Yukon Nuggets

  • Distant view of piles being driven for a bridge at the outlet of Lewis Lake between Carcross and Whitehorse. Date: December 1899. Yukon Archives. H.C. Barley fonds, #5303.

  • View of WP&YR labourers and horse-drawn wagons on top of an elevated grade built up where Lewis Lake was drained. Date: December 1899. Yukon Archives. H.C. Barley fonds, #5304.

  • Scenic view of Lewis Lake located along the WP&YR between Carcross and Whitehorse. Yukon Archives. H.C. Barley fonds, #4827.

1900 Yukon Nuggets

Lewis Lake


There's a nice little lake just off the Klondike Highway between Whitehorse and Carcross. Well, it's a little lake today, but back in 1900 before a Vancouver based engineer came along, this lake was much, much larger.

When the White Pass railway was being built in 1900, the workers encountered a large unnamed lake about 50 miles from Skagway near Lake Bennett. A construction engineer A.B. Lewis discovered that the surface of the lake was above the railway grade. To go around it would add as much as ten miles to the length of the line.

Lewis decided if the water level could be lowered by about 10 feet the company would save a lot of money. A ditch was dug from the south end of the lake to drain away the excess water. The plug was pulled during the evening. Then, to the dismay of Lewis and the workers, the force of the water flowing down the ditch washed the loose mud and gravel away causing a torrent of water which quickly drained the lake, not 10 feet, but nearly 80 feet. The flood washed out a considerable length of the recently constructed railroad bed below the lake. This held up construction, much to the embarrassment of engineer Lewis.

The once large unnamed lake became three small lakes. All round the present day shore is volcanic ash deposited about 1300 years ago by a massive eruption in Alaska. The ash, which used to be underwater, reveals fossilized marine creatures which lived in the lake many thousands of years ago. It's hard to understand why the lake was named in honour of Engineer Lewis. It's likely if the same feat were tried today, Lewis would have to find a way to put the water back.


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.