Campbell Highway, Day 2 – Simpson Lake to Lapie Canyon Campground

We began the second day of this RV trip – Wednesday, July 25th – with only a vague idea that the Lapie Canyon Campground just past Ross River would make a good overnight stop. But I was open to pretty much anything.

We spent the night at a pullout at Km 92 of the Robert Campbell Highway, and by 08:00, we had been on the road for a few minutes and had reached the junction with the Nahanni Range Road.

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
The Nahanni Range Road was built in 1961 to access the Cantung tungsten mine, which from 1962 until 1985 was the largest tungsten producer in the western world (most tungsten mines are in China).

Interpretive panel on the Nahanni Range Road, Yukon
We spent quite a while at the rest area at the Nahanni Range Road junction as I tried to decide whether or not to take the Tracker up for a look. It’s about 192 km (120 miles) to a reported security gate before the town of Tungsten, the Canadian Tungsten company’s town for the Cantung mine. The mine last opened briefly in 2004. The road sign in the next photo was my minor annoyance of the morning – American spelling of traveller and improper use of a possessive – geez! 🙂

Sign on the Nahanni Range Road, Yukon
I eventually decided to continue west on the Campbell Highway, due to a shortage of time and excess of wildfire smoke. There are only 2 main roads in the Yukon I haven’t driven – the North Canol and the Nahanni Range Road. That’s a pretty short Yukon Bucket List 🙂 The next photo was shot right at Km 108 of the Robert Campbell.

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
At Km 113.8, almost 300 km of gravel road began. It was generally in good condition, and 80 km/h (50 mph) was a comfortable speed most of the time.

At Km 113.8, 300 km of gravel begins on the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
For the next photo, shot at Km 124.5, I tried HDR to compensate for the smoke, but I wasn’t very happy with the result so went back to normal shooting.

Km 124.5, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
Km 126.8

Km 126.8 of the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
At Km 134.1, signs of an old mine, or mining exploration project, could be seen high on a peak to the west. Whatever it was, it doesn’t seem to have gone into production.

An old mine high above the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
One of the main places along the Robert Campbell Highway that I was looking forward to seeing was the Frances Lake Campground, though I don’t really know why.

Frances Lake Campground, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
The campground is a couple of kilometers north of the highway.

Frances Lake, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
It turned out that I had good reason to be looking forward to seeing it – it’s beautiful, with about 10 campsites right on the lake shore!

Frances Lake Campground, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
All of the lakeshore sites were occupied, and it looked like the sites that aren’t on the shore really get used. Most of the campers had boats of various types.

Frances Lake Campground, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
Large gravel beaches like the one on this part of Frances Lake aren’t at all common in the Yukon interior – most have vegetation (usually grasses or willows) growing right to the water.

Frances Lake Campground, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
The beach even sloped very gradually – perfect for Bella and Tucker to wade in.

Dog wading in Frances Lake, Yukon
If not for the fact that it wasn’t yet 10:00 am, I might have gone for a dip myself and then stopped here for the night, as 2 of the lakefront campsites were vacated while we were exploring.

Frances Lake, Yukon
A very well-equipped boat headed west across the lake. Frances Lake is a conservation water – only barbless hooks can be used, and the daily limits and possession limits are both 2 lake trout, 4 grayling, and 4 pike.

Fishing on Frances Lake, Yukon
We spent about 3/4 of an hour at Frances Lake, then continued on our way. The bridge in the next photo crosses Money Creek, named for Anton Money, who mined for gold in this area in the 1930s and ’40s.

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
A glance up Money Creek as we crossed over the bridge caused me to pull over and walk back for a photo.

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
Walking back to the motorhome, I noticed something not right under the Tracker. The lower mounting bracket for a rear shock absorber had broken. I decided that the dangling shock absorber couldn’t cause any further damage – the tire being the main worry. I’d remove it or stabilize it that night.

Vehicle damage on the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
Right at Km 190, I braked to a sudden stop…

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
…because of the left was the old access road to Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine Mine. It operated from 2011 until 2015, and reclamation work is currently being done.

Access road to Yukon Zinc's Wolverine Mine, off the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
There was virtually no traffic on the highway – about 1 vehicle per hour, and half of those were Department of Highways trucks. The next photo shows the view in my rear-view mirror much of the time – any traffic would certainly be spaced far apart!

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
At Km 230, the road to the right goes to a float plane base on Finlayson Lake, and the one to the left goes to the Kudz Ze Kayah mining exploration project.

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
A large rest area and viewpoint over Finlayson Lake at Km 233.1 was cause for a lengthy stop for a dog walk and lunch.

Finlayson Lake rest area on the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon

Finlayson Lake viewpoint on the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
Just after leaving the rest area, I met an oncoming grader. As I was trying to figure out how that was going to work, he ducked into a tiny pullout.

Grader on the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
The Finlayson Lake airstrip beside the highway at Km 246.2 was a good excuse for a short walk. A Turbo Otter was sitting at the far end, but I wasn’t feeling 2,100 feet worth of energetic 🙂

The Finlayson Lake airstrip beside the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
I was surprised by how much the highway varied. Here at Km 266 it was narrow and vegetation crowded the road, while other sections of the road were wide with wide cleared areas along it.

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
At Km 301.4 we only had an hour left to the campground – the sign shows 71 km to Ross River and 125 km to Faro.

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
Of all the things I didn’t expect to see on the Robert Campbell Highway, bicyclists would be near the top of the list. Choking dust for hundreds of kilometers – are we having fun yet? Oh well… There turned out to be 14 of them, spaced out over nearly 20 km of highway.

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
At Km 348, nearing the popular recreation lake Coffee Lake, the gravel was treated to eliminate dust. The road was treated in a few other places as well, but this was the first location where I could understand the reason for it.

Dust treatment on the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
Coffee Lake was overfull and very close to the highway in a couple of places, but judging by the dead trees, it has been for a long time.

Coffee Lake, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
At Km 358, another bicyclist was starting up a brutal hill. And it was hot – about 28°C.

Steep hill at Km 358, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
At 2:20, Lapie Canyon Campground was just 2 km away. A nice relaxing afternoon would be great.

Nearing Lapie Canyon Campground and Ross River, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
The bridge that carries the Robert Campbell Highway over Lapie Canyon was having some minor work done.

Lapie Canyon Bridge, Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
A few minutes later, we were set up in campsite #5. I’ll continue with a description of the Lapie Canyon Campground and my trip into Ross River in my next post.

Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon


Comments

Campbell Highway, Day 2 – Simpson Lake to Lapie Canyon Campground — 2 Comments

  1. Wonderful photos! Looks like a very interesting trip to take. Hope to do that drive one day. The drive to Tungsten would be interesting, but if there is a gate at the end, maybe not worth the drive if you can’t see the mine/town. Thanks for sharing your travel experiences.

  2. I revisited this entire string of your posts, glad I did. I hope you have enough time on another trip to really get out and explore some of those secondary roads. Being off the beaten path, yet with the comforts of home just nearby. Having need of the AC, that might be an issue for my way of travel.