Long on history, the mighty Yukon River runs 3,190 km (1,982 mi) from its source south of Whitehorse to the Bering Sea. Add 70 more wilderness rivers, dramatic wildlife and countless unspoiled lakes to make Yukona paddler’s dream.
Here are 10 reasons to put in and play.
1)Race to the midnight sun—Yukon River Quest: Brave souls paddle day and night in wave-pounded Voyageur canoes and kayaks, journeying 715 km (444 mi) from Whitehorse to Dawson City. The Yukon River Quest is the world’s longest annual canoe and kayak race. The summer light doesn’t quit, and neither do racers, feeding on power bars, cheering spectators and a spirit of adventure.
2) Paddle into the ice-fields at Kluane National Park: Glacial-covered Kluane National Park is a bucket-list stop, home to the largest non-polar ice field on the planet. See Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak. Listen for the thunderous crack of glacier ice calving into waters on a Tatshenshini River rafting expedition. Outfitters can guide you to the park’s isolated lakes.
3) Run with the Wind—paddle Wind River’s raw wilderness: Wrap yourself in steep winding canyons, cliffs, wetlands and rolling hills flanking a river in constant motion. Load up the floatplane for your Wind River trip to the Wernecke Mountains. You might even catch caribou wading into the waters alongside soaring peregrine falcons.
4) Say goodbye to civilization and hello to the Snake: Board a floatplane into lush alpine valley for an epic journey through the Mackenzie Mountains on moody Snake River. Think rapids, bears, wolves, carved canyons and camping before golden sunsets.
5) Day-tripping on the Yukon River in a Voyageur canoe: Short on time? Climb into a 28-ft (8.5-m) Voyageur canoe for stunning cliff and valley views followed by a tasty smoked salmon and pan-roasted Yukon potato cookout.
6) Paddle the poetic lake—Lake Laberge to Dawson City: If you don’t know Robert Service’s poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” about an unlucky prospector, you will after paddling Lake Laberge. Fortune-kissed paddlers cover 700 km (434 mi) and 30,000 years of human history.
7) Going for Gold—Yukon River Gold Rush expeditions: Think of your canoe as a time machine. Plenty of Klondike Gold Rush history tours pass abandoned settlements and stop at Fort Selkirk, a former Hudson’s Bay Company trading post that is now a cherished Yukon Historic Site.
8) Paddle the Porcupine to catch the caribou: September brings shimmering curtains of aurora borealis (Northern Lights) and a chance to witness the great caribou migration (a ranging herd of 120,000) on a spectacular Arctic whitewater trip along the Porcupine River.
9) Be your own hero—self-guided Yukon paddling trips: So you’ve got mad paddling skills and want to take on the Yukon or Big Salmon rivers? Up North Adventures and other outfitters can help with trip planning, transportation and rental equipment.
10) Visit Yukon’s last frontier on the Bonnet Plume River: Set off into the roaring heart of the Peel watershed. Advanced paddlers on this challenging whitewater canoe trip navigate Bonnet Plume River rapids that carve through mountain peaks and valleys. Look out for Dall sheep, grizzlies, moose and caribou.