Yukon Territory

November 28, 2012 5:59 am

In 1896, a gold strike in ’s Yukon Territory set off the Klondike gold rush. Thousands of prospectors rushed to the territory hoping to get rich by finding gold. The American writer Jack London was among them.
London didn’t get rich. After two years, he went home nearly broke. But he was loaded with story ideas! The Yukon Territory inspired two of London’s most famous novels: White Fang and The Call of the Wild.
Facts About the Yukon Territory
31,000 people
Rank among provinces and territories in population
Major cities
Whitehorse, Dawson
186,000 square miles
482,000 square kilometers
Rank among provinces and territories in area
Entry into federation
June 13, 1898
Provincial bird
Common Raven
Provincial flower
The Yukon Territory lies in Canada’s far northwest corner. The northern part of the territory is inside the Arctic Circle, an area that rings the North Pole.
The Yukon boasts some of North America’s coldest temperatures. It is so cold that a layer of permanently frozen earth covers much of the territory. It’s called permafrost, and it lies just below the surface of the ground.
The Yukon Territory gets its name from the Yukon River. It’s one of North America’s longest rivers. The Yukon flows west across the Yukon Territory, enters Alaska, and then flows to the Bering Sea. Boats can travel nearly the entire length of the river. Many prospectors used the river to reach the Yukon Territory during the Klondike gold rush.
Tall mountains cover much of the Yukon Territory. Mount Logan, the highest peak in Canada, is in the Yukon. Forests thrive in the mountain valleys. Barren Arctic plains, called tundra, are found in the north.
The Yukon Territory’s native people have lived in the region for thousands of years. They are called First Nations people. For a long time, there were many more First Nations people than any others in the territory.
The first known visitors from Europe were Russian traders in the 1700s. But the Yukon Territory was largely ignored by outsiders until the gold rush began.
In 1896, George Carmack and his Indian friends, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie, found a gold nugget in Bonanza Creek. The creek flows into the Klondike River. When word of the discovery got out, thousands of people flocked to the area in search of gold. The Klondike gold rush was on!
Few “Klondikers” were prepared for the region’s rugged conditions. Many died trying to get there, so a rule was made. Anyone coming to the area had to bring along supplies for a whole year. The supplies included hundreds of pounds of food, heavy woolen blankets, and sturdy boots.
Most gold seekers traveled the Chilkoot Trail from Alaska through British Columbia. Those who could afford it hired dogsled teams, horseback riders, or Indians to carry their things. Once they reached the Yukon River, rafts and paddle-wheel riverboats brought them over the rapids to Dawson City. Dawson City (now Dawson) became the Yukon Territory’s first capital in 1898.
Paddle-wheel boats are no longer used on the Yukon River. The SS Klondike, first built in 1929, was once the largest riverboat to travel the Yukon. Now it is preserved as a national historic site in the town of Whitehorse.
Today, roads serve the Yukon Territory’s major towns. Air travel is vital to the many remote villages without roads. Railroads are used to transport copper, lead, and zinc mined in the territory.
In 1942, during World War II, railroad lines carried supplies to build the Alaska Highway. Part of the highway crosses the Yukon Territory. Today, this highway is the main road linking Alaska with the lower 48 United States.
In 1953, the city of Whitehorse became the capital of the Yukon Territory. It is Canada’s most westerly capital. Like the territory’s first capital, Dawson City, Whitehorse was founded during the Klondike gold rush. Its name comes from the whitewater rapids that rush by on the nearby Yukon River. Many people think the rapids look like the mane of a white horse on the run.
During World War II, Whitehorse played a big role in the building of the Alaska Highway. Thanks to the Alaska Highway, the town’s population grew rapidly. Today, most of the Yukon Territory’s residents live in Whitehorse.
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