To Dawson City for the Yukon River Quest Finish: Part 1

The Yukon River Quest, a 715 km (444 mile) race from Whitehorse to Dawson City, was a lot of fun for me this year. On Wednesday, I watched the start, when 153 people in 66 canoes and kayaks headed down the choppy Yukon River. On Friday and Saturday, I drove a pickup belonging to one of the paddlers to Dawson City, helped them get settled, then flew back to Whitehorse.

After editing, I have 497 photos in this file, so I’ve broken this report up into 3 parts so I can show you some of the highlights of the trip – of the highway, Dawson City, the race and the flight home – with about 15% of those photos.

I left the house at 9:30 Friday morning so I’d have lots of time for unexpected things that I might happen upon. The paddlers had said that they wanted the truck in Dawson on the 29th (Sunday), but that made no sense to me, so I wanted to be there by late Friday. This is the view north from about Km 212 of the North Klondike Highway, which connects Whitehorse and Dawson City. Mileages on the highway are from Skagway, as the North and South Klondike are officially one highway.
North Klondike Highway, Km 212
I topped off the gas tank at Carmacks, usually the last reasonably-priced fuel on the highway (it was $1.539), then went over to Coal Mine Campground, where the racers had a 7-hour mandatory stop. The race action was over there, and most people had moved on, but recreational paddlers often stop here as well. I’ll note here that although the 24 hours of daylight makes this time of year perfect for the race, the high water makes it the worst time of year for a camping trip, because all the best camping spots, the gravel bars out in the middle of the river where there are no bears and no mosquitoes, are underwater.
The Yukon River at Carmacks
Although I had a huge breakfast so lunch wouldn’t be necessary, Coal Mine makes great burgers and I couldn’t pass up a Swiss mushroom burger for $8.25.
Coal Mine Campground, Carmacks, Yukon
I planned to get some exercise on this trip, and there’s no better place for that than Five Finger Rapids.
Five Finger Rapids, Yukon
This is where the exercise comes in – 219 stairs and a trail that lead to a viewpoint right over the Five Fingers cliffs. Going down is easy enough 🙂
Five Finger Rapids, Yukon
The view from the viewing deck is excellent…
Five Finger Rapids, Yukon
…but little side trails offer even better ones.
Five Finger Rapids, Yukon
Okay, here’s where the real exercise happens. How fast can you get up them?
Five Finger Rapids, Yukon
I spent about 40 minutes at Five Finger Rapids, then continued north. I’d heard that the highway was in very poor condition, but didn’t find that at all – it’s perfectly normal. There’s been a lot of recent patching of potholes, so it may have been bad in recent weeks, though. There’s a new bridge going in at Tatchun Creek.
New bridge being built at Tatchun Creek
Just north of the Tintina Trench Rest Area at Km 655.2 there’s a section of highway (about 3 km long) that was bypassed over 20 years ago but is still in good shape, so I drive it every now and then just because I can.
An abandoned stretch of the North Klondike Highway
Dempster Corner, at Km 674.6, is where the Dempster Highway to the Arctic meets the North Klondike.
Dempster Corner
The start of the Dempster. I’ve driven it perhaps 30 times, and really want to do it again soon. Some significant parts of “The Magic & the Mystery” are just up that road a bit!
The start of the Dempster Highway
The Klondike River Lodge at Dempster Corner burned on the last day of 2012, but a new fuel cardlock has recently been opened by AFD, with very low prices ($1.429).
AFD fuel cardlock at Dempster Corner, Yukon
It started raining just after I left Dempster Corner, and by the time I reached the Klondike River Bridge it was coming down in buckets. As the rain got heavier and heavier, I kept thinking how awful that would be for paddlers on the river.
Klondike River Bridge, Yukon
The race finish line was my first stop in Dawson City, but it was still raining and there were no boats due, so there was nobody visible, though I heard voices from inside the tent.
Yukon River Quest race finish line in Dawson City
Next stop was my hotel. I’d booked “the Eldo” simply because that’s where my adopted team was booked (and they have an airport shuttle). The main building was full but I got a room in the annex, seen in this photo.
Eldorado Hotel annex, Dawson City
Room 244, $124 with taxes. I’ve stayed at most of Dawson’s hotels over the years, at the Eldorado many times year round, and always feel like I’ve gotten good value here.
Room 244 at the Eldorado Hotel annex, Dawson City
Walking back to the finish line, with the rain almost stopped, I was extremely surprised to find the Midnight Sun Hotel boarded up and for sale. Through the 1990s, this was the hotel that I stayed at most often with my tour groups. It’s always closed for the winter, but this year just never re-opened.
Midnight Sun Hotel, boarded up and for sale
I had originally planned on returning to Whitehorse on Husky Bus, but the cost for the 7-hour ride is $115 with taxes. For $204, I booked a flight on Air North, which would get me back to the big city in 70 minutes. And the last time I flew back from Dawson was in 1992, in an Air North DC-3, so flying was all plusses.
Husky Bus, Dawson City
At 7:20 pm, there was a good crowd at the finish line, as the winning boat was expected any minute.
Yukon River Quest race finish line in Dawson City
At 19:30:32, boat #35 crossed the finish line, with a time of 45 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds from Whitehorse. It this photo, they’re continuing a few hundred meters to the takeout area in an eddy below the dock.
Yukon River Quest finish - boat #35
The winners, Steve King and Shaun Thrower, make the final few paddle strokes to hit the beach.
Yukon River Quest finish - boat #35
Shaun signs the race form to make their arrival official.
Yukon River Quest 2014 winners, Steve King and Shaun Thrower
Shaun “Percy” Thrower on the left and Steve King are both from Hereford, Herefordshire, United Kingdom. In what many people would suppose is a young person’s game, Shaun is 53 years old and Steve 41. Steve’s stated reason for entering the race includes this wonderful sentence: “To have a lovely time with my bestest mate, to suffer like I have never suffered before.”
Yukon River Quest takeout area in Dawson City
At 8:40 pm, I took one more shot of the pullout area, and headed off for some exploring. With sunset at midnight:49, running out of light wasn’t really an issue! Yes, it really is The Land of the Midnight Sun 🙂
“I’ll just be a minute, sweetie”. I love Dawson City! 🙂 The old Flora Dora is getting pretty rough, and is probably beyond restoration now except by someone with very deep pockets.
Flora Dora Hotel, Dawson City - 'I'll just be a minute, sweetie'


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