Yukon Nuggets

  • Hootalinqua junction at Carmacks with Lewis River. Yukon Archives. Frank Foster fonds, #158.

1991 Yukon Nuggets

The Thirty Mile River


The Yukon River is one of the grandest in the world. It flows almost two thousand miles from Marsh Lake to the Bering Sea. One of the gems in the entire Yukon River system - a section only thirty miles long - is now Canadian Heritage river.

More than half of the territory is drained by the Yukon River. That's a lot of fresh water heading into the salt-laden Bering Sea. The Yukon is fed by tributaries from the great mountain areas...the St. Elias, Cassiar, Pelly, Selwyn, and Ogilvie Mountains.

It might be surprising to some, but the Yukon River originates in the southern lakes, just 25 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. Then it meanders northwest for 1140 km through the boreal forest of Yukon's central lowlands to the Alaska border. From here it flows westward for another 2,060 km through central Alaska and empties into the Bering Sea. A long river by any standards.

The Thirty Mile section is a relatively narrow channel. It begins at the northern end of Lake Laberge, and ends at the Teslin River, at a place called Hootaliqua. And the river has a special place in Canadian history.

At its peak in 1898, the Klondike Gold Rush saw more than 30,000 gold seekers, in at least 7,000 boats, travel the Thirty Mile sailing from Lake Bennett to the goldfields. Although Hootalinqua already existed as a stopping place for Teslin River miners, both it and Lower Laberge became very important during and after the gold rush. At Lower Laberge, there was a telegraph station, a North West Mounted Police post, supply depots, and a roadhouse. At Hootalinqua there was a telegraph station and police post, and later, on nearby Shipyard Island, slipways and a winter storage yard for paddle-wheelers. 17-Mile Wood Camp, as it was called, was one of many along the river.

At Lower Laberge, Hootalinqua and the 17-Mile Wood Camp you can still see the remains of the log buildings in varying states of repair. Of particular interest are the remains of the slipways and winter storage facility on Shipyard Island. Built in 1913 by the British Yukon Navigation Company, it is the last such site in the Yukon.


Here the 360-ton S.S. Evelyn, built in 1908, lies as a rustic reminder of those riverboat days. It was hauled to shore at the close of the 1913 shipping season. Sadly, the hull is slowly disintegrating.


The swift, narrow channel of the Thirty Mile was the most difficult part of the stern-wheelers' run between Whitehorse and Dawson City. Its strong current, shifting shoals and treacherous rocks claimed more ships than any other stretch of the Yukon River. Simply marked grave sites are found along the Thirty Mile, and some locations are named after the boats wrecked there - Domville Creek, Casca Reef, La France Creek and Tanana Reef. The Thirty Mile was designated a Canadian Heritage river in 1991.


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.