A Guide to Wildlife Viewing the the Wilderness City -
Whitehorse Rest Area
This interpretive panel is at the Whitehorse Rest Area, located at Km 1419.2 of the Alaska Highway. A different version of this information is available as a brochure, "Wildlife in Whitehorse" (pdf, 3.6 MB).
As capital of the Yukon, Whitehorse is a very busy place for people - and for animals too! Birds, mammals and fish either call Whitehorse home or pass through it during certain times of the year. If you are in the right place at the right time you might catch a glimpse of a lynx, a chinook salmon or a Tundra Swan. We have highlighted some of Whitehorse's best wildlife viewing and nature appreciation sites.
For more information about wildlife viewing opportunities in Whitehorse:
- contact Environment Yukon's Wildlife Viewing Program at 867-667-8291.
- visit the Visitor Information Centre at 100 Hanson Street.
- visit the Yukon Conservation Society at 302 Hawkins Street.
- contact the City of Whitehorse at 867-668-8335.
- 1 - McIntyre Marsh: Located 3.4 km along the Fish Lake Road, McIntyre Marsh is a great place to have a quiet lunch and do a little bird watching. The gazebo offers shelter and interpretive panels describe some of the birds that make this marsh their home. Watch for otters, beavers, muskrats, red foxes and coyotes. Because the marsh does not freeze, this is a year-round opportunity.
- 2 - Quartz Road Wetlands: The Quartz Road Wetlands are a series of gravel bars, shallow river channels and small islands in the Yukon River across from the Chilkoot Shopping Centre and Walmart. This quiet oasis is home to numerous fish and bird species and is considered one of the most significant wildlife areas in the city. The shallow channels are important habitat for about ten kinds of fish. The island suport a large Mew Gull nesting colony and each spring hundreds of swans and other waterbirds use this area during migration.
- 3 - Bert Law Park: Bert Law Park is a small island park in the Yukon River accessed from Robert Service Campground. It can also be reached along the Millennium Trail that starts at the S.S. Klondike. Accessed by a short footbridge, this park makes a great destination for a quiet stroll (1 km) to look for birds, berries and signs of mule deer or beaver.
- 4 - Schwatka Lake: Schwatka Lake eas raed by the construction of the Whitehorse dam in the 1950s, which flooded the "white horse" rapids. This lake is an important resting area for migrating waterfowl, while many mammals such as coyote, beaver and mule der may also be seen. The lake can be enjoyed from many spots - the Miles Canyon Road runs along much of the western shore, while the Schwatka Lake day-use area, on the eastern shore, is reached via the Chadburn lake Road. The 15 km Yukon River Loop Trail is a great way to explore this historic area.
- 5 - Miles Canyon: Miles Canyon is accessible via the Miles Canyon Road, on the west side of the Yukon Road. Here at the river narrows into a canyon banked by black columns of basalt rock. You can cross the river on a footbridge that leads to many miles of hiking trails, including the Yukon River Lop Trail. Or hike upstream 1.5 km to Canyon City, where stampeders heading for Dawson City had to begin the portage around the rapids. This stretch of the river is a good place to see otters and beavers.
- 6 - Grey Mountain: Grey (or Canyon) Mountain is the prominent landmark southeast across the valley. About 6 kms up the Grey Mountain Road (off of Alsek Drive in Riverdale), a small viewpoint overlooks the Yukon River Valley. You may want to continue up the road by foot or mountain bike to the sub-alpine areas and a chance to see Dall sheep or ptarmigan. The road is not maintained beyond the viewpoint and is not suitable for vehicle travel [ExploreNorth comment: it isn't maintained to a high level, but is suitable for most vehicles driven with great care]
- 7 - Wolf Creek: Nestled in an old-growth spruce forest, Wolf Creek Campground is a great place to camp. You can go for a walk on the 3 km Wolf Creek Trail to a viewpoint overlooking the Yukon River. A trail guide is available at the trailhead, at the far end of the campground. In late August you may be able to see chinook salmon spawning. The Vista Trail (also called the Escarpment Trail) near the highway climbs above the creek to a viewing deck overlooking the valley.
- 8 - Boreal Worlds Trail (Yukon College): This short (1.9 km) well-marked nature trail stars at the south-west corner of the student parking lot at Yukon College. The trail takes you through a variety of habitats to the shores of a beaver pond on McIntyre Creek. An interpretive trail map is available free at the college bookstore.
- 9 - Mt. McIntyre Ski Trails: This is a haven for small boreal critters and an important travel corridor for larger mammals, such as coyote, moose and bear. Maps are available at the ski chalet and at the wst end of the Canada Games Centre parking lot.
- 10 - Long Lake: This popular day-use and swimming area is located about 3.5 kms along Wickstrom Road (off of Hospital Road), amidst complex topography created through glaciation. This forested setting is a grat location for a quiet picnic, a short paddle or a hike along the 2.5 km trail encircling the lake. The road to Long Lake is not recommended for large RVs. Camping and fires are not permitted.
- 11 - Millennium Trail: This 5 km paved trail takes you along both sides of the Yukon River, immediately upstream of Robert Campbell Bridge. On the east side of the river, the trail leads through forests of spruce, pine and aspen. On the west side the trail leads past the S.S. Klondike to Robert Service Campground at Bert Law Park. Even this close to town, you may be lucky enough to see coyote, beaver, mule deer or watch salmon in the shallows during August.
- 12 - Whitehorse Fishway: One of Whitehorse's premier natural history attractions, the world's longest wooden fish ladder was built in the late 1950s. Chinook salmon use the ladder to get past the Whitehorse dam on the way to their spawning grounds. Stop by the visitor centre (open during the summer) to learn more about the salmon and watch them negotiate the ladder. The fishway is located on the east side of the Yukon River, just below the dam, reached via Nisutlin Road in Riverdale.
- 13 - Hidden Lakes: The Hidden Lakes can be reached by travelling about 1.5 kms along the Chadburn Lake Road then turning left (east) onto a short access road. The Hidden Lakes are examples of "kettles" - large depressions created by left-over ice blocks when melting glaciers retreated. The hiking trails around the lakes provide great opportunities to see local wildflowers. Beavers are common and their lodges are easy to spot. Coyotes, red foxes and bears might also be seen in this area. The Chadburn Lake Road is not recommended for large RVs.
- 14 - Yukon River Loop Trail: The Yukon River Loop Trail offers a quieter, less developed route than the Millennium Trail. The trail can be reached from many spots - across from the Whitehorse fishway, at Miles Canyon, or at the entrance to the Robert Service Campground. The portion closest to downtown overlaps with the Millennium Trail. The 15 km loop trail leads you through many different terrains and habitats on both sides of the river. The trail offers wonderful views and an opportunity to learn more about the natural and human history of Whitehorse. A number of interpretive panels along the route explain some of the features. The trail route is marked, although there are a number of side trails and alternate routes in some places. On the west side of the river, the trail follows the Miles Canyon Road. Allow about 4-5 hours to complete the whole route.
- 15 - Chadburn Lake: Chadburn Lake is along Chadburn Lake Road 8 kms from its junction opposite the Whitehorse Fishway. The lake is a great place to put in a canoe for a day of paddling. If you visit on an early summer evening you may be lucky enough to see little brown bats - the only commonly seen bats in the Yukon and voracious eaters of mosquitoes! A number of trails lead both north and south from the boat launch area. There is a small dock and a covered picnic shelter, but facilities are limited. Camping and fires are not permitted.