🛶 this section: 170km |🛶 total: 170km
Lake Bennett to Whitehorse
Checking out Carcross: Hello Harry!
A taxi picked me and my gear up in the morning to take me to the White Pass and Yukon route bus stop near the river. My driver was Victor from Moldova. He emigrated and picked Canada over Russia yet was still not 100% happy – he doesn’t like the money focus and that people here tend to be late. But generally he seemed happy.
The bus to Carcross (500 inhabitants) took about an hour and was rather entertaining as the driver, a 66y old lady from around here, shared a few stories about the white pass and yukon railway, alaska highway and the time of the gold rush. She also pointed out how low the water levels on the Yukon are this year. The bus was full with mainly older folks on vacation.
Carcross used to be called CARibou CROSSing and was populated by taggish first nations (indigenous people in Canada). Apart from the railway station linking it to Skagway via the white pass, it boasts the oldest still operating general store in yukon, a first nation learning center and a nice museum.
Right after lunch the train that would take me to the other end of lake bennet arrived and to my surprise harry was onboard (instead of waiting at Bennett). We left his bike at the train station and off we went to our put-in location at Bennett Station.
Picturous Lake Bennett & the White Pass train
Lake Bennett is right at the end of the famous Chilkoot pass that gold prospectors had to take before waterways connected them to Whitehorse and ultimately Dawson. It was here that in 1898 about 8,000 boats were launched when the ice melted – the biggest armada of ships in history!
The hour long train ride along the lake was magnificent and offered plenty of time to catch up with Harry.
Once arrived, we assembled the canoe and decided to stay at a hut near the station. Later on a german family joined us. They carried their kayak over the pass and also paddle all the way.
We enjoyed 7 steaks lakeside before hitting the sleeping bags. Tomorrow the journey would begin.
Crossing Lake Bennett: Stormy conditions
The day started well, as the fishing rod we had attached to the stern of the canoe caught a lake trout. Dinner sorted!
Otherwise we faced increasingly harsh conditions as the day passed. At times the waves hit more than one meter – something i had not encountered on the canoe before.
We decided to sleep on the only large island of the lake (be it that it is a fake island with a land bridge) and leave it at 20km for now. Safety first.
Just before reaching the island we spotted a grizzly bear on the railway tracks and later a moose with baby. Amazing! Sadly due to the windy conditiona the fotos are pretty rubbish.
The island offered immediate protection from the winds, was very warm and offered amazing views across Bennett and its surrounding mountains. We put up camp and prepared a few things – chiefly food (beans & trout). Harry went fishing, but without success. We both slept well that night.
After a good night rest, we got going 10am.a bit late as winds already began to pick up again, but we felt more in control today and reached Carcross after 4.5h. Lake one done!
The German family was there too and also struggled under the conditions, especially since they paddled without spray cover so far (much of their stuff having been stored in Carcross).
We did some shopping, Harry washed clothes and we both used the wifi at the very well run visitor center. On the way out we chatted to the German family again and the tourist office people sent us some cherries and grapes – a valuable gift up here. Thanks!
Another 4km on and 26km all in today we camped on Nares Lake in a little cove pointed out by a lovely local couple. Beans only tonight.
Lake Nares & Taggish Lake
The couple advised us to better start early to avoid strong side winds of ‘Windy Arm’ (get past it by 10am is the rule). By 5:45am we paddled into a calm Yukon morning watching eagles and listening to the sound of our paddles.
It turned out a pretty efficient day as we managed 44km and passed both lakes initially benefitting from low winds and later riding the waves at good speed with the wind in our backs. On our way a swimming moose or elk provided for entertainment.
Once we reached the community of Taggish, more specifically Ten Mile, we enjoyed pizza, burger, beers and a CAD7 shower at the 6 mile river ressort in a heap of afternoon sun.
From there we entered the last big lake before Whitehorse (Marsh lake) and camped in a side stream of the yukon that felt akin to a birds reserve (lots of birds around on that fine evening). To our surprise, we had a 800g pike our fishing rod. Food for tomorrow.
Across Marsh Lake: Fine lunching 🍷 🐠 🥔
Marsh lake was another about 40km of paddling without much support of the current yet stunning views. Highlight of the day was an amazing lunch were we prepared the pike on the bbq and enjoyed it with boiled potatos and wine. Yummy!
After 25km we stayed not far from the end of the lake in a dried up part of the lake. Lots of space! Big fire. Music. Nice.
Into Whitehorse: Longest day yet…
We finally reached the Yukon river after completing the last section of Marsh lake. The current was not strong, but enough to lift speed to 7km/h vs. 4-6 across the lakes.
Just at the end of the lake we saw the nest of a bald eagle (White head) with chicks. Cool.
From here we continued to our lunch break near a bridge and a weir. The German famiky caught up with us (to our surprise we had been faster) and together we passed the manual lock past the weir.
Now rain kicked in and would be with us for a while as we paddled downriver. Music on and go. The scenery was amazing and the mix of wind and rain was very atmospheric. We spotted a lovely swimming beaver and raced him for a while to get a decent foto. Reminded me of the Elbe beavers Laura and I saw last year.
We did about 30km before reaching todays final obstacle – the Whitehorse dam after passing the 9 mile canyon successfully. Take the boat out on the right side and carry all your gear about 1km downriver. Dont put in too close to the dam – the currents are treacherous. By 11pm and after 55km we had finally made it back to Whitehorse. Tired!
Resupplying and resting in Whitehorse
Before heading on to the next town Carmacks some 5 days away, we went shopping groceries. Lots of them as options down the river will get worse.
We also sorted Harrys bike (arrived from Carcross and sent on to Dawson…) and did a little sightseeing. The SS Klondike, in the 1930’s the most powerful steam ship on the river, tells the story of gold and mining in its own way. A tour with guide is highly recommended.
We stayed at Beez Kneez hostel (where i stayed before) – a place i cannot recommend more highly. Thanks for all the help Sara. Shower and a bed… What a treat 😊
One thing we still struggle with is the permanent daylight. Even at midnight it feels like early morning. Well, lets enjoy the summer while it lasts.
Where we stand: 170km in five days is about 34km on average. About 40km is what i need to make it to Emmonak in time. Things should speed up now after the dam with the exception of Lake Laberge (60km) that can trap you for a while if winds are strong.