Paddle Wheeler Graveyard…Along the Yukon Highway (6)

On our bucket list the Paddle Wheeler Graveyard.

Mon. July 25th. Day 22, Our goal to visit the Paddle Wheeler Graveyard. Mileage 3,834 kms, travelled only 78.7 kms today. We started our day at the Yukon River campground today with a campfire coffee this morning. To access the Yukon River campground requires crossing the Yukon River on a free ferry and is situated at the start of the Top of the World Highway to Alaska.  The campground is beautiful with around 100 sites running along a very full Yukon River and some sites are back into the forest and very quiet. It’s a Territorial campground $18 pre purchase passes or online or $20 cash at the site as in other Territorial parks in the Yukon. Just north of the campground is what is referred to as the “Paddle Wheeler Graveyard”. We were told due to the high river it may not be accessible but luck was on our side as there was a path through the bush to the site. A short hike after breakfast across several small streams one of which I dropped my camera in we found the site. The reason I went with the Olympus OMD for a travel camera is it’s suppose to be water proof, it was tested and passed. It’s hard to imagine just how big these steam powered paddle wheelers really were and now in a state of decay along the river they once travelled. We are told approx. 250 of these ships traveled the river during the gold rush days. The rest of the day was spent getting supplies needed to leave, water, propane some grocery items and fuel up.

The giants of the river slowly being reclaimed by the river.
Timbers and metal now all that remains.
If one could only know the stories behind these large ships of the northern rivers.
A lot of work required to keep these boilers fed.
The books could not possibly describe this scene.
Another check mark on the bucket list a dream come true.
A sad ending for these once necessary forms of transportation.
Only the hubs of the paddle wheels left.
With today’s lumber prices one of these baby’s would have cost a fortune.

A little information on the site just outside of Dawson city. The paddlewheel graveyard is tucked secretly among the spruce trees along the west bank of the Yukon River. Once considered the primary mode of transportation in the region, these boats were abandoned when ground travel became more popular. Here they were docked and now sit in decay, huge timbers and decaying wood as the river slowly claims them back. The huge smokestacks and boilers rusting in among the wooden hulls and broken paddle wheels.

Since the discovery of Klondike gold, hundreds of paddle wheelers ruled the Yukon River. These mighty ships braved harsh conditions in remote areas, supplying Dawson City, Whitehorse and Fairbanks with a diverse range of goods and services. With the addition of airplanes to its transportation network in 1937, and the construction of various highways linking Dawson City, Whitehorse, and Fairbanks, the need for boats was diminishing. In 1953 the road to Dawson was completed which marked the end of the stern wheeler’s working days. The SS Keno was the last stern wheeler to ply the Yukon River when it made its journey to Dawson City on August 26, 1960 for its final resting place. Other paddle wheelers that plied the Yukon were not so fortunate in their fate, and were dry docked on the shores of the Yukon River. The river took over and throughout the years pushed the docked ships up the bank, destroying them. We discovered at least six decayed hulls but if one searched there would be more I’m not sure exactly how many are there.

The trail to the graveyard watch for bears.

How to find the site: Board the George Black Ferry (landing at the north end of Front Street), and travel across the Yukon River.  Make your way to the Yukon River Campground and continue to the end of the campground, stopping at a little yellow gate. Follow the trail to the river’s shore and walk approx. 200 meters (1/8th of a mile) and then you’re there! Depending on the time of the season, you can either walk along the beach which was flooded when we were there or follow the trail in the woods. Be bear aware there was one in the campground last night which the trail starts from.

Please note that the site is unmanaged and should be explored at your own risk and left as you found it for others to see. It was definitely on my bucket list of places to see.

We counted six paddle wheelers here.
Timber and rusted iron all that’s left of their legacy on the river.
The giants peaceful resting place along the Yukon River they once dominated.

We are considering travelling up the Dempster Highway to Tombstone National Park. Camped tonight at Bonanza campground just outside of Dawson in a dry camp spot for $19 showers and laundry included.

The Bonanza Campground nothing fancy but workable.

Tues. July 26th. Day 23 Mileage 4293.3 drove 459.3 kms today more than planned. Left Dawson City this morning with the plans of going to Tombstone National Park on the Dempster but it was rainy, muddy and lots of construction on a bad road to begin with we opted to add Yellowknife NWT to our travels instead. We stayed overnight at a Territorial Park Fox Creek a beautiful spot right on the lake with water pure and clean, would highly recommend this campground, nice creek running through it, good tenting sites and could accommodate fairly large rigs. The drive today was bad, lots of construction long wait times and very rough roads through the construction and very muddy as well. We were stopped for a while for a semi that was on fire no one was hurt.

Not so good for this trucker along the Yukon Highway.
Fox Creek Territorial Park along the Yukon Highway.
Evening at Fox Creek very peaceful.
The beauty of the truck camper right on the beach in a spot too small for most.
Cannot resist the beauty of light and shadows with a little colour.
Cool clear water probably could drink it.

Wed. July 27th. Day 24 Mileage 4476.9 traveled 183.5 kms today from Fox Creek campground south of Carmacks, Yukon to Squanga campground another Territorial campground on a beautiful little lake. The trip included a stop at Whitehorse the capital of the Yukon, around 35,000 of the Yukon’s 45,000 people live there so is a very busy center and a hub to the US and Dawson city. They say there is gold in the Yukon and there still is if you can file a claim on a carwash….A wash back home that would be around $12 set me back $38.50 here. It’s a gold mine with all the construction going on and the many gravel roads you don’t see many shiny clean vehicles around here now I know why. We picked up an extra gas can for our trip across to Yellowknife and fueled up for $1.99.9/litre. It’s too bad we have to follow our tracks back but have been told by several travellers we met that #4 or the Campbell highway is very rough. We have had enough rough roads on this trip with construction everywhere. When asked where we spent our summer we can say visiting road construction sites. Rained a little today but stopped and we enjoyed a campfire.

That’s about it for this post next post our visit to the Gold mining equipment of the Yukon and Dredge #4. Actually had a few more subscribers follow along thanks for finding my ramblings and photographs interesting. Appreciate your feedback as well. It’s tough to balance spending time on the computer when surrounded by interesting people and the beauty of nature. We have met people from all over the world and it’s amazing how many ties there are to good old Saskatchewan.

Subscribe if you wish notification of posts and may the wind always be on your back while travelling. We hope to see you down the road….

Gerry and Charlotte

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