The Character of the Yukon: A Photo Essay

yukon banner

Over the past few weeks, I’ve rambled on at length about my fantastic week in the Yukon territory of Canada, which was made possible by the friendly folks at Tourism Yukon. The coverage included tales of joining the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, finding gold during a gold panning tour, gaining wisdom from Yukon First Nations, and flightseeing in Kluane National Park. I wrote about how much I love Dawson City and profiled the man behind the quirkiest museum in Canada.

Now, it’s time to shut up and let the pictures do the talking, with another 60 or so images from the Yukon that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share.

Random roadside fun: An old car transformed into a flower pot.


And a truck with moose antlers. Like it’s perfectly normal!


For natural beauty, it’s hard to beat Kluane National Park. What an ideal spot to kayak.


Just remember that you’re not the top of the food chain ’round these parts.


I believe this is Mount Logan, the highest peak in Canada at 19,551 feet. I saw it from a distance while on a flightseeing bush plane tour in Kluane.


One of the many glaciers in Kluane as seen from above.


The plane in its natural habitat.


Outside the Moose Creek Lodge is a wooden statue of the Yukon’s most prolific animal, the mosquito.

mosquito statue moose creek

Inside the lodge is a warning. Hey, it costs lots of money to get supplies up here, so don’t waste our toilet paper without buying anything!


I love this pic, because these people clearly put a lot of time and effort into creating their to-do list. It’s a work of art created on a muddy window canvas!


Having a laugh with a friend in Dawson.


These are the “kissing buildings.” In the old days, Dawson City residents built their houses directly on the ground, but the warmth from inside the homes caused the permafrost, the frozen upper layer of soil, to thaw. That led the houses to gently slide around in the mud and then refreeze in the winter. These two, built in 1901, tilted in opposite directions and now lean against each other.


Today, houses are often built off the ground on concrete blocks or wooden frames.


The permafrost also affects the portion of the Alaska Highway near Beaver Creek, which constantly has to be rebuilt because of the shifting ground. You have to watch your speed on this road, because deep grooves and bumps are common. The Beaver Creek Visitor Center has a display explaining the challenges of building a road on this type of ground.

permafrost alaska highway

Rural areas of the Yukon have their mailboxes in a common area at the end of the street. Imagine having to drive to go pick up your mail!


A nice view from the front of the lodge where I stayed on the first night.


Here’s the toe that was in my shot glass when I joined the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. Spoiler alert: Just a few days ago, someone swallowed the toe!


Have I mentioned that I found gold during a gold panning tour? So did many of these other visitors. We all went home with our little specks of gold dust and felt proud.


The gold in Dawson is such a big deal that it’s the theme of a jewelry store.


The influence of poet Robert Service can be seen throughout Dawson. The cabin where he lived from 1909 to 1912 still stands as a historic attraction. His words now adorn the side of at least one building in town:

robert service poem building

And his famous “There are strange things done in the midnight sun” poem can be found on cans of Yukon Gold beer.

yukon gold can

Here’s the former Dawson City Bank. Though it looks like it was built with stone, a closer look at the bank’s peeling outer layers showed that it was built with wood, which was then covered with tin formed into the shape of bricks.

old dawson city bank

Summers are short in Dawson City but they result in some pretty flowers.

dawson city flowers

Residents take advantage of the rare opportunity to grow their own fresh produce. I saw vegetable gardens all over the place. Somehow their broccoli was growing better than mine was back home.


An unfortunate mishap at the Dawson City Music Festival.


Awaiting a DCMF performance at the gazebo.


Even though the towns in the Yukon are small and far apart, they hold a surprising number of big events. I love this flyer for the 4th Annual Permafrost Bassdrop, an electronic music concert.


Another view of Dawson City with the Moosehide Slide in the background. Though it’s easy to assume the slide on the hill was the result of gold mining activity, it was actually a natural geologic event that took place at least 1700 years ago. The debris is still moving down the hill at a rate of about 4 centimeters per year.


There’s a hiking trail running straight across that slide that will take you up to the Midnight Dome, which offers a great view of the city and the river.


The Westminster Hotel, established 1898.


The much more modern and aesthetically-pleasing Danoja Zho Cultural Centre.


A Rat Pack mural inside El Cabrito restaurant and bar.


The masonic temple is one of Dawson’s most visually striking buildings.


East of the Yukon is the Northwest Territories, and there’s only one road leading there from Dawson City. So the territories have a visitor center in Dawson, even though it’s a drive of several hours to reach NWT from here via the Dempster Highway.


The only way out of the city to the west is the free ferry, which runs 24/7 transporting cars and pedestrians across the Yukon River.


One of the adorable dogs on the dog mushing tour.


Seeing wildlife is always a crapshoot, and we didn’t have the greatest luck this time around. But this guy made up for it: A small black bear on the side of the road on the way to Burwash Landing. There were actually two of them, but the other one scampered off into the woods when we slowed down. This one was curious and came out to say hi. It appears to have a gash on its nose, perhaps the result of some nasty fight.


The only other wildlife I witnessed was a pair of coyotes, who were too fast for my camera. We stopped by Sheep Mountain, a common lookout spot in Kluane National Park, but the sheep weren’t home.

sheep mountain lookout

There’s one place you’re always guaranteed to see an assortment of animals: The Yukon Wildlife Preserve. Here’s those elusive sheep! Just chillin’.


And a moose snacking on grass.


Elk antlers are heavy. I would never be able to stand up if these things were attached to my cranium.


The preserve also had lynx (which were hiding), bison, muskox and caribou, but my favorites were the mountain goats. The mountain goat is one of the last major animals of North America that I haven’t seen in the wild, which is why they were absent from the list of my 20 favorite wildlife encounters. The preserve houses a couple dozen mountain goats. Some were standing right by the fence and others were high on the cliffs inside their enclosure.

mountain goats preserve

In Beaver Creek, I had the opportunity to go for a joyride on a 1937 bicycle owned by Sid, who runs the Bordertown Garage and Museum.


The final stop of my journey was Whitehorse, the Yukon’s capital city and its largest, with more than 23,000 residents. Whitehorse has a cute little trolley that transports people from one end of downtown to the other. But the trolley is very slow. You could run beside it and reach your destination just as quickly.


Whitehorse has the coolest-looking visitor center around.


If you need a cab, hail a Grizzley Bear taxi. The unnecessary “E” stands for… “extra-special service.” Yeah, that’s it.


One of the peculiar things about Whitehorse is the abundance of dental clinics. Dawson City no longer has a dentist, so pretty much everyone in the Yukon who wants oral service has to come to Whitehorse. Someone jokingly suggested that part of the reason people in the Yukon have such a feeling of togetherness is because everyone gets their teeth cleaned by the same few dentists.


I did not expect to find an organic fair trade coffee shop way out on a rural back road outside Whitehorse, but Bean North surprised me.


The Whitehorse Fish Ladder is a man-made detour allowing fish to swim around the dam. Here’s a small fish passing by an observation window of the fish ladder.


Near the fish ladder is a public art installation called “One Fish, Two Fish.” Which is your favorite? I’m partial to the blue plaid.


A gorgeous piece of artwork by Keith Wolfe Smarch called “Split Tail Beaver.”


Art from the streets of Whitehorse.

mural art whitehorse

Whitehorse kids need to skate too!


A weird skinny Mountie standing guard outside a hotel.


They have beach volleyball courts in the Yukon! Now I feel at home.


Some of the modern new houses in downtown Whitehorse. There are also (not pictured) a couple of log cabin skyscrapers in town (imagine four log cabins stacked on top of one another.)


The Jack London Museum is in Dawson, but Whitehorse gets into the action with a bust of the “Call of the Wild” author.


And the last glimpse of the Yukon on the plane home. I hope to see you again soon, Yukon!

yukon plane


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About the Author

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based journalist and blogger who seeks out offbeat attractions and awesome destinations around the world. He has been featured in Travel + Leisure, Connect Magazine, Matador Travel, and the Washington Post.

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  1. Great collection of photos Scott! I’ve been to NWT (ages ago), and have been dying to explore more of Canada’s north. Really hope to get to the Yukon soon. 🙂

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