Yukon Nuggets

  • The sternwheeler Dawson sunk just offshore at Rink Rapids. Date: 1926. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #7035.

  • The sternwheeler Whitehorse passing through Five Finger Rapids on the Yukon River. Date: 1904. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #8415.

1887 Yukon Nuggets

Rink Rapids


When it comes to place names in the Yukon, we can thank George Dawson for keeping some early day names that mean so much to Yukoners today.

On his government-sponsored journey down the Yukon River in 1887, Dawson, a dominion land surveyor at the time, was mapping the territory, studying the geology and correcting - or accepting - Yukon place names that had been given by an American, Frederick Schwatka back in 1883.

On his journey of exploration, Schwatka named everything he saw. When he arrived at a place we know as Five Finger Rapids, he gave the famous rapids a name that no one would likely know or care about.

He called them Rink Rapids. Why? Well, Schwatka was a trained observer, an engineer and had a nose for naming places after famous people. So who was Rink?

Dr. Henry Rink was the Danish authority on Greenland, its history and its people. In 1875, he wrote a lengthy, definitive work on the life of Greenland Eskimos. The tome is still regarded as the best description of an ancient land and its people. But it certainly had nothing to do with the Yukon, nor is it likely that Rink had ever heard of the Yukon.

So when George Dawson came along in 1887, he accepted many names bestowed by Schwatka and had the authority to do so. However, the imposing rapids had once been called Five Fingers. They were named by one of the earliest Yukon miners, W.B. Moore of Tombstone Arizona in 1882. At Five Fingers, four basalt rocks separate the river into five channels. Only the eastern channel was passable by river boats that began to ply the river.

They were so imposing that river boats coming up river from Dawson City had to be winched through. Captains needed to know what they were doing since there was very little room between the rocks and the river boats. So luckily for the Yukon, Dawson restored the original name.

Nevertheless, he was not going to leave Dr. Henry Rink high and dry. Just below the Five Fingers is a little set of rapids on the western shore. They weren't much although the river boat Dawson once hit the Rink Rapid's rocks and sunk in 1926.

So George Dawson decided to honour Rink by naming the little set of Rapids below the Five Fingers for him.






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.