Spell of the Yukon – 12 Days
“There’s a land where the mountains are nameless and the rivers all run God knows where…” so wrote Robert Service in his epic poem “Spell of the Yukon” more than 125-years ago. Since these words were penned, few would argue that the Yukon is still one of the wildest places remaining on earth. This is the legendary “Land of the Midnight Sun,” home of the Northern Lights, the ancient ice age refugium of Beringia, the homeland of North Americas earliest inhabitants and the Eldorado of one of the most famous gold rushes in history – the Klondike, made famous through the poetry of Robert Service and novels by Jack London.
This extraordinary adventure in learning begins in Prince Rupert, British Columbia (or Bellingham, Washington depending on the time students have allotted for their trip). Here students will board the Alaska Marine Ferry for a spectacular cruise up the world famous Inside Passage. Along the way, they will see glacier-clad mountains, countless islands and the world’s largest protected temperate rainforest. This is the home of bald eagles, wolves, grizzlies, black bears and white “Spirit Bears”, orcas, humpback and grey whales as well as the indigenous Northwest Coast Nations that proudly display their totem poles in coastal communities along the way. Our terminus is the National Historic Site of Skagway, Alaska where “stampeders” disembarked to hike the Chilkoot Pass on their way to the Klondike gold fields.
After a day to explore and camp in fascinating Skagway, we will ride the historic Yukon & White Pass train to Carcross and drive north to Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon Territory and home to the Yukon Beringia Center. Here students will learn how the Yukon, Alaska and eastern Siberia served as an ice-free refugium when much of North America was buried under glacial ice 40,000 years ago. Students will discover this intriguing era through interactive exhibits, riveting films and skeletal remains of woolly mammoths, giant beaver, giant sloths, saber-toothed cats and the partial carcass of a long extinct Yukon horse.
After exploring Whitehorse and camping on the shores of Lake Laberge made famous in a Robert Service poem, we venture north to Carmacks where we launch canoes for a 4-day paddle down the legendary Yukon River. At 3,190 km in length, it is one of the longest rivers in North America. Along the way students will view wildlife and learn northern bush skills from the local natives, like how to start a fire, erect a comfortable camp, cache food away from bears and cook over an open fire.
We conclude our Yukon River adventure in Fort Selkirk, an old Hudson Bay Company trading post that is now a National Historic Site. From here we head further north to explore the Yukon’s sub arctic region along the Dempster Highway, a raised gravel pad road that stretches 734-km North to the Arctic Ocean through one of the most unspoiled landscapes on earth. Here students are almost certain to spot Dall’s sheep, Arctic foxes, caribou, moose, grizzly and black bears as well as a wealth of bird life.
We will camp and trek in the famous Tombstone Mountains Territorial Park and stand on the Arctic Circle as we explore this vast wilderness, experience the midnight sun and marvel at a landscape mind-boggling in it’s vastness but still unmarked by man.
Dawson City, the destination of 100,000 Gold Rush stampeders in 1898 and now a living museum, is our final destination. A quiet town today with fewer than 2,000 residents, Dawson retains its traditional warm welcome and still displays many gold rush era buildings that have been preserved as part of a National Historic Park.
Our 12-day Yukon adventure concludes here with a flight back to Vancouver. For student groups with more time we have a 4-day add-on that takes us over the “Top of the World Highway” from Dawson City to Tok, Alaska and then back into the Yukon at Kluane National Park.
Kluane boasts the highest mountain in Canada, Mount Logan at 5,959 m (19,551 ft.) as well as the world’s largest non-polar ice cap. It is also part of the world’s largest protected area. After camping 2-nights and trekking in Kluane National Park this trip extension ends in Whitehorse with flights to Vancouver, or returning to Bellingham, Washington by ferry departing from beautiful Haines, Alaska.