A Day Trip to Keno City, Yukon

I hadn’t planned on going to Keno City, but things just happen sometimes. A friend of mine from Keno was medivaced to Whitehorse a few days ago, and when that happens, how you get home is for you to figure out. There’s no public transportation of any kind, so I offered to drive him home when he got released – it’s only 1,026 kilometers from my house to Keno and back πŸ™‚

I got a call from my friend at about 9:00 am on Monday, so I had a quick breakfast and headed into town to pick him up. We had to make a few stops, so didn’t reach my first fuel stop at Stewart Crossing until 2:45 pm. Gas can get pretty pricey up here – it was $1.54 per litre for regular.

Gas station at Stewart Crossing, Yukon
When I started driving the North Klondike Highway in 1990, this is what the lodge at Stewart Crossing looked like. I had many a good meal in that place and was sorry to see it torn down in the late 1990s.

Stewart Crossing Lodge in the 1970s
From Stewart Crossing, the road called the Silver Trail leads east through Mayo, a total of 111 km (70 miles) to Keno City. This is the Stewart River, at 3:00 pm.

The Stewart River, Yukon
Mount Haldane from Km 66. The road that’s visible halfway up the mountain is drivable for about 2 miles, then turns into a hiking trail that leads about 4 miles to the 1,836-meter summit (6,023 feet).

Mount Haldane from Km 66 of the Yukon's Silver Trail
Mount Haldane from near Km 74.

Mount Haldane from near Km 74, Silver Trail
The condition of the road near Km 74. It’s in excellent condition, better than the North Klondike, which has some bad breaks, some of which are so wide they can’t be avoided.

Km 74, Silver Trail
The view from about Km 80.

Km 80, Silver Trail
By 3:50 we had reached the old mining town of Elsa. It’s often called a ghost town but isn’t really – it’s private property but there’s lots going on in the mining offices behind the fences.

Elsa, Yukon
The schoolyard is being used to store drill cores. I went through the school about 5 years ago before it was boarded up, and it was quite interesting – lots of classroom papers were still in it.

Abandoned school at Elsa, Yukon
My friend Alastair reading the interpretive sign at Elsa.

Interpretive sign at Elsa, Yukon
The view looking towards Keno from Km 104 (which is 7 km from Keno).

Km 104 on the Silver Trail
Nearing Keno, there are even more tantalizing views of the impressive peaks just east of the village.

Peaks near Keno City, Yukon
Alastair in front of his cabins in downtown Keno City.

Home in Keno City, Yukon
We popped in to the Keno City Snack Bar to chat with Mike Mancini, who I hadn’t seen in a few years. I used to be in Keno quite regularly with tours in the early ’90s but I haven’t heard of a bus going in there in many years.

Keno City Snack Bar
There was no time to go into the museum, but I remember it as being quite good.

Keno City Museum, Yukon
Alastair had told me that there was now a bar open, so we went for a look (and that beer tasted wonderful after the long drive!). The last time I was in this room was 11 years ago when Cathy and I came up to interview Geordie Dobson for Up Here magazine. The article was published in the July 2001 issue as Geordie Dobson, King of ‘The Hill’ – he was a real character!

Bar in Keno City, Yukon
It was great to see that Geordie’s hotel is being rebuilt, as is his famous “bottle house”. Geordie would approve, I’m sure.

Keno Hotel - Keno City, Yukon
I hoped that we’d be able to get up to the summit of Keno Hill, though I did expect to get stopped by snow. The views on the way up are impressive in any case, including this look at an active placer gold mine.

Placer gold mine at Keno City, Yukon
I got just a bit higher than this and had to turn around – this is the view going back down the hill.

Keno Hill, Yukon
I left Keno just after 5:00 pm, knowing that photo stops and some minor exploring would make it a slower trip home. The first side road exploration brought me to this site overlooking Alexco Resources’ Bellekeno silver mine, which opened in January 2011.

Bellekeno silver mine
This map gives a bit of an idea of the possibilities for backroads exploring!

Road map of the Keno, Yukon area
There are hundreds of miles of roads to explore in the Elsa/Keno area – I’ve made short trips up a few of them but have always been too early in the season to get very far even with a good 4×4. This is the start of the Wind River Trail, also known as the Amerada Road or Proctor’s Trail. It was a winter road opened in 1959 to move equipment to an oil exploration project at Eagle Plains before the Dempster Highway was built. Although just packed snow, it was of such high quality that large White Pass & Yukon Route trucks could use it.

Wind River Trail
There are many survival huts scattered around this country though I don’t think any are maintained anymore. They used to be kept supplied for any travelers who got stranded by weather or other problems. Most are derelict but this one at the start of the Wind River Trail is still in pretty good shape.

Survival hut on the Wind River Trail
This is a broad view of the tailings below Elsa. Between the early 1930s and 1988, the Elsa mill processed ore from 10 major mines in the area, resulting in about 3.67 million tonnes of tailings deposited here. In 1990 Alexco used sonic drilling to drill 283 holes in the tailings to get an estimate of mineral resources left. The estimates are that there are 9,526,000 ounces of silver and 9,600 ounces of gold available for extraction!

Tailings at Elsa
Remains of a wooden bridge on a section of the old road near Km 74.

Km 74, Silver Trail
The Duncan Creek Road is an excellent road to explore – I did the loop a few years ago.

Duncan Creek Road, Yukon
The Duncan Creek Road is in much better condition now than it was in 1922 when this photo was taken!

Duncan Creek Road, Yukon - 1922
The view ahead at Km 66.

Km 66, Silver Trail
The Minto Bridge.

The Minto Bridge.
This is Wareham Lake, created by the Wareham Dam. A new powerhouse has been built recently to substantially increase the hydro-electric generation (the Mayo B project).

Wareham Lake, Yukon
The view ahead from Km 56.

Km 56, Silver Trail
I went into Mayo, a village of 457 people, hoping to be able to get dinner somewhere, but had no luck. This is the Church of St. Mary with St. Mark Anglican Church, built beside the Stewart River in 1915.

Church of St. Mary with St. Mark Anglican Church - Mayo, Yukon
Whenever I see this old MCI Courier 95 bus (about a 1957), I think about it rebuilt as a motorhome – I love the body style, and at 35 feet long, it’s a nice motorhome size. No, I’m not really looking for a new project! πŸ™‚

MCI Courier 95 bus in Mayo, Yukon
A couple of the historic buildings on the road along the river.

Historic buildings in Mayo, Yukon
Back on the road – this was the view from Km 28 at 7:17 pm.

Km 28, Silver Trail
Another look at the Stewart River a few km before reaching the bridge.

Stewart River, Yukon
The Stewart River Bridge at aptly-named Stewart Crossing.

Stewart River Bridge, Yukon
Overlooking the Pelly River and the village of Pelly Crossing (population 328) at 8:30 pm. The cafe here was closed, so no luck with dinner yet – I was finally able to get some junk food at Carmacks.

Pelly Crossing, Yukon
An hour from home, I made one last stop to get this photo of Fox Lake, at 10:28 pm. I was tempted to stop for some photos of a herd of elk beside the road a few miles back, but I was getting tired so kept going. By 11:30 I was home, and in bed a few minutes later. A job well done πŸ™‚

Fox Lake


A Day Trip to Keno City, Yukon — 10 Comments

  1. Keep those great pics and tour info coming, every evening after a stressful day it is great therapy
    Love it

  2. Thank you…I really enjoy “going along” with you on these road trips.

  3. Really nice blog and photos! I stumbled upon it looking for foods in the Yukon.

    I think I know the answer but I’ll ask the question anyway. Are there any good restaurants in the Yukon? Also what is the quintessential food of the region?

    • Welcome North πŸ™‚ We have a few good restaurants in the Yukon but no great ones. In Whitehorse, the most-talked-about is Klondike Rib & Salmon, who consistently make the best halibut and chips in the north – a bit better even that any I’d had in Alaska. There isn’t a “quintessential food of the region” – it should be caribou, a wonderful, delicate meat, but caribou is seldom seen on menus. In Inuvik NWT we used to get an “Arctic Grand Slam” – caribou, musk ox and Arctic char – that was incredibly good some nights but very poor on others.

      My wife and I and 4 friends from Ontario will be boarding the Celebrity Millennium on June 1st, and restaurants including the new Qsine will certainly be in the blog.

  4. Pingback: Another Quick Trip to Keno City, Yukon - The ExploreNorth Blog

  5. I was surfing and came across your website. I lived in Elsa for a couple of years as a child. My mother was a school teacher and principal of Elsa school. In fact, we lived inside the school building itself for a time; there’s apartments on the second floor for the teachers. I remember long, cold winters with northern lights; skating at the ice rink at the Rec Center near the mill; and walking around the woods often coming across Arctic hares. Thank you for the photos – its been a long time since I’ve seen this town.

    • It’s nice to hear from you, Adam – I’m really pleased that the photos brought back some good memories. Are you at the Elsa reunion in Kelowna this weekend?

  6. Sept 2012 a friend , Marla and I took the month of Sept and celebrated both of us turning 70 in 2012 by driving from Seattle to Denali Alaska. Without a doubt our favorite area was the Yukon……..We took the side trip to Keno………the gentleman that was restoring the hotel gave us a guided tour of the building……it was one of the highlights of the trip………..upon returning to Seattle my friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer………all she kept saying was ..”Thank you God for that trip!”

  7. Nice photos I work surveying in the are in the late 60’s and early 70’s and your photo’ s brought fond memories of Elsa

  8. Thanks for the photos, I worked at the Keno 700 for several 5 or 6 month stints in the 70’s. Great memorys, I have a few paper photos from that time. $2.75 per hour to work underground, plus the food and a bunkhouse room.