WHITE­HORSE: IT’S BIG­GER

THAN THE WILDER­NESS

2017 Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS

They’ve nick­named White­horse the “Wilder­ness City”—and while it’s sur­rounded by some of the coun­try’s most pris­tine back­coun­try, there is so much more that draws vis­i­tors.

As the Yukon’s largest and most vi­brant set­tle­ment, White­horse is a place with deep his­toric roots and a time­less First Na­tions her­itage, as well as al­most un­lim­ited ways to ex­plore and en­joy the out­doors. It is this full menu of authen­tic ex­pe­ri­ences that helps White­horse and its sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties stand apart. This is a gateway to Canada’s True North—where you can mush a team of sled dogs through a silent for­est, pull a cham­pion-sized fish from a sparkling lake, learn the tra­di­tional First Na­tions ways, or dab­ble in the his­tory of the Klondike Gold Rush.

For much of its his­tory, White­horse has been the trans­porta­tion and com­mer­cial

heart of the re­gion, get­ting its name from the churn­ing white wa­ters of the Yukon River that re­sem­ble the flow­ing manes of horses. It’s a walk­a­ble city, eas­ily nav­i­gated in sum­mer­time aboard the Wa­ter­front Trol­ley—the bright-yel­low re­stored 1925 vin­tage trol­ley that trav­els along the city’s river­front. For walk­ers, the scenic five-km, paved, non-mo­tor­ized Mil­len­nium Trail loops along both sides of the Yukon River.

As the hub of the ter­ri­tory, White­horse con­nected the out­post com­mu­ni­ties. In sum­mer, when the river was nav­i­ga­ble, for­tune seek­ers and dar­ing en­trepreneurs of the Gold Rush floated their boats down­river to­ward the gold­fields. Through the long win­ter months, sled dog teams moved mail and sup­plies along the frozen river and lakes. The year 2017 marks the 75th an­niver­sary of the famed Alaska High­way and there is no bet­ter time to use White­horse as a base to ex­plore the many note­wor­thy sights along the his­toric road­way.

White­horse is def­i­nitely big­ger than its un­touched wilder­ness. It is about peo­ple, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, cul­ture and his­tory too.

AN AC­TIVE NA­TURE GET­AWAY

There’s no deny­ing that peo­ple are drawn to White­horse for the out­doors. The city is a mag­net for ex­pe­ri­enced guides who of­fer a full slate of ac­tiv­i­ties for ev­ery sea­son, whether find­ing a moun­tain bik­ing trail un­der the mid­night sun, ca­noe­ing a her­itage river, dogsled­ding, snowshoeing or cross­coun­try skiing through snowy wood­lands.

Yukon Wild is a one-stop col­lec­tive of li­cenced ad­ven­ture ex­perts who know how to ex­pe­ri­ence the famed Cana­dian back­coun­try in a safe and eco-friendly man­ner (www.yukon­wild.com). Away from the glare of city lights, a stay in a pri­vate cabin at Sun­dog Re­treat opens the door to spec­tac­u­lar views of the swirling aurora bo­re­alis or spot­ting some of the Yukon’s famed wildlife (www.sun­do­gre­treat.com). Black Feather out­fit­ter caters to both the novice and seasoned out­doors trav­eller, with hik­ing, skiing, ca­noe­ing and kayak­ing ex­pe­di­tions that show off the best of the north­ern wilder­ness. To cel­e­brate Canada’s 150th, they have de­signed a menu of 13 True Canada Ex­pe­ri­ences (www.black­feather.com). A short drive from down­town, at Muk­tuk Ad­ven­tures, dozens of Alaskan huskies love to run, tak­ing guests on guided sled dog out­ings, year-round (www.muk­tuk.com). In win­ter months, the spe­cial­ists at Up North Ad­ven­tures ar­range dog mush­ing, snowshoeing, ice fish­ing and snow­mo­bil­ing tours and shut­tle vis­i­tors to prime view­ing spots to watch the colours of the aurora bo­re­alis un­fold across the north­ern sky (www. up­northad­ven­tures). Vis­i­tors can cus­tom de­sign a Yukon Es­sen­tials pack­age with Na­ture Tours of Yukon, in­clud­ing small group pho­tog­ra­phy out­ings (www.na­ture toursyukon.com).

In Fe­bru­ary, White­horse is en­er­gized by the Yukon Quest sled dog race, when some of the world’s best mush­ers race their teams along a 1,600-km (1,000-mi.) trail, fol­low­ing the his­tor­i­cal win­ter routes that once con­nected the Klondike gold­fields and the Alaskan in­te­rior (www.yukon­quest.com).

There is guar­an­teed wildlife spot­ting at the 283-ha (700-acre) Yukon Wildlife Pre­serve by in­ter­pre­tive bus tour, self-guided walk­ing tour or on cross-coun­try skis along groomed trails to see wood­land caribou, lynx, Rocky Moun­tain elk, moun­tain goats and sheep, moose, mule deer, muskox, wood bi­son and foxes in their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment (www. yukon­wildlife.ca).

FIRST NA­TIONS CEL­E­BRATE AND SHARE THEIR STO­RIES

The tra­di­tions of drum­ming, singing, danc­ing and feast­ing are pow­er­ful ways to learn about the rich her­itage and cul­ture of the Yukon’s 14 First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties.

White­horse lies within the tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory of the Kwan­lin Dün First Na­tion, whose peo­ple in­cor­po­rate the life­styles, his­tory and tra­di­tions of sev­eral dif­fer­ent tribes of the Yukon and north­ern Bri­tish Co­lum­bia. Just south of the city, Miles Canyon (Kwan­lin) is the name­sake of the Kwan­lin Dün First Na­tion, who tra­di­tion­ally fished and hunted above the canyon. In town, the walls and rooms of the Kwan­lin Dün Cul­tural Cen­tre en­close a space de­signed for the cel­e­bra­tion of Yukon First Na­tions cul­ture, its lo­ca­tion sym­bol­iz­ing a re­turn to the tra­di­tional river­side roots. The cen­tre’s mul­ti­me­dia ex­hibits, work­shops and guided tours ex­plain the his­tory, chal­lenges and arts of the First Na­tions peo­ple in orig­i­nal and authen­tic ways, ed­u­cat­ing guests while ex­tend­ing a warm wel­come (www.kdcc.ca).

In early July, the cen­tre is the site for the an­nual Adäka Cul­tural Fes­ti­val, fea­tur­ing a mix­ture of tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary art, mu­sic, dance and sto­ry­telling to cel­e­brate the Yukon’s di­verse and dis­tinc­tive First Na­tions (www.adakafes­ti­val.ca).

Not far from White­horse, tra­di­tional art, clan songs and dances can be ex­pe­ri­enced at the Car­cross/Tag­ish First Na­tion carv­ing shed lo­cated in the small ham­let of Car­cross.

STEEPED IN CUL­TURE AND HIS­TORY

Noth­ing shaped the his­tory of White­horse like the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800s, when an es­ti­mated 100,000 prospec­tors crossed through town be­fore begin­ning their trek north to Daw­son City, brav­ing the wilder­ness of an un­known land in their quest for riches. They were a quirky, strong bunch who left their stamp on White­horse’s his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture and fron­tier men­tal­ity.

That nat­u­ral and cul­tural his­tory is found at the MacBride Mu­seum of Yukon His­tory, a trea­sure trove of the Yukon’s largest col­lec­tion of arte­facts. Ex­hibits high­light the tra­di­tions of the First Na­tions cul­ture, the his­tory and role of the Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice, the ter­ri­tory’s min­ing his­tory and the im­por­tance of the mo­men­tous Klondike Gold Rush—an event which for­ever changed the land and the com­mu­ni­ties. MacBride is home to the orig­i­nal cabin of prospec­tor Sam McGee who was im­mor­tal­ized in Robert Ser­vice’s poem, The Cre­ma­tion of Sam McGee (www. macbride­mu­seum.com).

Vis­i­tors can in­dulge in a lit­tle time travel at the Yukon Beringia In­ter­pre­tive Cen­tre’s dis­plays and dio­ra­mas of the pre­his­toric sub­con­ti­nent of Beringia—the dry, unglaciated land bridge that once linked Alaska and Siberia. Beringia was home to an­i­mals like the woolly mam­moth and steppe bi­son (www.beringia.com).

In the sum­mer months, the care­fully re­fur­bished S.S. Klondike Na­tional His­toric Site is open in dry dock for pub­lic tours (guided and self-guided), a tes­ti­mony to a time be­fore roads linked the Yukon to the out­side world. The craft was the largest stern­wheeler to travel the up­per Yukon River in an era in which steam-pow­ered river­boats shut­tled cargo and pas­sen­gers be­tween White­horse and Daw­son City (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/ssklondike).

The world’s big­gest weather vane—a re­stored DC-3 air­craft—marks the en­trance to the Yukon Trans­porta­tion Mu­seum. The ex­hibits re­late tales of bush pi­lots, Klondike stam­ped­ers, dogsled­ders and their spir­ited sour­dough per­se­ver­ance and in­ge­nu­ity (www.goytm.ca).

On the edge of the his­toric cop­per min­ing re­gion, The Cop­per­belt Rail­way & Min­ing Mu­seum shines a spot­light on the north­ern min­ing and rail his­tory of the Yukon (www.yukon­rails.com).

In the heart of down­town, the Old Log Church Mu­seum is one of the old­est build­ings in White­horse. In­side, ex­hibits tell the sto­ries of early mis­sion­ar­ies, whalers, ex­plor­ers and Yukon First Na­tions (www.old­logchurch­mu­seum.ca).

Un­der­wa­ter view­ing win­dows are an up-close way to see the an­nual salmon mi­gra­tion at the White­horse Fish Lad­der, the longest wooden fish lad­der in the world.

KLU­ANE NA­TIONAL PARK AND RE­SERVE

Canada’s high­est moun­tain—Mount Lo­gan—is found in the dra­matic moun­tain and ice ranges of Klu­ane Na­tional Park and Re­serve, a UNESCO World Her­itage Site just a two-hour drive from White­horse. Klu­ane’s lakes and rivers are ideal for avid pad­dlers; moun­tain bik­ers and hik­ers can find their per­fect chal­lenge from a net­work of trails; wildlife watch­ing, camp­ing, horse­back rid­ing and moun­taineer­ing round out the choices for the ac­tive ad­ven­turer. See­ing Klu­ane from the air is truly an in­de­scrib­able ex­pe­ri­ence. Sum­mer or win­ter, sight­see­ing flights cross over the world’s largest non-po­lar icefields—the vista of the glaciers and moun­tains is breath­tak­ing (www. parkscanada.gc.ca/klu­ane).

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact www.trave­lyukon.com.

WHITE­HORSE • CTC/NORTH­ERN TALES TRAVEL SER­VICES

KLU­ANE NA­TIONAL PARK AND RE­SERVE • PARKS CANADA/FRITZ MUELLER

KLU­ANE NA­TIONAL PARK AND RE­SERVE • PARKS CANADA/FRITZ MUELLER

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