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Canoeing The Yukon River

Canoeing the Yukon River to Whitehorse

Canoeing the Yukon River is often done as a multi-day or even multi-week paddling trip. As the third longest river in North America, the Yukon River is a favourite of recreational paddlers. Many people set off canoeing the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City – though that’s only a fraction of its 3,185 km length.

You can also go canoeing on the Yukon River via a 30 kilometre section from Marsh Lake south of Whitehorse to Schwatka Lake in Whitehorse over the course of a day. The river does much of the work! That’s what John and I did as we just didn’t have time to do more. Still, it was an utter delight as you’ll see in the photos below.

Fun fact: Did you know that the Yukon River starts in northern British Columbia to empty into Alaska’s Bering Sea? Or that it has played key transportation roles, especially during the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the nineteenth century.

Morning reflection on the Yukon River
Morning reflection on the Yukon River

The Yukon River cuts through a scenic river valley lined with white cliffs made of lake bottom sediments with the odd layer of volcanic ash. We were lucky to see two moose swimming in the river. You shouldn’t have any trouble spotting bald eagles either.

Two moose seen early in the day
Two moose seen early in the day
The moose are out of sight in very short order
The moose are out of sight in very short order
Several bald eagles were spied along the river
Several bald eagles were spied along the river
Fall colour at the beginning of September
Fall colour at the beginning of September
The colours are a month ahead of us in Calgary
The colours are a month ahead of us in Calgary
Our lunch stop while canoeing the Yukon River
Our lunch stop while canoeing the Yukon River
Delicious riverside lunch
Delicious riverside lunch

The Canyon City Heritage Site

Although the Yukon River is fast flowing, especially through Miles Canyon, there are no rapids or portages to deal with on the 30 kilometre section we paddled. But there were years ago.

You can see photos of what they looked like if you pull over and explore the Canyon City Heritage Site. For over 2,000 years it has been an important campsite as it was the last safe spot before the dangerous White Horse Rapids, which have since been flooded by the dam further downstream.

Pulling over to explore the historic Canyon City site
Pulling over to explore the historic Canyon City site
Pretty setting for a campsite
Pretty setting for a campsite
What the rapids used to look like going through Miles Canyon
What the rapids used to look like going through Miles Canyon

Miles Canyon is a lot of fun to paddle

Miles Canyon is definitely the highlight of the day. Rocks tower above you on all sides as the river narrows and picks up speed.

In only a few minutes, you’re through it and into Schwatka Lake and the buildings of nearby downtown Whitehorse can be seen. The pullout is in a day use park on the eastern side of the lake about a kilometre after exiting the canyon.

Canoeing the Yukon River through Miles Canyon in the pouring rain
Canoeing the Yukon River through Miles Canyon in the pouring rain
The weather turns on us for the final 30 minutes of the canoe trip
The weather turns on us for the final 30 minutes of the canoe trip

Other trips you can do canoeing the Yukon River

There are a number of other day trips one could choose to do on the Yukon River. If you start in Whitehorse above the dam, then you can paddle to the confluence of the Takhini River or to Lake Laberge. I was happy we had time to get at least a taste of what this great river offers the paddler.

The Yukon River Quest

Every summer, the world’s longest kayaking and canoeing race – the 715 kilometre Yukon River Quest – takes places between Whitehorse and Dawson City. Winners have finished the race in less than 41 hours though most mortals take about two weeks to cover the distance.

Further reading on things to do in the Yukon

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A day trip canoeing the Yukon River to Whitehorse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. I used to see moose all the time in Minnesota and Quetico, but it has been many years since my last one.I have serious moose envy right now. Looks like a gorgeous canoe. 715 kms in 41 hours is insane.

    1. @Ted I would love to be up in Dawson City or at a few key points where you can actually see the race. These racers are like human machines and I can’t understand how they possibly do it. We felt very lucky to see two moose.Interesting you haven’t seen any in awhile in Quetico.

  2. You know me the foodie when I got to the one photo as I said, “What’s for lunch?!” 🙂 I love that nostalgia picture of the rapids back in the day. This sounds like so much fun Leigh and of course how you mentioned that the river does most of the work for you. Awesome photos of the moose and eagle! 🙂

    1. @Mike The rapids were truly wild before the dam went in and I believe there were many drownings. We paddled hard but not too hard and the miles (about 18 of them) slid by pretty quickly. We were so lucky to see the moose and the eagle cooperated by flying closer to us.

  3. Yukon River – the name alone evokes such romance and wilderness. Lucky to have seen the moose, eh? I very nearly bumped into one while I was in a rowing boat near our cabin one night a few years ago. Fingers crossed this one will make it past moose hunting season. (I suppose it’s about the same period of time in Canada as here in Norway – just about now…?)

    1. @Sophie I’m sure it’s moose hunting season somewhere in Canada right now. I guess if you actually use all the meat – and there are lots of moose, then it’s not a problem but unless I was starving I couldn’t pull the trigger on one of these magnificent animals. I always fell privileged to see them.

      1. Couldn’t agree more. Can’t begin to fathom how anyone can look a moose – or any animal – in the eye and pull the trigger. But I’m not a vegetarian, so can’t be too judgmental. And I suppose wild animals have a happier life than most farm animals.

  4. When we visited Canada a few years back I really understood why people were carrying a canoe with them: there is so much to explore along water ways, wild animals aren’t scared away when you approach quietly ‘on their level’, and you quickly get away from all crowds in their vehicles…
    Unfortunately Canada was only a small part of a long trip down to Patagonia, and for most of the way a canoe would have been only a ‘burden’ (and added risk of theft).

    1. @Juergen There are many trips I’d like to do in either a canoe or a kayak that are in the order of one -two weeks long. I doubt I’ll be able to do all the ones on my wish list but I’ll keep chipping away at the list.

  5. This is just so beautiful! It’s been high on my list to visit the North, and doing a canoe trip on the Yukon or another (calm) river like it looks perfect. Did you see any bears along way?

    1. @Claudia No bears just moose. The Yukon has a lot of super beautiful rivers and there are several others I’d like to do a multi-day trip – but it’s always trying to find the time.

  6. This looks like a really great Canadian activity. Love the moose! We saw three moose when hiking Gros Morne Newfoundland. Wildlife always makes the experience better! I’d actually love to post something like this on Must Do Canada if you feel you like writing a different version :)…I think I need a canoe adventure soon!

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