Yukon Nuggets

  • Miles Canyon before the 1958 hydro dam.

  • Shooting Whitehorse Rapids.

2004 Yukon Nuggets

The Yukon River

Where does the Yukon River start? Where does it go? How does it get there? So many questions. Many answered only in the eye or mind of the beholder.

Some say the source is the Llewellyn Glacier at the southern end of Atlin Lake while others say it is Lake Lindeman which empties into Lake Bennett.

Either way, Atlin Lake flows into Tagish Lake as does Lake Lindeman after flowing into Bennett Lake. Tagish Lake then flows into Marsh Lake via the Tagish River. The Yukon River proper starts at the northern end of Marsh Lake, just south of Whitehorse.

The upper end of the Yukon River at Whitehorse was originally known as the Lewes River. Then past Lebarge it became the Thirty Mile and finally it was known as the Yukon at Hootalinqa where the Teslin River joins up.

But then again, some argue that the source of the Yukon River should really be Teslin Lake and the Teslin River, which has a larger flow when it reaches the Yukon at Hootalinqua. So the definitive answer is somewhat of a mystery.

We do know that many large lakes and rivers are part of the Yukon River system including Kusawa Lake which flows into the Takhini River and Kluane Lake which flows into the Kluane and then White Rivers.

Merrily along flows the Yukon, joined by the Pelly and the Stewart before the White and then the Klondike river at Dawson and the Forty Mile further downstream. When the Yukon finally reaches Alaska the mighty river has taken a lot of water from the Yukon Territory.

The river is 3,185 km long and empties into the Bering Sea at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The total drainage area is a massive 832,700 km of which a third is in Canada. And bigger than Texas.

For all that length it is surprising to learn that there are only four bridges across the Yukon River that can carry vehicles.

They are the Lewes Bridge, north of Marsh Lake on the Alaska Highway, the Robert Campbell Bridge, which connects Whitehorse proper with Riverdale, the Yukon River Bridge at Carmacks on the Klondike Highway; and The E. L. Patton Yukon River Bridge, north of Fairbanks on the Dalton Highway.

Plans to build a permanent bridge in Dawson were announced in 2004, but they are currently on hold because it was going to cost a lot more than first estimated.



There is also one pedestrian-only bridge in Whitehorse. And of course, the Whitehorse Rapids dam which we used to be able to drive across.



The Yukon River, a sense of wonder and mystery right on our doorsteps.


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.

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The Yukon River