Yukon Nuggets

  • A dredge in operation on Bonanza Creek. Date: 1903. Yukon Archives. H.C. Barley fonds, #4841.

  • 12 Mile Ditch Y.G. Co. Yukon Archives. Emil Forrest fonds, #72.

1907 Yukon Nuggets

Klondike Twelve Mile Ditch


It was called the Twelve Mile Ditch. But it was much more than a ditch, and a good deal longer than 12 miles.

Water was the key ingredient. Without water, none of the gold mining in the Klondike could be carried out. When the gold dredges began going over the old ground which had been worked by small-time prospectors with pick and pan, they needed lots of water.

Thus in 1907 the Yukon Gold company began to built a massive system to deliver water to the Bonanza and Bear creek mining districts. It was a marvel as an engineering feat of its day.

The plan was to build a water delivery system from the Twelve Mile River near the Tombstone Mountain range north east of Dawson. Total length of the project was 70 miles.

Water was carried through a huge ditch for 40 of these miles, and a huge pipe and flume system carried on for 30 miles. The pipe was of heavy metal two feet in diameter. The flumme was build with logs cut from local timber and fashioned into boards at a sawmill near the Twelve Mile River. It was seven feet wide. The ditch itself was 10 feet wide.

A dam was also built to generate power to operate the electric dredges on or near the Klondike river. This involved construction of a 70-mile long transmission line. It took three seasons to complete the Twelve Mile Ditch. More than fourteen hundred men and over three hundred horses were involved in the construction project. Four steam shovels were also used. In 1907 the cost of construction was $6000 per month. Each labourer earned $28 per week plus room and board.

A government report on the project said the facilities were first class and that none of the workers complained about living or working conditions. When completed, the Twelve Mile Ditch carried huge volumes of water which enabled the dredges to work the Klondike creeks for many years to follow.






A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.