Another Quick Trip to Keno City, Yukon

I returned home last night from another quick trip to Keno City to help out a friend. Back in May, it was a 1,000-km day trip to take him home from hospital. This time the trip was solo, to wind up his affairs in Keno, as he won’t be going back – he’s in hospital with terminal cancer.

I was on the road at 08:00 on Friday, with the weather forecast calling for cool and mostly cloudy with a bit of rain throughout the trip. This is the North Klondike Highway at about Km 204 (the kilometer-posts are measured from Skagway, Mile 0 of the Klondike Highway).

Km 204 on the North Klondike Highway, Yukon

At 10:00 I was into heavy rain and it was still only 8°C (46°F).

Heavy rain on the North Klondike Highway, Yukon

Just before 11:00, I decided to make a short detour to see if anything interesting was going on at the ferry crossing for the Minto Mine, a copper and gold operation. This is the historic part of Minto Landing, with signs about the original Whitehorse-Dawson Road, and the peregrine falcon nesting area just downriver.

Interpretive signs at Minto Landing, Yukon

The ferry that takes mine trucks across the Yukon River was on the far side, so no action. As I got back to the highway a large fuel truck turned off towards the ferry and I thought about following him back, but decided to continue with my mission.

Yukon River ferry for the Minto Mine

I had planned on having lunch at Gramma’s Kitchen in Pelly Crossing but was met by this sign. I also wanted to check it out to see if I could stop there with my next two tours. Ah well, I’d be back again shortly. The next food, though, is a long way off.

Gramma's Kitchen in Pelly Crossing

I fueled up in Stewart Crossing at $1.54 per liter, then rather than turning up the Silver Trail to Keno City, made the 15-minute detour to Moose Creek Lodge, where I knew I could get a great lunch. The burger was large and excellent as always, and I took this shot of the highway looking north as I headed back to the Silver Trail turnoff.

The North Klondike Highway at Moose Creek Lodge

This sign to Mayo (on the Silver Trail halfway to Keno) intrigues many people – “The Hottest and the Coldest Spot in the Yukon”. Imagine living where the annual temperature range can be from +97F to -80!!

Mayo, Yukon - The Hottest and the Coldest Spot in the Yukon

At Km 10.7 on the Silver Trail there’s a new interpretive trail, the Devil’s Elbow Trail, and I decided to walk off some stress.

Devil's Elbow Trail, Yukon

It’s a pleasant 15-20-minute round trip with good signage – a worthwhile stop.

Devil's Elbow Trail, Yukon

There’s been a massive amount of money flowing to the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation at Mayo in recent years, so I made that short detour to see what changes are occurring. The first stop was the cemetery (the modern cemetery – there’s also a very old one).

Na-Cho Nyak Dun cemetery at Mayo, Yukon

From the cemetery I took a walk along the Stewart River on a trail that offers great views. I was shocked to discover a fire that apparently nobody knew about, with a couple of hot spots within a few feet of the forest, and the base of this tree still burning! This photo was shot at 2:40pm. I’d heard on the radio a couple of days ago that a couple of forest fires just to the north of Mayo have been attributed to arson, and this had the same sort of feel to it. This very cool, wet summer has resulted in few jobs for seasonal firefighters.

Fire along the Stewart River

I raced over to the beautiful new admin offices of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun community to report the fire, but the woman on the desk wasn’t too interested. She eventually called forestry and I explained the situation to them. Incredible – a fire burning a half-mile from my village would sure as hell interest me!

Na-Cho Nyak Dun offices

The sign was as close to Mayo as I got – I continued on towards Keno instead of making that short detour.

Welcome to Mayo, Yukon

A few miles past Mayo the road turns to gravel but as a result of greatly-increased mining activity it’s very well maintained.

Roadwork on the Silver Trail, Yukon

The historic silver-mining town of Elsa can be seen in the distance.

Elsa, Yukon

I didn’t have time to re-visit the Keno City Mining Museum on my last visit, but it was my second stop this time. It’s very good and is constantly expanding.

Keno City Mining Museum

There’s an impressive amount of money being invested in the museum, particularly given the fact that Keno’s population is somewhere under 30.

Keno City Mining Museum

Directly to the left of the museum is my friend’s pair of cabins.

Keno, Yukon

The promotion that Keno does would make you think that its population is a few hundred times larger than it actually is. This cool little model is in the trail information kiosk – it would sell as a piece of folk art 🙂

Keno City trail model

I had a really tough afternoon starting to deal with my friend’s assets in Keno, and late that night decided to head up onto 1,848-meter-high Keno Hill (6,063 feet) to get some fresh air flowing through my head. This was the view at 10:50pm – aaahhhhh…

The Keno Hill sign post

I went exploring old mines until after 11:00pm 🙂

Ore car near the top of Keno Hill

This is the spot I picked to spend the night – the photo was shot at 11:20pm. The temperature was 3°C and a stiff wind was blowing so the wind chill was well below freezing but I’d brought my Arctic sleeping bag and settled into a cozy spot in the back of Subie.

Keno Hill, Yukon

The view when I fired the car up at 04:16 wasn’t nearly as good!

Fog on top of Keno Hill, Yukon

Sorta spooky 🙂

Old cabin on top of Keno Hill, Yukon

I dropped down out of the clouds a few hundred meters below my parking spot.

Driving down from Keno Hill, Yukon

I worked on the cabin for about 3 hours, then hoped for coffee and breakfast at Mike Mancini’s famous Keno City Snack Bar…

Keno City Snack Bar

… but nope, maybe later.

Keno City Snack Bar

The former church is now the library, and there was a meeting that I’d hoped to go to there, to discuss the heritage aspects of the 100 or so mining properties in the Keno-Elsa area. I’d talked to the consultants about it for quite a while over dinner last night and thought I might have something to contribute.

Church / library in Keno City, Yukon

Funny street sign.

Funny street sign in Keno City, Yukon

Funny fire call button – since there’s no longer a fire department in Keno.

Fire call button in Keno City, Yukon

I went over to the “bottle house” built by the late Geordie Dobson, as I’d heard that it was being restored. No sign of anything going on, though.

Geordie Dobson's bottle house

The job is done – thousands of dollars worth of tools and building materials gone, and an offer on the property. This was a job whose completion has deeply saddened me, though – shutting down my buddy’s dreams. I couldn’t even go to the mining heritage meeting.

Cabin for sale in Keno City, Yukon

Good-bye, Keno – next time I visit, I hope it will be for a much longer period of time, under much better circumstances, with Cathy.

Good-bye, Keno

I got home just before 8:00pm – so physically and emotionally drained that I didn’t take a single photograph on the way home. I didn’t even get dinner – I’ll never again plan on eating at Gramma’s Kitchen, by myself or with a tour group.


Another Quick Trip to Keno City, Yukon — 11 Comments

  1. Hello Murray,
    I enjoyed the photos and comments on this posting about Keno City.
    I was there in 2000 and am planning to return either this year or next.
    My grandfather was ‘Shelly’ – the mining engineer A.K. Schellinger who
    worked and lived there for many years and whose photographs are part
    of the mining museum’s collection. When I was there a wonderful german
    lady was associated with the museum, plus had cabins where I stayed.
    I’m wondering if she is still there. Any further information you have on
    Keno city would be much appreciated. Also, best time of year to visit –
    early September?

    • Hi Dave,

      Always nice to hear from one of our famous pioneers’ descendants coming up for a look 🙂

      Insa Schultenkotter is the woman whose cabins you stayed at – if she’s still in Keno she’s keeping a very low profile, and is no longer renting cabins. There’s a nice new operation in town, right beside the museum, called the Silver Moon Bunkhouse. but I have no contact info and the tourism department claims to have not heard of them.

      Very early September would be great for Fall colours but everything closes down about that time north of Whitehorse so earlier is better (mid-August is what I’d call prime).

  2. Hi Murray, I just stumbled across your blog. It always fun to see write-ups about this part of the world. I worked at UKHM at Elsa, Calumet back in the 60’s/70’s. When I got married I rented the tiny cabin besides “Luigis” and then purchased the Butjer cabin for $200.00, later sold for $600.00, my first real estate transaction, I also stumbled on a flour bag of gold bearing quartz in the root cellar in the cabin, a little bit of history. I returned in 2009 on a trip and the town doesn’t look that much different, except the tramway had been torn down outside my cabin. I gave Mike Mancini a couple of photos from that era which he has in his album. Our next door neighbour, “Tobacco John”, apparently lived in Keno until his death and it was good to recall fun times we had there. The YT will always hold a soft spot in my memory bank.

  3. We are and have been since May 2012 quite open for business. We are seasonal May thru end of September. And I did leave our info with the Visitors Center in Whitehorse in May of 2012. Check out our website

    • Thanks for updating this, Dirk. I, of course, have known for a while that you are open for business – the Tourism folks never cease to amaze me 🙁

  4. I lived in elsa many years ago also. Any inexpensive homes, old cabins for sale in the area ? Thanks.

  5. Thanks, I live in Terrace now. I will check back later next year. I hear the mine is closed now.