A detour to see Ethel Lake Campground, and on to Carmacks

Day 9 of this RV trip – Wednesday, August 1st – was spent on a 50-kilometer detour to see remote Ethel Lake Campground, after which I went to a full-service RV park at Carmacks so I could plug into electricity and have the air conditioners running to deal with the heat.

At the junction of the North Klondike Highway and the Ethel Lake Road, there’s a pullout with plenty of room to park the motorhome and unhook the Tracker for the drive in. I had little idea of what to expect except that all the information I’d seen said that it wasn’t suitable for large vehicles. Among the warning signs at the start of the road is the one seen below: “Caution – narrow, winding road next 24 km”.

The start of the road to Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon - 'Caution - narrow, winding road next 24 km'
I found the road to be better than what the signs led me to believe, though some of the hills clearly got very bad in wet weather. Much of the road, though, just wanders up and down through the forest, with occasional broader views.

Along the road to Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
The final 5 km of so was the worst part of the road, with some very steep and very soft sections, including the water damage seen in the next photo.

Water damage to the road to Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
Nearing the lake, I discovered that there are quite a few First Nations cabins at Ethel Lake. I expect that none are permanent residences. The sign at this junction reads: “Welcome to Ethel Lake. This lake is very important to the Nacho Nyäk Dun, both spiritually and for food. Please respect this lake and its surroundings.”

Welcome to Ethel Lake, Yukon><br />
At 12:35, we reached the Ethel Lake Campground. It took 45 minutes to get there from the highway, though I made a few short stops.<br />
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Here’s an aerial view of the road and Ethel Lake area. Click on the image to open an interactive map.

Google Maps image of Ethel Lake, Yukon
The campground is set up in a single line along the lakeshore, with a turnaround loop at the east end.

Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
The campground contains the usual amenities, including this picnic shelter.

Picnic shelter at Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
The boat launch ramp is in pretty good condition – certainly good enough for the size of boats that will be towed in over that road.

Boat launch ramp at Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
All of the 10 spacious sites are back-in.

Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
The only RV there was a rental pickup/camper rig.

Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
Ethel Lake is a conservation water – the daily catch and possession limits are 2 lake trout, 4 Arctic grayling, and 4 pike.

Fishing at Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon

We didn’t stay at Ethel Lake very long – my curiosity had been satisfied, and it was so hot that Bella wasn’t interested in playing with Tucker, even in the water. The drive back to the highway reaffirmed my initial thoughts that although I could get the motorhome to Ethel Lake, I probably never will. When I worked for the Canadian Army, I drove a semi loaded with a tank (the armoured kind, not the fuel/water kind) on worse roads than that, but as I don’t fish, Ethel Lake just isn’t reason enough to take the motorhome in.

Back on the highway with the Tracker in tow, I stopped at Pelly Crossing for a while to do a basic cleaning of the motorhome and Tracker at a new car wash there. The wet calcium chloride I picked up a coating of on the Dempster Highway is nasty stuff once it dries, and I couldn’t touch anything without getting dirty. It was a well-spent $22.

My day went sour shortly after leaving Pelly Crossing. A white pickup towing 6 red canoes, heading north near Minto, was doing 100+ in an area posted at 70 because of the loose gravel, where responsible drivers slow to 50-60 when meeting other vehicles. The rock his vehicle tossed into my windshield cost me $2,400.

I had thought that we would camp overnight at the Tatchun Creek Campground, but it was too hot. I decided that we needed a full-service RV park, so checked in at the Carmacks Hotel RV Park. The Environment Canada report said that Carmacks was the hot spot in the Yukon at 5:00 pm, at 29.9°C / 85.8°F. With all the RVs running all of their air conditioners, the power blew shortly after I arrived, but the maintenance guy had us back online within about 15 minutes.

Carmacks Hotel RV Park
The riverfront boardwalk at Carmacks is a lovely walk, but our walk soon after arriving was a very short one.

Yukon River bridge at Carmacks
With the sun setting at 10:15, it was cooling off enough to go for a longer walk along the river.

The next day, we’d head east on the Robert Campbell Highway, back to Drury Creek Campground.

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