Throughout Yukon's history, visitors have been welcomed with open arms and that's no different today. With literally thousands of heritage sites sprinkled throughout the Yukon, there's ample opportunity for visitors to delve into our colourful past.
Yukon’s Ice Age past forms a unique part of the territory’s history. Over 20,000 years ago, a land bridge joined Asia and North America. Woolly mammoths and scimitar cats roamed this vast ice-free region known as Beringia. While the rest of the continent was cloaked in ice, much of the Yukon became an ecological refuge for plants and animals. This period is recalled in First Nations' legends of long-ago giants and the creation of the world from a flooded land.
During this time, Yukon’s original people migrated across the land bridge from Asia and inhabited an area near what is now known as Old Crow. They hunted mammoths, bison, horses and caribou. Over time, they established permanent settlements, some of which remain today as modern-day towns.
Yukon’s first visitors were Russian explorers who came in search of furs and other resources in the 18th century. As more explorers from Europe arrived, First Nations people traded furs for tobacco, guns, and other goods. The fur trade developed as the Hudson's Bay Company and other independent traders established posts throughout the Yukon.
Klondike Gold Rush
In August 1896 three men found gold on Bonanza Creek near Dawson City, launching the legendary Klondike Gold Rush.
When word of the discovery reached the rest of the world, thousands of would-be prospectors headed north. By the turn of the century Dawson City was the largest city north of San Francisco and west of Winnipeg.
When the Klondike Gold Rush ended in 1903 more than 95 million dollars had been extracted from the Yukon's rivers.
White Pass and Yukon route
When the ‘railway built of gold’ was completed in 1900, the White Pass and Yukon railway connected Whitehorse, Yukon to Skagway on the Alaskan coast.
The $10 million railway project was considered an impossible task, but it was literally blasted through coastal mountains in just 26 months by thousands of men and 450 tons of explosives.
The White Pass and Yukon Route climbs almost 3,000 feet (900 m) in just 20 miles (32 km) and features steep grades, cliff-hanging turns, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles. The steel cantilever bridge was the tallest of its kind in the world when it was constructed in 1901.
The Alaska Highway
The road to North America’s last frontier was built in 1942 to transport war supplies. Completed in only 8 months, more than 30,000 US Army personnel were involved in the construction of over 2,230 km of road to Alaska.
The Alaska Highway forever changed the Yukon. Boats and trains were replaced by the more efficient road system. Whitehorse grew to become the largest town in the Yukon, eventually becoming the capital city in 1953.
Today the Alaska Highway is a scenic paved route that is well-maintained and open year-round.
Contemporary Yukon strikes a balance between the conveniences of modern living and the beauty of a pristine nature.