Paddling the Yukon is to become a part of the great wilderness. The river bank, the water and the sky are full of wildlife. This is the habitat of the moose, grizzly bears, caribou, deer, timber wolves, grouse, geese, swans, ducks, beavers, bald eagles, muskrat, mink, marten, lynx, weasel, fox, fisher, squirrel, etc. Nature and this wonderful piece of Heaven on Earth allows the paddler to witness Nature at her pristine best. And it is nothing like visiting a zoo … indeed it is like paddling through a open zoo.
Paddling the Yukon, I will see alpine tundra and boreal forests along the shores. Spruce, pine, poplar, aspen and white birch trees border the river, with alder and willow found closest to the water. A sparsely populated region all along the course of the river, its scenery and isolation have attracted tourists and adventurers seeking an escape from the crowded cities. And it is now time for me to paddle the Yukon.
Paddling down the Yukon, the slow boat will briefly cross the Arctic Circle. In summers, when the expedition is planned, there is no darkness. In the dead of “night”, it might become monochrome. This lasts for a few hours, beyond which the landscape is resplendent in all its colourful glory. Theoretically I can paddle the Yukon for twenty four hours at a stretch if I physically can!
If I am lucky, I might also witness the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights, the incredible sight of the dancing lights in the northern sky.
Some Yukon river facts
→ It is the longest river in Yukon and Alaska, and the third longest river in North America.
→ During the Klondike Gold Rush the Yukon River was one of the principal means of transportation.
→ “The Thirty Mile” section, from Lake Laberge to the Teslin River, is a national heritage river and a unit of Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park.
→ It is one of the most important salmon-breeding rivers in the world.
→ The Whitehorse Fishway at 366 meters in length, is the longest wooden fish ladder in the world.
→ The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council is a cooperative effort of 70 First Nations and tribes in Alaska and Canada.
→ Despite its length, there are only four vehicle-carrying bridges across the river.
→ A car ferry crosses the river at Dawson City in the summer; it is replaced by an ice bridge over the frozen river during the winter.
→ There are two pedestrian-only bridges in Whitehorse, as well as a dam across the river and a hydroelectric generating station.
→ The construction of the dam at Whitehorse flooded the White Horse Rapids, which gave the city its name, and created Schwatka Lake.
→ As of 2018, there were 40,000 people living in the Yukon, of which 30,000 live in Whitehorse. In 2018 Alaska had a population of 737,438.
→ Alaska covers an area of 1,717,856 sq km and Yukon 482,443 sq km, or a total of 2,200,299 sq km. In contrast, all of India covers an area of 3,287,263 sq km.
→ Mean temperature in is about 16°C at Dawson and slightly lower at Whitehorse.
→ Annual precipitation is low, as it is in most of northwestern Canada and central Alaska, with an average of about 10 inches at Whitehorse and 12 inches at Dawson.
→ On the summer solstice the Sun rises in Whitehorse at 4:27 am and sets at 23:36 am. At and beyond the Arctic Circle, the Sun does not set at all.
→ There are about 6,000 to 7,000 grizzly bears in Yukon and about 30,000 in Alaska.