in the heart of this great gold belt has been a good steady producer.
Next we have the- Indian River which enters the Yukon on the right limit next above the Klondike River. Up the Indian River are some of the richest creeks ever found in the Klondike district and these helped greatly in the production of $100,000,000 that was taken out from this district between 1898 and 1905.
Dawson, Y. T. Arriving at Dawson the visitor will find a city that in the rush of '97 and '98 sprang up, as it were, over night with people from all parts of the world brought there by the news of the rich strike.
Located at the junction of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, it is the metropolis of the Klondike, and the educational and financial center of Yukon Territory. Population, 2,000. Mining is the chief attraction to all visitors, in view of which the Yukon Development League has permission from the large operators for visitors to be shown the mining operations in every detail. The mammoth dredges dig and pass through their machinery 10,000 to 20,000 cubic yards of gravel per day, and the giant water nozzles on the hydraulic operations sluicing down banks of gravel 200 and 300 feet high at 3,000 cubic yards per nozzle per day, which passes at terrific speed through the sluice boxes, separating the gold from the gravel during the process.
Good roads facilitate speedy trips to all the famous gold-bearing creeks, along which the dredges and nozzles may be comfortably viewed from the car.
The agricultural possibilities of the territory are not inconsiderable. The grain crop is increasing, almost every known vegetable is grown successfully, and the fur catch is increasing; 15,000 acres are now held under the Homestead Regulations and 30,000 acres have been purchased outright. The Mayo District is said to have 4,800 square miles of silver-lead deposits.
Considerable development work has been done in this district and some very rich silver-lead ore uncovered. Several thousand tons of this ore were shipped to the smelter at Tacoma during 1921. The indications are the Mayo Camp will be not only a rich silver-lead camp but an extensive one as well.
Here are all the government buildings and the different departments of the Yukon territory; fine schools, churches, a Carnegie library; homes built with all the comforts of modern homes in the States, and as the traveler strolls about the city, he will be shown the cabin which is surrounded with flowers and kept up in memory of Service, the great writer of the Yukon, who made this his home in the early days. One can auto into the gold-bearing creeks where there is every modern device used by large corporations; in working over the old diggings everything being worked out scientifically to get all the gold that was left by the miners in the early days who, on account of the wasteful methods and the great expense of operations, could only work out the rich pay dirt.
The American Express Company operates over the White Pass & Yukon Route and carries on a general express business, issues money orders, makes collections, carries gold dust, bullion, coin, currency, valuable papers, etc.
The commercial telegraph service is maintained by the White Pass & Yukon Route between Skagway and Whitehorse. In addition the United States and Canadian governments maintain a commercial telegraph service reaching most of the coast and interior points, especially those along the lines of the White Pass & Yukon Route and the American Yukon Navigation Company.
Fortymile, Y. T. The next stop below Dawson is at the junction of the Fortymile and the Yukon rivers. At this point is located the barracks of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and the Canadian Customs. This, in days gone by, was the chief post of the North American Transportation & Trading Company, called Fort Cudahy after its owner, a company organized for trading purposes and transportation, having posts the length of the Yukon River to St. Michael, where they received their freight from ocean liners and distributed it with their own steamers to their posts.
Indians at Lake Minchumina, Alaska
Top—Where Land and Water Transportation Meet at Anchorage, Alaska Bottom—Chiznik, Alaska Peninsula
The Fortymile country, located up the river by the same name, has been a steady producer ever since it was struck in 1885-86. The river itself was a hard one to navigate (on account of the swift waters and canyons) for the men who had to get their supplies up it in polling boats. In these same canyons every year men work the bars after the high water and each year it would seem a fresh supply of gold is taken down on the high waters. Many men have been working these bars, making a good living and laying aside a little for the future, ever since the camp was struck. In this section are creeks tributary to the Fortymile that have been good producers.
Eagle. Passing down this most beautiful stretch of the Yukon we cross the Alaska-Canadian boundary line 12 miles above Eagle. At Eagle, population, 98 (1920 census), we find the American Customs and see the old abandoned Fort of Egbert where for years United States soldiers were kept to guard our customs. This post was abandoned in 1911. Here we also find stores that supply the miners of the Seventymile River and other numerous streams in this section of Alaska.
Caribou Run. Every September large bands of Caribou cross this section of the Yukon, on what is known as the great "Caribou Run." For about two weeks they cross continuously, hundreds of thousands of them. Steamers have had to tie up for hours at times when there was an extra large band crossing. No one seems able to explain this run, where they all come from or where they all go. They often pass through the towns and on account of their numbers seem to be insensible to fear.
Circle, population, 98 (1920 census), maintains the stores of the Northern Commercial Company. It is on the trail to Fairbanks used by the United States mail in winter, and to supply the mining industry in the country lying between Circle and the rich diggings of the Fairbanks country on the Tanana River. Along the trail are roadhouses for the accommodation of the traveler. About 40 miles back, near Medicine Lake, is the Circle Hot Springs with fair accommodations. In this vast country good hunting is to be had for moose, caribou, bear and sheep. Also grouse and water fowl.
Fort Yukon is the next stop; population, 319 (1920 census). Here the midnight sun can be observed in June. Here also are the large Episcopalian Indian Mission and Indian school, and, as at Eagle and Circle, a United States Government wireless station. To this place come the trappers and fur traders from the Porcupine country and the Chandelar country, in fact from all points of the compass to sell and ship their furs. Fort Yukon was first started in 1847 by Mr. A. H. Murry and it was here that Mr. J. Bell in 1846 reached the mouth of the Porcupine River and was told by the natives that the large river he was about to enter was the Yukon. Here the Yukon opens out for miles in a great flat known as "the Yukon Flats." The river is some 60 miles wide, filled with large gravel bars and islands and is known as one of the greatest breeding grounds in the world for water fowl.
Indian River near Sitka, Alaska
Up the Chandelar River, which runs into the Yukon a few miles below Fort Yukon, there are some placer diggings. This river drains from the Arctic Slope. Until the winter of 1906-07 the only communication that the miners in the Koyukuk country had, after the freeze-up in the fall until the break-up in the spring was the United States mail packed in from Fort Yukon up the Chandelar River and over the divide to Coldfoot once a month. This often consisted 0f what one man packed on his back and himself on snowshoes. The mail accumulating all winter at Fort Yukon would be picked up by first steamer in the spring and then taken down the Yukon to the mouth of the Koyukuk River and up on the steamer making trips on that river in the summer. Today the mail goes into that country, once a month from October until May, from Tanana,
There is a trail with cabins, constructed from Beaver City in the Yukon Flats to Cairo, a trading post on the Chandelar River, where miners get their supplies. Over this trail in winter many miners who purchase their supplies at Beaver City sled them to the grounds they are working or prospecting. This trail was cut and the cabins built by the miners. The contents were put there by the miners, and stoves and such equipment necessary for the traveler are in each. All travelers are welcome to use the same; but a warning to all: Always leave fuel and shavings when you depart, as this is the custom of the country; for by so doing you may save the lives or forfeit the lives of others that may have struck a storm or had an accident.
Rampart. After leaving Beaver City and the Yukon Flats, and then one of the most beautiful stretches of the Yukon; we come to Rampart, population, 121 (1920 census), the old home of Rex Beach, and the distributing point for the various creeks which for years have produced gold. The U. S. Government has an experimental farm at this place. From Rampart there is a road that leads through the creeks of this camp over to the Hot Springs diggings on the Tanana.
Continuing down the river through Rampart Rapids the next stop is at Tanana and Fort Gibbon adjacent to the mouth of the Tanana River, the largest tributary of the Yukon.
At the junction of the rivers on the right limit of the Yukon lies the Mission of St. James, Episcopalian. Chiefs in charge of the near-by tribes make this a general meeting place for the natives who are more distant and only come in for supplies about Christmas time.
Tanana, population, 213 (1920 census), is a transfer point for passengers and freight from St. Michael, Fairbanks, Dawson, and Whitehorse. Several hotels and stores are located here. The United States Government has a wireless station, also land line station, at the post, which consists of one and sometimes two companies of soldiers. The Knights of Columbus have one of their buildings here, where the soldiers are entertained gratis and where many of the long winter evenings are spent enjoying moving pictures and the like.
From here the winter mail trail leads to the Koyukuk country. Also up the Tanana to Hot Springs and Fairbanks and so on out to the coast by way of Chitina and the Copper River Railroad to Cordova. The winter trail which leads down the river to Kaltag and over the Kaltag portage to St. Michael and Nome starts from here.
Hot Springs, population, 29 (1920 census). Proceeding up the Tanana River en route to Fairbanks, the head of navigation on that river, the first place of interest is Hot Springs, a distributing point for the placer mines in this section. Great trading is done here by the natives, in fur of as high a grade as any in the North. There is a fine farm of silver and black foxes. The starters were caught in this locality and many have been transferred to Prince Edward Island in Canada (where they took first prizes) and in the United States.
Baker Hot Springs. Here also is the Baker Hot Springs — a quiet, restful place where one will enjoy the surroundings and will be well cared for. Some of the finest farms in the North are in this vicinity.
Leaving Hot Springs we soon pass the mouth of the Kantishna River which drains the northern slope of Mt. McKinley of which latter there are glimpses from the deck of the steamer. At the head of this stream is the Kantishna mining district where gold was found in 1005 and which has been a steady producer ever since.
Tolovana River drains the Tolovana gold district where several millions have been taken out in recent years. Supplies are here transferred from boats coming up the river and are pushed up the Tolovana in gas boats and scows. A mail boat runs weekly from Fairbanks (in summer) to the Tolovana. In winter the mail is handled over the new government railroad to Dunbars, thence by stage to Livengood, the town in the camp.
Nenana is next, population, 634 (1920 census). The government railroad first touches navigable water here, after coming from the open port of Seward, 414 miles south, and having passed over the Alaska Range, the highest on the continent. Here are the Alaska engineering buildings, the headquarters of the organization that has been doing the construction from the north (the railroad having been built from both ends). Nenana itself is a town administered by the Government. At this point passengers, express, and mail are transferred to the Government Railroad at North Nenana and are taken to Fairbanks, 56 miles over that section of completed road.
Fairbanks, population, 1,155 (1920 census), the head of navigation for the steamers olying to Whitehorse and St. Michael, is a town that in many respects resembles many of the prosperous towns in the United States. Here are located the district court and all the administrative offices of the fourth division of Alaska, an up-to-date school, a public library, hospital, and churches; the First National Bank (a Federal reserve bank), and attractive shops; a first-class daily paper, publishing the news from all parts of the world, received hourly over the United States Telegraph and the Radio. Fairbanks was first started in 1901 by a trader who was left there by a steamboat that had contracted to place him up the Tanana River as far as possible. The captain by mistake took what appeared to be the main river, 10 miles below Fairbanks, and came up the slough that Fairbanks is now located on. Believing he Could go no further, and the season being late, he put the trader off here against his will, at the identical spot where the Northern Commercial Company, large power plant and stores are located. The following year a prospector by the name of Pedro drifted over from the Circle diggings on the Yukon and found gold on the creek that now bears his name. Thus Fairbanks was located where it now stands. The first strike of gold placed Fairbanks and the surrounding country first in the production of gold in Alaska, as it since has produced about one-fourth of all the gold mined in Alaska. Fairbanks is located in a heavily mineralized country and a favored section of the Tanana Valley where climatical conditions regarding agriculture are the best.
One of the Outdoor Pastimes of Alaska Boys
The United States Government's extensive experimental farm here has met with the greatest success. There are many fine farms which produce abundant crops of all the hardier grains and a flour mill to grind them. All kinds of vegetables do well. With the completion of the railroad this will be a prosperous farming country.
There is an assay office in Fairbanks where the prospector can have assays of the different kinds of minerals he may find. The Government has also built a splendid mining and agriculture college; indeed this town and surroundings have much to offer to those who will stay by it and take advantage of what the district offers.
Trips may be taken by motor car to the gold bearing creeks in the vicinity, where the placer mining is being done. The electric plant which lights the city also serves the adjacent mining camps. Fairbanks may be reached all the year from Cordova by Copper River & Northwestern R. R. to Chitina, thence to Fairbanks:—also from Seward by U. S. Government R. R. through Nenana, and during four months in summer, steamboat service eastward from St. Michael, westward from Dawson and Whitehorse Yukon Territory is maintained. The first through boats down from Whitehorse usually arrive about the middle of June and the first up the river from St. Michael about July 4th. The last steamer leaves Fairbanks from either port about October 1st.
Leaving Tanana, we sail one hundred and thirty miles down the river to Ruby, where gold was struck in 1911, on the tributaries of the Nowitna River. Here a winter mail trail leaves the winter mail trail to Nome for Opher and Iditarod. At Opher this trail connects with the winter trail to McGrath and to Wasilla on the Government Railroad, having passed through the Alaska Range and Rainy Pass.
We soon pass the mouth of the Koyukuk River. Steamers of light draft take supplies to the far distant placer camp which is in the Arctic Circle. This has been known as the Koyukuk country and has been a good producer. In fact, it has always been a self-sustaining camp, no money from the outside being needed in its development, taking at all times enough gold dust out to run itself. Very little if any outside money or "Chechacko Money" as silver, gold or paper is called, being used in the camp. Gold dust is the common medium of exchange.
Ruby, population, 128 (1920 census), is located on the south bank of the Yukon River opposite the Melozi River. It is the distributing center for the Ruby mining district, situated about 20 miles to the south, with which it is connected by a wagon road.
Nulato, population, 258 (1920 census), a few miles below, contains stores and a mission. For several miles down the river coal can be observed along the banks and there is no doubt that in the future this section of country will be a good producer of coal.
Kaltag. Forty-eight miles below Nulato we pass Kaltag where the winter mail trail makes a cut off en route to Nome going over the Kaltag Portage and saving hundreds of miles.
Anvik. The next place we pass is Anvik, population, 140 (1920 census), at the mouth of the Anvik River, where there is a store and a small mission.
Holy Cross, located at the mouth of the Innoko River, maintains the largest and best mission in the north, and from this place shallow draft steamers take supplies and passengers up the Innoko River to Opher and the Iditarod camps.
Iditarod, population, 50 (1920 census), is located on the Iditarod River, a branch of the Innoko, about 300 miles above the junction of the latter stream with the Yukon. During high water river steamers can reach the city, but at other seasons freight is brought in by smaller boats and gasoline launches. It is a distributing point for the Iditarod placer region.
Flat, population, 158 (1920 census), the center of placer operations of the Iditarod region, is situated about seven miles from Iditarod, and is connected with the latter place by wagon road and a wooden rail tramway, over which freight is transported.
Russian Mission, which is the next stop, contains a church and school of the Russian faith, also a store.
Marshall, a short distance farther down the river, struck in 1911, has produced a little gold and has a fair outlook for the future.
Andreafsky, at the mouth of the Andreafsky River is a great trading place for the Eskimos. It was used as a "boneyard" for the many river steamers of the early days, and the traveler will see abandoned ships and machinery of all kinds.
As the steamer passes out of the Yukon's northern mouth, we pass a radio station called Kotlik. In this Yukon delta are large fishing concerns that put up salmon every year as the fish come in to climb the rivers to spawn.
The Yukon, draining as it does a country which contains so many small glaciers at the head of the rivers that feed it, is continually washing down and casting out into the Bering Sea the silts and gravels from the uplands, making it shallow for miles out from the mouth. Across this shallow water the river steamer goes to St. Michael where connections are made with the ocean boats plying from the states.
The Island of St. Michael is a military reservation, the companies operating stores and having docks are there by special permission of the Government. Here the traveler will see the little block house or fort of the Russians who located in 1830. He will also see the little brass cannon that was left there by them.