The Yukon is one of North America’s major wilderness attractions; close to 80 percent remains pristine wilderness with 5,000-metre peaks, forested valleys, unspoiled waters and untamed wildlife.
A treasure trove of fascinating trivia
- What's a "Yukon"?
- How big is it?
- A Rich Cultural Heritage
- Ribbons of Highway
- Mountains and More Mountains
- The Ice Queen
- Galloping Glaciers
- UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Canadian Heritage Rivers
- Northern Festivals
- Rare Minerals
- The Blue Fish Caves
- Sourdoughs and Cheechakos
- Snow in Summer?
- Surprising Sophistication
- Sorry - No Igloos
- The Sound of Light
In the Athapaskan language, the word Yukon means the great river or big river. At 3,600 kilometres (2,300 mi.), the Yukon River is the fourth longest river in North America, the fifth largest in water flow and the last major river on the continent to be explored in the 1800s.
The Yukon Territory covers 483,450 square kilometres (186,661 sq. mi.). That's larger than the State of California and larger than Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands combined.
Yukon First Nations people include the Southern and Northern Tutchone, Tlingit, Tagish, Kaska, Tanana, Han and Gwichin people. The Inuvialuit peoples' traditional hunting grounds include the northern Yukon. The Athapaskan language group is shared by the Tutchone, Tagish, Kaska, Tanana, Han and Gwichin people.
There are 4,734.8 kilometres (2,942.2 mi.) of highway in Yukon, including some of the most spectacular and unusual drives in the world. The Dempster Highway, the only public road in Canada to cross the Arctic Circle, is an astonishing drive through Arctic tundra. The Klondike Highway roughly follows the route used by the gold seekers of 1898. The Canol Highway is an adventurous drive through pristine wilderness, whitewater rivers and blue-green lakes.
The St. Elias Mountains in Kluane National Park are the youngest mountains in Canada and also the highest. There are more than 20 summits over 4,200 meters (14,000 ft.), the largest accumulation on the continent. Towering above these lofty peaks is Mount Logan, Canada's highest mountain at 5,959 metres (19,551 ft.), and one of the world's largest massifs. And these mountains are still growing: a seismograph in the Visitor Reception Centre at Haines Junction records hundreds of small tremors that occur every year, pushing the St. Elias Mountains ever skyward.
Between the rock massifs of the St. Elias Mountains is one of the largest non-polar icefields in the world. Huge valley glaciers fill the gulfs between the peaks; the Hubbard Glacier is 112 kilometres (70 mi.) long, the Lowell Glacier is 72 kilometres (45 mi.) long and these glaciers may be 1.6 kilometres (1 mi.) thick in parts. These glaciers make their own weather, scour away tons of rock every day, dam rivers and create lakes.
The Steele Glacier in Kluane National Park surged for several months in 1966- 67, moving over 1.5 billion tons of ice at a rate of up to 15 metres (50 ft.) per day. Surging valley glaciers are not uncommon in Kluane, where the Lowell Glacier has a history of galloping, blocking the Alsek River and forming a lake. There are more than 2,000 glaciers in Kluane National Park including valley glaciers, hanging glaciers, cirque glaciers and rock glaciers.
One of the Yukon's great treasures Kluane National Park, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It contains the wonders of the St. Elias Mountains and its icefields, glacial lakes, wild rivers and pristine forests. Interpretive trails and exhibits will introduce you to the wonders of one of North Americas most awe-inspiring wilderness preserves.
The Yukon is home to an unusually high number of Canadian Heritage Rivers. The Thirty-Mile rushes through the scenic and historic stretch of the Yukon River below Lake Laberge. The Alsek and Tatshenshini rivers course through Yukon's Kluane National Park and B.C.'s Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park past calving glaciers and inspiring mountain scenery. The Bonnet Plume is loved by canoeists from around the world for its challenging whitewater and outstanding wilderness setting.
Northern festivals are times of enthusiasm and release for Yukoners. Visit the Yukon during the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, Dawson Discovery Days, Klondike Outhouse Races, Yukon International Storytelling Festival, Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race, Frostbite Music Festival or Dawson City Music Festival. See for yourself what the fuss is all about!
More than 30 types of rare phosphate minerals have been discovered in the Blow River area. Many of these minerals are new to science. The exceptionally rare lazulite crystals gave Yukon its official gemstone. Samples of these minerals are on display in Whitehorse.
The Blue Fish Caves on the Bluefish River in the northern Yukon contain the earliest evidence of human habitation in North America. Today, some experts believe humans have lived in this region for more than 14,000 years.
Sourdough (a fermenting mixture of flour, water, and a pinch of sugar and rice) hung in a kettle over the wood stove in many Yukon cabins. It was used as a starter to make delicious sourdough bread. Sourdough became the word used to describe a Yukon old-timer. A cheechako, on the other hand, is a greenhorn or newcomer to Yukon. There's only one way for a cheechako to become a sourdough: he or she must watch the river freeze in the fall and remain through winter to see it break into grinding pieces in the spring. The term sourdough was immortalized in Robert Service's first collection of verse, Songs of a Sourdough.
Not likely. The Yukon has warm, sun-rich summers with average temperatures in July of 14 to 16 C (57 to 60 F), and highs that can reach 35 C (95 F). The average temperature in January is between -18 and -25 C (0 and -15 F), though lows can reach -55 C (-58 F). Most of Yukon's climate is semi-arid, so snow and rainfall are light; on average there's just 26.8 centimetres (10.5 in.) of precipitation a year in Whitehorse, the capital.
Are Yukoners hicks? Hardly. We love cappuccino, gourmet foods and enjoy a wide variety of ethnic cuisines. We read a lot and have a lively local music scene, including visits from prominent national and international entertainers. Our own music and storytelling festivals are famous. The Yukon, its people and the land inspire many visual artists, and you'll find their work in local and international galleries.
The igloo is an ancestral dwelling for Canada's Inuit peoples. Although the Inuvialuit have traditional territory in the northern Yukon, they do not live in igloos there. The skin tent was the ancestral shelter for Yukon First Nation peoples.
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are caused by huge explosions on the surface of the sun that send out streams of charged particles that interact with the Earth's upper atmosphere. These reactions occur 96 to 128 kilometres (60 to 80 mi.) above the Earth's surface, so it doesn't make any sense that they can be heard. Still, many people report hearing a crackling or rustling noise when they see the lights. It could be that the sound is created near the ground by electrical phenomena associated with the aurora. It could also be that watchers are being affected by psychological or physical processes that we don't yet understand. Of course, seeing the aurora on a dark, silent night is so exciting it might just be the sound of blood rushing through veins that's being mistaken for the sound of light!
Yukon is world renowned as a legendary land imbued with gold rush history, frontier spirit and first nation culture. Listen to what fellow media travellers have to say about Yukon.