1918 Yukon Nuggets
She’s a burned out hulk now, and her ruins lie in Carcross where she was built. In her day, the steamer Tutshi was a class-act of the Yukon riverboat fleet. The S.S. Tutshi was one of the largest riverboats in the Yukon. Weighing in at just over 1000 tonnes, she was built in Carcross in 1918 by the White Pass Company, for the run between here and Graham Inlet on Tagish Lake. The Tutshi had a crew of 29, and could carry 135 passengers. She started out as a wood-burning vessel, but was converted to oil power when she began carrying tourists to Ben-My-Chree, beginning in the 1920s. Ben-My-Chree at the southern tip of Taku Arm was the garden site of the North. Tourists flocked there onboard the Tutshi to see the incredible gardens created by Mr. and Mrs. Otto Partridge. They imported plants and trees form around the world, and were hailed as the North’s most creative botanists.
Carcross, where the Tutshi was built, was first known as Caribou Crossing because of the large herds of caribou to cross the narrows here. In 1903, Bishop Bompas asked the Canadian Government to rename the community Carcross because of the confusion in mail service between the Yukon town and those with similar names in both Alaska and British Columbia. The Government made the change in 1904, but the White Pass Company continued to use the name Caribou Crossing until 1916.
The Tutshi was beached on the shores of Carcross in 1972, and restoration by Parks Canada began in 1977. The work was carried on over the years, but there was never enough money to install a proper sprinkler system on the boat. In 1991 she went up in flames in what was considered an act of arson, though no one was ever charged with the offense.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.