Miles Canyon and Canyon City

One of the most treacherous areas on the Yukon River runs through Miles Canyon, an 8km long death trap. Here the Whitehorse rapids (what the city is named after) were so bad that boats only passed through the area if they were extremely brave or extremely stupid. By 1898, nearly 300 boats had been wrecked in the rapids, and five people had drowned; North-West Mounted Police Inspector Sam Steele is quoted to have said: “why more casualties have not occurred is a mystery to me.”

To bypass the area, locals set up wooden tramways that travelled through the woods in hopes of preventing boat travel through the dangerous region. The beginning of the tramway was downstream at downtown Whitehorse and upstream at what is known as Canyon City. Our goal for the evening was to hike along the canyon to the city and then hike back using one of the tram passageways.

Initially the tramways were not there and the arduous process of passing though the area generally started at Canyon City, where the boats stopped, unloaded their goods, portaged them to the other side of the canyon 8km away, and finished their journey. A tram way was set up to speed up the process because of a bottleneck that was occurring.

Although it thrived for a short time, by 1900 the railway was completed to Whitehorse, and Canyon City had lost its reason for existence.

Canyon City is actually a recent discovery. Locals didn’t know it was there until the area was discovered during an archaeological survey. The area has since been excavated and a detailed map of the city has been planned out. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they rebuild the city to attract more tourists.

The Whitehorse Rapids have since been tamed and the water isn’t so treacherous (probably because the water is now controlled by a dam) but judging the behaviour of some cliff jumpers: it’s darn cold.

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