Ear Lake – a Whitehorse Gem Lost

There used to be a little gem of a lake on the outskirts of Whitehorse. Easily accessible, Ear Lake had been a popular destination for almost 100 years – even poet Robert Service used to go there, and in a 1905 poem about the future of Whitehorse, he envisioned it as a park.

The first 4 photos below were shot in 1990 – you can see part of the reason it was so popular. Another major reason was that the lake was very shallow and so it was by far the best swimming lake in the region.

When I first arrived in Whitehorse, Ear Lake was known as Whitehorse’ nude beach. In practice, the part of the lake closest to the road access was for folks who wanted to stay clothed to some degree, the far end was for those who didn’t like tan lines.

The gravel pit close to the lake was a minor nuisance during the week because of noise and occasional dust when the wind was blowing from the north, but it did nothing to curb people’s love of the place.

Now fast-forward 20 years. The road around the lake still offers a beautiful, peaceful scene.

Yesterday, I came around a corner in my car and met this bald eagle. Shooting into the sun through my windshield had no chance of producing a great photo of the brief event (about a minute), but it was a memorable meeting anyway.

Ear Lake itself, however, is a very different place than it was 20 years ago. The next 2 photos below show the lake from the hill far above the road, shot 2 days ago when I hiked in from the Schwatka Lake (Yukon River) side. Although there’s more water than there was 10 years ago, virtually nobody visits the lake anymore.

What happened to Ear Lake? Well, nobody knows for sure, but about 15 years ago just after a major expansion of the gravel pit, the gravel extraction seemed to have somehow “pulled the plug” on the lake. That accusation was of course denied, and maybe it was just a coincidence, but that was the way the timing of the draining of the lake appeared.

This close look at the beach shows why nobody comes to once-beautiful Ear Lake anymore. Perhaps okay as a place to walk your dog, but not much else. *sigh*


Ear Lake – a Whitehorse Gem Lost — 8 Comments

  1. Good old ear lake. We spent many a happy summer day there when I was a kid. From time to time I’ve thought of veering off the south access to venture down there – sad to see there’s not much left of our beloved swimming lake. sigh.

  2. It’s been many, many years since I’ve been in for a look – it’s just too sad.

  3. Murray on the eastern edge of the lake you’ll see a pipe which runs under the road and up the embankment to, guess where……the plant. They are using the water for commercial puposes.

    • Yes, Mongo, but the gravel operation has always taken water out of the lake – well “always” being 20+ years 🙂 . While some people today believe that’s why the lake is so empty, that’s not the way the newspaper and radio reports of the day read – “pulling the plug” on the lake was coined by the media then.

  4. As you suggested, that was our favorite spot to take the dogs. Close to riverdale and virtually no people on any day except a blazing hot day, then it gets busy with people drinking and lounging.

  5. If I were you, I’d talk to people about getting a geologist to come in and take a look at what’s going on. I mean, is it the end of the world? Hardly. However, it was a beautiful spot that now looks as though it’s going dry. The environmental impact of that will probably be quite large on a local basis, so if there’s enough interest in saving the lake you might get a group going that could afford some assessments. Besides, people shouldn’t get away with ruining landscapes like this for an entire community. Companies are supposed to do environmental impact studies before they do major changes like expansion. I understand that business has to move forward, but it shouldn’t be at your expense.

  6. I think it’s quite inaccurate to state “no one” goes to Ear Lake anymore. I’ve gone there regularly all my life (and I know many other people who do as well), and frankly, I do NOT mind that it’s not always over-crowded with people drinking, leaving their garbage and playing terrible music out of their vehicles at inappropriate volumes (ie, Long Lake on a sunny day). It’s one of Whitehorse’s best “secrets” and I wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way.

    • Bolsha, after you posted, I had to go back to the lake to see why you go there. What a surprise to see the lake now over-full! One other person was there, and she says it can get quite annoying there on weekends when the kids arrive with their loud music. There’s also garbage all along the road to the lake. I waded into the water with the dogs but the mud bottom made it a short wade.