Canadian Canoe Routes

Whitehorse to Dawson City
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Author:  Rob.b.b [ March 22nd, 2018, 4:44 am ]
Post subject:  Whitehorse to Dawson City

I hope to canoe the above with a Guided Tour Company later this year
and have a few questions.
Which is the best month and why?
Would it be better to bypass Lake Laberge, or is it worth while doing this section?
Can anyone recommend a Tour Company from personal experience.

Cheers Rob.

Author:  nessmuk [ March 22nd, 2018, 8:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

If you've done your research you will find two primary canoe trip outfitters in Whitehorse, although there may be others.

Kanoe People

Up North Adventures

I have paddled Whitehorse to Dawson 5 times (thus far), including twice continuing beyond to the Dalton Bridge. But these were offical races, not with a tour company. Kanoe People has been very friendly to us with supplies and use of their riverside facility for storage, launch, and minor repairs to our racing canoes. I would recommend them, but Up North is also a good company from what I know.

I have only paddled the river in late June on the Yukon River Quest race to Dawson, or in July on the Yukon 1000 mile race to the Dalton highway bridge. June typically has higher water levels (making the 5 fingers rapids a real fun rush, but through it entirely too quickly - don't blink or you'll miss it). Water levels can change significantly from one year to the next. July will offer lower water levels and less rapid current overall with more shallow water gravel shoals with fewer opportunities for short cuts through sloughs or bypasses around islands. Efficient navigation is more complicated then. Later in the season would likely have even more shallow water and exposed gravel.

Why not take in the whole experience and do Lake Laberge as well? It is 33 miles long, and the river from Whitehorse to the lake is spectacular in its own right. We always take a pre-race day training run or two from WH to Takhini, or just before the beginning of the lake. Multiple times we have lost count of the number of bald eagles (more than 30) seen along the river in that section of river, many more seen there than in any other section of the river. The view of the approach into the lake is tremendous and is always one of my most memorable and awesome experiences. Although we did not need them, there are many potential landing and camping sites along the eastern lake shore. The whole region of high rocky cliffs and ridges seems to call out, saying "hike me".

The only negatives to paddling the lake are, well, it is 33 miles long. Plan for a couple of days at tourist speed. And the Lake creates its own weather. I have paddled it in oppressively hot temperatures in still air with glass-like water surface and no wind whatsoever. Other times with 3 changes of wind direction and stormy weather systems with crashing white topped waves during the 5 hours it takes a canoe in race mode to traverse its length. But hey, it is the famous and historic Lake Laberge! Not to be missed IMO. Who knows, you just might see Sam shivering somewhere along the marge.

Author:  littleredcanoe [ March 23rd, 2018, 5:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

Unlike my racing friend schedule extra time for Lake Laberge and you can be comfortable. We rented a canoe from Kanoe People and a shuttle. We rented no other gear. I suspect Up North is equally as good.

We have done this twice.. Once we started at Johnson's Crossing on the Teslin and paddled that to the Yukon and bypassed the lake. It was a nine day trip at a very leisurely pace. We should have spent more time as there is so much shore history to explore.

I felt we missed the Lake and I love big lakes. Two days.. We did have some waves.. Had we been less wave addicted we would have done an extra day and always start early in the AM

the first time my stomach was in knots for two days about Five Finger Rapids. We ran it in about one minute with no insplash ( In early August). There are significant standing waves but if you hit the right channel dead center ( and not get caught on the very powerful right eddy line ) you will be cheering "whoopee" and wonder why you worried.

Late season: gravel bars braided channel.. Part of the luxury of going slow is you can let the water tell you where to go.. Just follow the current. Where is most of the water going?

If you have a bit of canoe experience a guided tour may not be necessary. Its not a very difficult trip if you give yourself the time and have mastered the eddy turn. And plan ahead. The Yukon is a quick river and that historical point you notice at the last minute...well you won't be able to cross or paddle against the current.
Its quite reasonable to travel an average of 80 km a day.

If you go it alone all the outfitters have pickup points in Dawson and you can catch the Husky Bus back to Whitehorse. Its about a 7 hour ride with all sorts of company. Miners. hobos, other tourists.

Author:  nessmuk [ March 23rd, 2018, 10:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

I would highly recommend looking at the Yukon River Quest web page to gain information about the river you will gain in no other way. Check out the racer's briefing and notes, and other preparation tips. Learn about boat and gear rentals, food, Carmacks, important GPS waypoint locations, how to negotiate the 5 fingers rapids, and a host of other good info useful to anyone planning a trip on the Yukon River.

Click on Rules and Prep: ... ort-crews/

There is significant current on the river, a lot of it to carry you along speedily in most places. You can't fight it. Don't even try to backtrack upstream if you miss a landing. If you know you want to, for example, pass on the left side of an upcoming island, watch for where the current diverges, as much as a half mile upstream of the island. Be sure to get into the current on the side you want to be on early before the divergence carries you where you didn't plan to go. The water surface will tell you when that is happening. It won't take long to learn to read the surface ripples as the current divides. If you don't get it right, not to worry, the current will merge again on the other side. But in some cases it may add a mile or more and many minutes to your route - OK for a tourist, but not a good thing during a competitive race.

It is important to get in the right configuration in the current as you approach the 5 fingers rapids (the YRQ briefing has a good reference diagram of where you need to be and it is exactly correct).

Google Earth is a good source for map and planning. The river does change from year to year, but GE is fairly accurate and up to date in most places.

Author:  Rob.b.b [ March 25th, 2018, 3:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

Thanks Nessmuk and Littleredcanoe , great advice on Lake Laberge I
will do that section now. Done the research on Canoe tours no problem there , the
thing is finding someone who has been with one of these Tours and from personal experience can recommend one.
Being so far away [Australia ] doesn't help either. Would not feel confident enough to do by myself as I have no
experience with Bears. Any further advice would be welcome.

Author:  nessmuk [ March 25th, 2018, 8:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

Rob.b.b wrote:
Being so far away [Australia ] doesn't help either. Would not feel confident enough to do by myself as I have no
experience with Bears. Any further advice would be welcome.

You are likely to see many animals while on the Yukon; bears (both black and Grizzly), moose, wolves, eagles, and others. Paddlers from Australia and from all other corners of the world every year come to paddle in the Yukon River races. I've traveled to Australia (Canberra) myself on a business trip (and was treated with an invitation to train during a session with the AU national dragon boat team - just happenstance, right place, right time). Now I am not generally afraid of snakes or spiders, but I know that you have some of the most deadly crawling creatures in the world, and not just in the Outback. I have no experience with them either. Should fear of those critters keep visitors from coming to Australia?

Although there are many sightings, to my knowledge no one has been bothered by bears during the races. The local Yukoners tell us to be more afraid of moose than of bears. If a bear takes an interest in you, unless you find yourself between a mother and her cub, they most likely only have interest in your food. On the other hand, they say if a moose takes an interest in you, it may be likely wanting to try to do you harm. Educate yourself on these things and take care to keep your food and other "smellables" sealed and protected (keep food and cooking away from your sleeping area) and you should have no problem with bears.

During one of our one week long 1000 mile races we were looking for a place to camp on the last night. I found on the map a likely place up ahead. As we approached, there were 3 black bears watching us from the shore on that spot. So we moved on to a nearby island on the other side of the river to a less than desirable very muddy landing site with a sandy tent area above. The site was littered with bear tracks. But it was our final option before the mandatory 11:00 pm stop time. So the 2 ladies on the team set up a rope/bell alarm perimeter around their tent and kept bear pepper spray handy. We all made it through the night with no unwanted visitors or noises.


Author:  littleredcanoe [ March 25th, 2018, 3:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

Pretty much the bears to me are of two kinds. Curious about you. Or associate you with being hunted
On our trip we saw three bears all swimming in the river.. One was floating down past Carmacks like on a lazy day float.

We had no issue. Its best to avoid areas where there has been fishing.

We have more problem here in N Am with habituated bears. New Jersey is IMO the most dangerous area. Two fatalities ( other people) and a bear totaled my car.

the only time I would be concerned if bears were running out of food like in NJ acorns or berries or fish.. They are kind of peevish in the spring as they are hungry but your trip would be later.

You can buy bear bangers and spray in Whitehorse.

I too am more afraid of moose. While I have seen many bears on Canadian canoe trips, the worse animal encounter I had was at home where a hungry moose thought I was invading feeding space and splayed feet apart, head down and hairs up and ears back. I got the message. I went in the house

Author:  Rob.b.b [ March 26th, 2018, 3:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

Thanks Guys good advice again. Nessmuk the Bears are not going to stop me coming
what they are going to do is stop me from doing this trip alone. Having no experience with them
suggests I should go with someone who understands them.

Author:  littleredcanoe [ March 26th, 2018, 8:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

Bear sightings are not guaranteed.. They aren't like Aussie Salt Water Crocs.

You gotta do what you feel comfortable with.. You will find other people on the water . Self Supported. The main group is Europeans. There is a direct flight from Frankfurt to Whitehorse weekly and they have no experience with bears either. They make it out OK.

Nothing special needed.. just common sense..

Not trying to belittle you. I realize the fear of the unknown is bigger than the actual threat.. Like worrying about Five Finger Rapids for days then doing it and "Thats All?"

However coming from the distance you are it makes sense to not bring gear and not try to run around Whitehorse provisioning and packing. And you will learn a lot of the local history if your guides are knowledgeable.. I did a guided tour with a now defunct company on the Snake and one of the guides was excellent. I knew nothing about the area but more than the other guide
The main street in Whitehorse has a book store ( Mac's Fireweed Books) that can supply you with a lot of Yukon based reading material ( and its also a normal well stocked bookstore) and there is a good outdoor store in the same block that has a vast selection of anything you might need at the last minute. Coast Mountain Sports
If you get the chance some of the best Mexican food I have had is at Sanchez. ( yes you read that right)
In Dawson Katies is a good place to eat. I see your tour may have a outing at Gerties.. ( cheezy! fun). Don't forget to have a Sourtoe cocktail at the Downtown Hotel. It will cost $10 CDN. The certificate issuer sits across from you and checks that the toe touched your lips. She will have a bottle of Bud Lite. I suspect that since she issues some hundred certs a night that the BL bottle is filled with water. During the day she is an interpretive ranger for Canada Parks and shows up as a gold miner or a maid at the various reenactments around Dawson. It is part living history and part actual present day town.

Again don't worry about bears. On the Snake a grizzly explored our food ( again the outfitter was packing in soft sided packs.. not great) and ate a couple of bagels. He left the entire rest of the food alone. Perhaps the orchestra of pot and pan percussion persuaded him to leave.

Bring camera. I have three bear pictures from our trip. All of them are hind ends or bears swimming.

Author:  pmmpete [ March 26th, 2018, 9:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

In areas where bears have become habituated to humans and treat them as a source of food, they can become experts at breaking into food supplies, and can be a major problem. In wilder areas and in areas where bears are hunted, you are much less likely to have problems with bears. I have floated, hiked, and hunted for many years in areas with both grizzly and black bears, and although I have had many encounters with bears, I've never had any problems with them. But I have two suggestions:

1. The problem you are most likely to have with a bear, particularly a grizzly bear, is a sudden close encounter which results in an attack. In bear country, carry bear spray at all times, even around camp, in a readily accessible location. And read some articles and view some Youtube videos about how to use bear spray, so you'll know how to use it if you encounter a bear.

2. Carry your food in bear proof containers. If a bear got into your food, you could have a hungry paddle out.

Author:  nessmuk [ March 26th, 2018, 10:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

Yes, spend a couple of days to take in the history of the area while you are there. Both in Whitehorse and in Dawson City there is plenty to do. Read a few Robert Service poems. The "Spell of the Yukon" is true in the sense that once you visit you will want to go back, and you will - 5 times is not yet enough for me. The new McBride Museum in WH is spectacular. If you get a chance, also visit the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre (near the airport) to see what the area was like in prehistory. You'll get great food (at times they have Musk Ox, Caribou, Moose, and always my favorite - Halibut) at the Klondike Rib and Salmon Restaurant in WH, with the biggest desserts you have ever seen. The "baked" cafe (across the street from the book store) has wonderful pastries and other breakfast items. Plenty of other great places too. Honestly I have not been impressed with the Sanchez Mexican place, though I hear other people do like it. The toe experience in Dawson is a must. Just don't swallow the toe (it happens, and there is a steep fine for doing so). We like to stay at Klondike Kate's cabins. A super restaurant there too. Buy a certified gold nugget a the Klondike Nugget & Ivory Shop in Dawson (my wife, as my pit crew, imposes a fee of one nugget for every 500 miles that I paddle)

Bear resistant containers are not strictly required between WH and Dawson, but are strongly recommended at any remote site where you may camp. They are required by law for overnight stays further down river when camping in the Yukon-Charlie National Preserve (in Alaska). Place all food and anything with an odor to it in the container(s), and place it in any natural depression (to make pushing the container away difficult for a bear) well away from your sleeping area at night. Set up a cooking/eating station away from your sleeping area too. Do not leave food or scraps in your canoe, to prevent a curious large animal from walking inside it. I'm sure you can rent containers from the outfitters. We do not use them on the shorter YRQ race, since we pretty much paddle nonstop to Dawson except for a short required rest at a very crowded public campground in Carmacks. But on the 1000 mile race we did keep all food locked in a certified bear resistant Yeti box.

As the time for your trip approaches, do not hesitate to ask more questions, since I, and others here I am sure, love to talk about the Yukon.

Author:  Rob.b.b [ March 27th, 2018, 1:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

Thanks for the great information really appreciate it.
I will make a list of all the places you all mention.
Exactly whats needed good advice from people who have
been / done this .

Author:  littleredcanoe [ March 27th, 2018, 8:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

Let us know if you have any further questions. No doubt you will get an equipment /clothing list from the outfitters.

Its pretty straightforward.. You don't need much special clothing. Just something to stay warm and something to stay dry in. And footwear that will not pull off your feet.. Sometimes you may land in mud and you dont want to lose what is on your feet. The water itself is always cold. Past the White its so full of glacial sediment you can hear it.

As always a toque.. After all you will be in Canada :)

Author:  nessmuk [ March 27th, 2018, 10:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whitehorse to Dawson City

The Yukon river turns from a beautiful transparent clear aqua color to mud-like brown after the silty Teslin River joins it. You thereafter can't see a millimeter into it. After the White River joins, it literally turns a lighter off-white color with even more silt. Obtaining clean drinking water is not a problem if you look for mountain streams entering (make notes on your GE map). As a matter of fact, at one happenstance mountain stream where we made a bio-stop ( exact location to remain my secret ), :-? after one person on my voyageur canoe team filled her Nalgene bottle with clear clean flowing stream water, she later discovered later a gold flake roaming around in her bottle.

Otherwise if you must obtain drinking water from the river ( as we otherwise did on the 1000 miler), you must let the silt settle out (with the help of alum or another commercial product) and then purify it (chemically or by filtering or boiling) before drinking.

LRC is correct, you can literally hear the silt on the bottom of the canoe as you paddle along in the deep silty water. It sounds like sandpaper or the static hiss of a mistuned AM radio.

My toque:

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