Kluane Lake: Five Days at the New, Smaller Lake

This is another very long post, mostly because I couldn’t see a logical way to split it into two posts. I made the Canada Day long weekend an extra-long weekend by going out to Congdon Creek Campground on Kluane Lake on Wednesday morning. Cathy drove out in the Tracker after work on Thursday, then we hooked it up to the motorhome for the return home on Sunday.

We chose Kluane Lake for 3 main reasons: we wanted to see what Kluane Lake looks like now that the flow of the Slims River has been greatly reduced; we love Congdon Creek Campground; and it’s great for the dogs. Here’s the simple route – click on the map to open an interactive one in a new window.

Map from our home east of Whitehorse to Congdon Creek Campground
I had gotten the rig almost ready to go on Tuesday night, so when I couldn’t sleep, I decided to be on the road for the 04:33 sunrise. I shot this photo at 03:10 (it never does get dark now).

RV in our driveway at dawn
I left the house just before 04:00, and a few minutes later, my old friend CPY made a good foreground for the start of a very colourful sunrise.

DC-3 CF-CPY at sunrise
Some of the mountains were really lighting up beautifully by 04:46, necessitating a stop along the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse.

Sunrise colours along the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse
I stopped at Otter Falls Cutoff and had a huge breakfast, and fed all the fur-kids before I left the parking lot there (a bit of the pancake that I’d saved for Bella and Tucker was enthusiastically received). At 07:00, I was at one of my favourite rest stops along the Alaska Highway, just east of Haines Junction at Km 1566. The most distant peaks are Mounts Kennedy and Hubbard, 13,944 and 14,951 feet high respectively (4,250 and 4,557 meters).

Rest area along the Alaska Highway near Haines Junction
The Front Ranges of the Kluane Range may be less than half the height of the main mountains, but they’re still very impressive.

Glacier in the Front Ranges of the Kluane Range
These RVers know how to maximize their trip. This pullout just east of Christmas Creek costs the same as “camping” at Walmart (free), but has a spectacular view. I found myself dreaming about going flightseeing with this incredible visibility, but I’d never do that without Cathy coming along.

RVs in a pullout along the Alaska Highway in Kluane Country
Just after 08:00, we reached Kluane Lake and the dogs and I went for a long play/walk. With reports on CBC that the Slims River had dried up, I didn’t know what the lake might look like. While the water level was down perhaps 10 feet from where it would normally be, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it even lower.

Dogs playing on the much-larger beach at Kluane Lake
The Slims River has definitely not “dried up” or “disappeared”, but it’s certainly smaller than it used to be due to a new channel being cut at its headwaters due to the retreat of the Kaskawulsh Glacier.

Slims River, Yukon
This is where the change in the water level is the most dramatic – the treed area at left centre used to be an island. Hundreds of acres of new land are now exposed in the triangle between the island, the Slims River bridge, and the Soldiers Summit trailhead parking lot.

Dried-up bay on Kluane Lake
I had wanted to get to Congdon Creek early so we could get a lakefront campsite, and by 09:30, we were set up in site #8, one of our 2 favourites. Molly hadn’t been very happy for the first hour or so of the drive, but very quickly settled in. It’s wonderful to be back camping in the Yukon, where camping and firewood are free for Yukon seniors.

Cat in RV at Congdon Creek, Yukon
The beach in front of our campsite. Ahhhh, I love this place! Even more so with the massive new beaches.

Kluane Lake, Yukon
Bella and Tucker and I were soon heading down the beach, with squeaky-balls to keep their attention when needed. At the mouth of Congdon Creek, we found some good-sized patches of lovely soft MUD! Perfect for puppies to play in 🙂

The mouth of Congdon Creek, Yukon
…as well as boys! Walking barefoot in soft mud is just one of those pleasures I savour when the rare opportunity presents itself. I thought about laying down in it… 🙂

Barefoot in deep mud at Congdon Creek, Yukon
What a great start to the weekend. We kept walking and walking and walking down the beach…

Mud at the mouth of Congdon Creek, Yukon
Almost 4 km down the lake, it was time to turn back, but the kids were nowhere close to being out of energy. Tucker keeps getting faster and faster – Bella can’t catch him anymore unless he wants to be caught.

I am so incredibly happy to see these two so close. Happiest puppies in the world. We thoroughly wore ourselves out on Wednesday. It was a quiet evening, and we were all in bed early.

My puppies Bella and Tucker at Kluane Lake, Yukon
While out for our first walk on Thursday morning, I realized that these piles of gravel on the beach are ice push ridges, caused by the movement of the lake ice over the winter.

Ice push ridges on Kluane Lake, Yukon
Many species of wildflowers are about at their peak in the southern Yukon, including these Prickly Roses (Rosa acicularis).

Prickly Rose, Rosa acicularis
An interpretive trail at the campground was abandoned many years ago, and although we’ve still been using it, it gets more difficult each year as brush crowds in. I was extremely pleased to find that it’s been cleared this year, and when we got back from this walk, I went looking for a park employee to let him know how much I appreciate it. I got a note about it on the Yukon Parks Facebook page: “That was with the help of the youth from Y2C2 and the CAT camp (Conservation Action Team). We will also have a new interpretive panel later this summer about bear safety and the research Yukon College is doing there.”

Interpretive trail at the Congdon Creek Campground
The trail leads to a large (42 sites) but long abandoned section of the campground. Stories vary about why it was abandoned – bear problems, floods, lack of use. It’s still fully equipped, though – tens of thousands of dollars worth of picnic tables, firepits, outhouses, picnic shelters, etc.

Abandoned section of the Congdon Creek Campground
I believe this is Tufted Fleabane (Erigeron caespitosus) – the large field in the middle of the campground has lots of it growing. Environment Yukon’s booklet “Common Yukon Roadside Flowers” says that “The name ‘fleabane’ was given to this species because it was believed that bunches of the dried plant hung indoors would drive out fleas.”

Tufted Fleabane (Erigeron caespitosus) at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
This is the large field I mentioned above. Our campsite is just out of sight to the near left.

Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
The weather was really erratic, going from hot sun to clouds and showers and back again. On Thursday afternoon, I pulled out the awning to provide a sheltered place to do some reading and writing until the light rain stopped.

Murray Lundberg and his dogs at their RV at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
Back on the beach, where lots of Dwarf Fireweed or River Beauty (Chamerion latifolium) is growing.

Dwarf Fireweed or River Beauty (Chamerion latifolium) at Kluane Lake, Yukon
With the sun back, going back to the mud seemed like a good idea, and the kids definitely agreed. Tucker kept burying his ball in it and digging it out again. Yes, he ate a lot of mud!

Tucker finally lost the ball and I had to go in to find it. Oh darn! 🙂

Barefoot in Kluane Lake mud
Kluane Lake’s pure (and very cold) water wasn’t quite as pure by the time we all got cleaned up.

Washing off muddy dogs in Kluane Lake, Yukon
Bella enjoys swimming more and more all the time, though I think she liked the warmer waters of Alberta lakes better than this glacial stuff.

Sheltie cross Bella swimming in Kluane Lake, Yukon
Back at the rig relaxing while we waited for Cathy to arrive on Thursday night. I’d been a bit worried about her making the 3-hour drive after a full day at work but she said it was easy. Cathy was really afraid when we got the RV that I wouldn’t be able to unplug. But even after 5 days I hadn’t had a tremor, much less a seizure 🙂

Murray Lundberg relaxing at his RV at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Cathy reported that when she came across the Slims River, an extremely thick dust storm was limiting visibility, so I went back for a look. I think the wind may have died down somewhat by the time I got there, but it was still pretty cool.

Dust storm at the Slims River flats on the Alaska Highway

The rest of the weekend was mostly spent in walking, reading, and playing with the dogs. We made an appointment to go flying on Saturday afternoon, but despite a good weather forecast, clouds moved in and killed it.

We went for a couple of drives. On the first one, I checked out some odd-looking posts and logs that were revealed by the lower water level. They don’t look natural, but I can’t make sense of them yet. This was the site of a US Army laundry in 1943, so my feeling is that it’s related to that facility in some way.

Old posts on the beach along Kluane Lake, Yukon
The wildflowers along the Alaska Highway are quite wonderful in many places.

Wildflowers along the Alaska Highway
Launching boats with the lower water levels was one of the things I’d been wondering about. Although it appeared that the concrete on this launch near the Slims River still goes far enough into the water, these guys were having problems of some sort on Saturday.

Launching a boat at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Despite high winds on Saturday, we were able to find a sheltered spot on the beach after a long walk, to just enjoy the view while the kids had a rest.

Dogs resting on the beach at Kluane Lake, Yukon
A heavy rain drove us inside for a while, but Molly’s world didn’t change much other than the disappearance of her birds.

Rain at Kluane Lake, Yukon, seen from inside our RV
As soon as the rain quit, we were back on the beach! What a pair 🙂

Dogs playing on the beach at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Don’t we all wish that we were this flexible?

Dogs playing on the beach at Kluane Lake, Yukon
We drove over to Destruction Bay to see what effect the lower water was having on their marina. It’s a large effect – these people just barely managed to get their boat off, as the bottom levels off before it really gets deep enough now.

Launching a boat at Destruction Bay - Kluane Lake, Yukon
We had planned on staying at Congdon Creek until late Sunday, but the weather really sucked, so we headed home at about 2:00 pm. It was a great weekend (well, 5 days), and Bella in particular will sleep well for days now.

As I write this, I’m watching for weather in any direction that’s conducive to a few days of high-country hiking, but I’m having no luck yet.


Kluane Lake: Five Days at the New, Smaller Lake — 7 Comments

  1. Great read and pictures as usual Murray – enjoyed with my morning coffee….thanks!

  2. I’ll second that, a really fun & great read , that Tucker is so funny 🙂 thank you Murray .

  3. Great pictures Murray, thanks again for sharing those views and furry kids.

  4. Enjoyed your post. We have been by Kluane Lake many times (12, going and coming). One year in late April there was still ice on the lake edges and our black lab Sophia was startled by the noise the ice made! 😀