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The Yukon Territory
Chapter 6. Transportation

The Yukon river is navigable from Behring sea to Whitehorse, a distance of over 2,000 miles; and during the summer this river is the great channel of transportation from the coast to the interior. On the south side steamers pl\ along the Pacific coast between Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle and Skagway, connecting at the latter point with the White Pass Rail-road, which extends from Skagway to Whitehorse. Between the middle of June and the latter part of October a fleet of steamers belonging to the British Yukon Navigation Company ply between Whitehorse and Dawson. The trip between Whitehorse and Dawson is made in less than two days, and between Dawson and Whitehorse in about three and a half days. In past years large quantities of merchandise were shipped on scows from Whitehorse to Dawson and sold on the water front to merchants and citizens. The city council of Dawson, however, in 1900, imposed a license of $500, which was subsequently reduced to $300, on all transient traders. With the imposition of this tax, and a special through rate offered by the White Pass and Yukon Route and the British Yukon Navigation Company, to merchants shipping goods, the transient business practically ceased, and the transportation, business between Whitehorse and Dawson is now almost entirely handled by the British Yukon Navigation Company. There is also one steamer belonging to an independent company, operating on this stretch of the river.

The ice on the Yukon breaks up about the middle of May, and shortly after that time the river is navigable north of Lake Laberge, the ice in the lake remaining solid until about the middle of Tune. During this period lines of goods which may be in urgent demand are carried around the lake and shipped to Dawson on scows and whatever boats may be available.

The following are the official figures as to the opening and closing of the Yukon since any records have been kept:

In 1904 there was issued by the While Pass and Yukon Route, in connection with the ocean lines between Puget Sound and British Columbia ports and Dawson, a pamphlet known as "Northern Freight Classification No. 4,' showing in alphabetical order a list of articles with the name of the class in which the rate is quoted on the annual tariff issued by the company. Occasionally as the annual tariff is issued, supplements have also been issued amending the classification list. In this classification list are also special rules and conditions governing the transportation of the different article-.

The following is an extract from the tariff for 1907, issued by the White Pass and Yukon Route:

Governed by Northern Freight Classification No. 4, amendments thereto, or subsequent issues thereof.

Rates in dollars and cents per ton of 2,000 pounds.

Between British Columbia and Paget Sound Ports and Dawson.

In view of the large number of dredges and hydraulic plants being imported into the Yukon Territory, the following-extracts from the supplement (1907) to the Northern Freight Classification will be of interest to those contemplating the importation of such machinery.

When not otherwise specified in the Northern Freight Classification, an additional charge is made for handling heavy packages, including boilers and mining machinery, as follows:


Steel, wood or iron, when nested so that measurement will not exceed 00 cubic feet per ton of 2,000 pounds......Class A

When measurement exceeds 60 cubic feet per ton of 2,000 pounds, an additional charge will be assessed for such excess measurement as follows, cubic measurement to be determined by multiplying the square of the outside diameter by the length:

San Francisco Fates.

The rates to and from San Francisco will be made by adding to the rates to and from Seattle, the following arbitrancs applying only via Alaska Pacific Steamship Company in connection with the Alaska Steamship Company.

Minimum charge, r>0 cents for any single shipment.

Class A$3.50 per ton of 2.000 lbs.
Class B 4.50
Class C 5.50

Hydraulic pipe and smoke stacks (exceptions to classification), $6 per ton of i',000 pounds, but not less than $2 per 40 cubic feet.

On pieces or packages weighing over 4,000 pounds each, the following charge will be made in addition to the rates shown above:-

Joint freight tariff, naming through class rates between Vancouver, Victoria, British Columbia; Seattle, Tacoma, Port Townsend, Washington; and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, via the Alaska Steamship Company, Pacific Coast Steamship Company, Canadian Baciiic Railway Company (British Columbia Coast Service), and MacKenzie Brothers, Limited, Steamship Company- -the White Pass and Yukon Route:


The stretch of river between Dawson and St. Michaels (a distance of 1,601 miles) is generally known as the Lower river; and on this route the steamers of the Northern Commercial Company and the North American Transportation and Trading Company operate, connecting with ocean steamer! at. St. Michaels from Seattle and San Francisco. Nearly all the merchandise imported by these two companies is brought into the interior bv this route, and delivered at their different trading posts along the river. Owing to the distance and the shortness of the season of navigation, the lower river steamers cannot make more than three trips during the summer, and each trip they not only carry a full cargo, hut also push one or two heavily laden barges. The larger boats carry upwards of 100 tons, and each barge from 200 to 400 tons.

The trip between the mouth of the Yukon and Dawson in the early part of the season occupies about sixteen days on account of the strength of the current created by the volume of water in the river. In September, however, when the current is not so strong, the journey can be made in about fourteen days. The trip from Dawson to St. Michaels is made in slightly less than six days. On what is known as the Yukon flats the river opens out and attains a breadth of about sixty miles. There are numerous channels on this stretch of the river, which is tortuous and difficult to navigate, and the Northern Commercial Company employ the services of a pilot, who takes charge of all the company's boats when crossing the flats.

The passenger rate between Dawson and Seattle or San Francisco via St. .Michaels is $125 first-class. On the same route the steerage rate is $100, being first-class on the river and steerage on the ocean. During the summer the companies operating steamers on the lower river transact a considerable amount of passenger business, and a large number of miners, merchants and others travelling to and from the different points in Alaska usually travel by way of Whitehorse and Dawson. Tickets can be obtained at most of the companies' offices in Alaska direct from those points to ports in British Columbia and Puget Sound, and baggage can be cheeked and forwarded in bond.


In the early days the only route to and from Dawson during the winter season was the frozen surface of the Yukon river. For about one month while the ice was forming on the river, and for a similar period in the spring while the ice was breaking up, there was no communication between Dawson and the outside. It was dangerous and almost impossible to travel any distance on the shore ice. No mail could be carried either way for about two months each year.

In the summer of 1902 the Government built a winter trail between Dawson and Whitehorse, a distance of 303 miles, at a cost of $129,000, and since that time about $50,000 have been expended in maintaining and repairing this road. During the winter season and since the construction of the new trail, the White Pass and Yukon Route run a tri-weekly stage service between Whitehorse and Dawson. Prom the close of navigation until sufficient snow has fallen to make good sleighing the company uses Concord coaches, which can carry twelve passengers each, F ntil the crossings are frozen over, passengers and baggage are taken across the rivers in canoes, which are handled by expert boatmen. As soon as there is sufficient snow for sleighing, sleighs are substituted for coaches. Each sleigh is drawn by four horses, and has accommodation for from nine to fourteen passengers, 1,000 pounds of passenger baggage and 1,000 pounds of mail and express. No team travels more than an average of twenty miles, and fresh horses arc in readiness at each station along the route. Prom about the first of March the passenger traffic to the interior becomes very heavy, and from that date until about the seventh of April there is an almost daily service of stages.

The following is an extract of the passenger rates charged by the "White Pass and Yukon Route, as published in Bullet in No. 10 issued by the company during the winter of 1906-07:

The above rates do not include meals and lodging at the different roadhouses along the trail. The regular roadhouse charges are: Meals, $1.50 each; beds, $1, and small rooms from $2 up.

Freight, express and baggage can be bonded through to Dawson during the winter on any of the stages operated by the White lass and Yukon Route. Baggage exceeding 25 pounds in weight is charged for, north of Whitehorse, at the rate of 25 cents per pound by passenger stage, and 20 cents per pound by freight stage.

The White Pass and Yukon Route also carry freight over the winter trail on sleds specially constructed for this purpose, and the journey is made in about eight days. The rates between Whitehorse and Dawson are from 20 to 30 cents per pound according to the class of goods as defined in the company's Northern Freight Classification No. 4 and amendments.


The Klondike Mines Railway has been in operation since the summer of 1906. This road extends from Dawson along the Klondike valley and up Bonanza creek to Grand Forks, at the junction of Eldorado, and then to the Dome, a distance of thirty-two miles. From the Dome passengers and freight are conveyed to the different mining creeks, which branch from this point, by stages and freight teams. Prior to the construction of the railroad a line of stages carrying freight and passengers operated between Dawson and Grand Forks, a distance of twelve miles. When the railroad opened, however, these stages ceased running, and the transportation business along this route is now being handled by the railway company.

The following are extracts from the standard freight and passenger tariffs of the Klondike Mines Railway Company:

Passenger Tariff, effective December 17, 1000.


Probably one of the most important features in the opening, up of the Klondike district and other gold mining area-within the Yukon Territory is the system of road construction, which has done so much to stimulate and develop the mineral resources of the Territory, and thereby contributed in no small degree to the gold production of the world.

The construction of a system of roads in the Yukon Territory was a colossal undertaking. When it is remembered that in 1899 and 1900 miners were receiving as high as $1 an hour, it is possible to form some idea of the expenditure to be encountered. In 1899 workmen on the road were paid at the rate of So cent?- per hour; in 1900 they received 50 cents, and since 1901 they have been paid at the rate of 75 cents an hour. In 1899 a team could not be hired for less than $25 a day. In the following year this was reduced to $20, which is the rate paid at the present day.

The first road in the territory was built in 1^99, along the top of the ridge between Bonanza and Hunker creek, this road being subsequently extended to Gold Bun. The same year branches were constructed from this road to Bonanza, Gold Bottom and Caribou. In 1900 the present road from Dawson to Grand Forks was constructed, and in the following year this road was continued up Bonanza, connecting with the summit road which had been built the previous year. In 1901 the present wagon road was also built from the Ogilvie bridge along the Klondike valley and Hunker creek to Caribou, a distance of thirty-three miles.

In 1901 a pack trail was built from Dawson to Glacier creek, and in the following year this trail was improved and made a passable wagon road. The mining industry in the Miller and Glacier district continued with increased activity, and in 1904 warranted the expenditure of a sufficient amount to construct a good wagon road. This road commences on the opposite side of the Yukon from Dawson, but a cable ferry and scow, which were purchased by the local government conveys horses, machinery and supplies, &c., across the river. In summer all the freight and passenger traffic from Dawson to Miller and Glacier creek is carried over this road, a distance of 73 miles. The winter trail from Dawson to Miller is by way of the Yukon river to Fortymile, up Fortymile to Frown creek, up Brown creek to its head, then over the summit to Big Gold and Glacier, a distance of 110 miles.

In winter the trail from Duncan to Dawson is by way of Hunker, Dominion, Jensen, Gravel lake, Barlow, and across country in a straight line to Mayo, a distance of 150 miles. (See trail marked on map.) In summer there is steamboat communication between Dawson and Mayo, the Stewart river being navigable to Fraser falls.

The following statement shows the number of miles of sled and wagon roads constructed since 1899, namely:

The cost ot the construction (if wagon roads runs from $1,500 to $3,000 per mile, and sled or winter trails from $250 to $350 per mile.

The following comparative statement of freight rates between Dawson and the principal mining districts during the summer months will show the enormous advantage derived by the miners from the construction of the system of roads throughout the Territory:-

In order to illustrate the saving to the mining operator hv the system of roads which have been constructed in the Klondike district alone, the following is a statement of the total tonnage of freight, including supplies and mining machinery, delivered by freighters on the principal creeks in the district during the year 1903, as compared with what the cost would have been in 1899, namely:

The above table shows the freight delivered only to the principal producing creeks. It is estimated that the freight delivered on the smaller producing creeks would amount to 5,000 tons, which would thus increase the aggregate to at least 20,000 tons.

The above statistics respecting the construction of roads, &c., were compiled by the Inspector of Works and Buildings for the Yukon Territory.

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