Yukon Nuggets

  • The sternwheeler Keno pushing the barge Tookeno loaded with oil barrels near Mayo. Date: ca. 1932. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #7402.

  • A close-up of the sternwheeler Keno and the barge Hootalinqua having oil barrels unloaded at the shore at Mayo. Date: ca. 1932. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #7403.

  • Billy Moore and the rest of the officers of the sternwheeler Keno at dinner in the dining room. Date: ca. 1940. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #7661.

1951 Yukon Nuggets

SS Keno


Today, the SS Keno sits high and dry near Front Street overlooking the Yukon river in Dawson.

She was built in Whitehorse in 1922, this little jewel in the crown of Yukon riverboats. The SS Keno was built to carry ore between Mayo and Stewart City at the mouth of the Stewart River. The Keno's draft was only three feet, allowing her to navigate the sometimes very shallow Stewart River. She could carry 120 tonnes on board and another 250 tons by pushing a barge in front. The lead-silver-zinc concentrate was contained in bags, each weighing 125 pounds and each laid on the freight deck.

Above the freight deck, there was the passenger deck which could carry 32 people. Above this was the Texas deck, which housed the Captain and officers. Above that was the pilot house. The Texas deck was so named because it was really a "stateroom". The term stateroom came from the days of the great ocean-going liners which had "staterooms". These were expensive passenger quarters which were named after American states.

By 1937, ore production was growing faster than the boats could deliver it to Whitehorse. So the Keno was lengthened by 10 feet. A crew of 25 people was needed to operate the boat.

The Keno was taken out of service in 1951, when trucks began carrying ore on the newly built Whitehorse-Mayo road. She sat in the shipyards in Whitehorse until 1960, when the company donated her to the Canadian government. That year she made her final voyage to her resting place in Dawson City.

By then a bridge had been built across the Yukon River at Carmacks. The Keno was too high to sail under the bridge. So the pilot house was taken off and the smoke stack was laid on the Texas deck. Even with these modifications, the Keno cleared the Carmacks bridge by just 11 inches.


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.