Exploring Lapie Canyon Campground and Ross River

We stopped early on the second day of this RV trip – Wednesday, July 25th. By 3:00 we were settled in at campsite #5 in Lapie Canyon Campground, just west of the access road to Ross River from the Robert Campbell Highway. With no firm plans again for Thursday, I had lots of time to explore at my leisure.

The first place on my list of places to see was, of course, Lapie Canyon. Two trails led to it from a couple of hundred meters on either side of my campsite. I chose the trail leading towards the bridge first.

Trail at Lapie Canyon Campground, Yukon
That trail led through the forest and then along an open slope to the top of the canyon, which was created when the Lapie River cut through a wall of limestone.

Lapie Canyon, Yukon
The water looked incredible from up there – a clear turquoise colour.

Lapie Canyon, Yukon
Looking over the edge with my 10mm lens.

Looking up the Lapie River to where the lower part of the campground is.

Lapie River, Yukon
A side trail led down to the river. The light was perfect for photography, and the water was surprisingly warm.

Lapie Canyon, Yukon
The only calm pool, right the head of the canyon, was occupied by a guy who was having some success catching Arctic grayling, which he was releasing. The pool wasn’t big enough to go for a diop anyway 🙂

Lapie Canyon, Yukon
Just before 4:30, I decided that the light was perfect to photograph the newly-restored footbridge at Ross River. The next photo was shot along the access road to Ross River, which is 11 kilometers north of the Robert Campbell Highway.

Along the access road to Ross River, Yukon
The road ends at a ferry that crosses the Pelly River. As I was taking this photo, a couple of guys in a pickup stopped to ask if I was okay. Real Yukoners always keep an eye out for people who need assistance.

The access road to Ross River, Yukon
Welcome to Ross River, which was founded as a trading post on the north side of the river, then moved to the south side in the 1960s, to eliminate reliance on a ferry or ice crossing. The community is most well known for its part in the World War II Canol oil project which took oil by pipeline from Norman Wells on the Mackenzie River to a refinery at Whitehorse.

Welcome to Ross River, Yukon
The Ross River suspension bridge was built in 1943 to carry the Canol pipeline across the Pelly River, but was converted to a footbridge after the war, and has recently been restored to its footbridge status.

The historic Ross River suspension bridge over the Pelly River
I’m not normally okay with painting murals on a historic structure, but it’s a safe bet that te concrete tower anchors had been tagged by “grafitti artists”, so murals are a much better option.

The historic Ross River suspension bridge over the Pelly River
The bridge is 316 meters long (1,036 feet), with a centre span of 192 meters(630 feet).

The historic Ross River suspension bridge over the Pelly River
The Pelly Barge takes vehicles across the river, where the North Canol Road runs 232 km (144 mi) to Macmillan Pass at the Northwest Territories border. Beyond that, the road is a hiking trail at best, but even that isn’t maintained and is rarely used.

The Pelly Barge ferry
The bridge support towers are impressive, especially when you consider the conditions in which they were built.

The historic Ross River suspension bridge over the Pelly River
A section of the 6-inch Canol pipeline, which was just laid on top of the ground. Before the suspension bridge was built, it ran across the Pelly River on the ice. An interpretive panel at the bridge says that the pipeline from 4 inches from Norman Wells to Johnsons Crossing, then 6 inches from there to Whitehorse, but this is clearly 6 inches.

A section of the 6-inch Canol pipeline at Ross River
The concrete tower anchor on the north side of the river was starting to get its murals. I couldn’t find an artist’s signature on the completed murals on the south side.

Murals being created on the bridge tower anchors at Ross River
I switched to my 10mm lens to get some broader photos of the bridge, and the bridge with the ferry.

The historic Ross River suspension bridge over the Pelly River

The historic Ross River suspension bridge over the Pelly River
There were quite a few people cooling off in the muddy waters of the Pelly River.

People cooling off in the muddy waters of the Pelly River at Ross River
In about 1995, I drove the regular passenger, freight, and mail bus service to Yukon communities including Faro and Ross River, which I visited twice a week. I went looking for the businesses I used to serve, and all are now abandoned and derelict. The Ross River Service Centre (“Groceries, gas, fishing, hardware”, the sign says) was in pretty rough shape even 23 years ago.

The derelict Ross River Service Centre
The Welcome Inn hotel closed about 15 years ago. I quite liked the bar there – it had lots of character and characters. I never drank there but it was a regular place to visit with freight deliveries 🙂

The derelict Welcome Inn hotel in Ross River, Yukon
I had freight for the tire and mechanical shop pretty well every trip. With Greyhound now cancelling service to hundreds of communities in western Canada, this is a good reminder of how you keep passenger busses in business – with mail and freight contracts.

Derelict tire and mechanical shop in Ross River, Yukon
The grocery store now.

Grocery store in Ross River, Yukon
And the 24-hour cardlock fuel service beside the grocery store.

24-hour cardlock fuel service in Ross River, Yukon
I’ve only driven the entire South Canol Road once, and I went for a look. It’s not suitable for the motorhome, and there are too many bears to tent, but maybe I could take the Jeep and sleep in it…

South Canol Road
There appears to be minimal maintenance on the South Canol now – the Quiet Lake highways maintenance yard was closed a few years ago. The next photo shows the view from as far as I went. That misty valley is a magnet to me…

South Canol Road

It was very warm that evening – the temperature in the motorhome hit 29.2°C. Bugs have been very bad during the day all along the Robert Campbell – not so much mosquitoes, but the huge deer flies or horse flies that take a chunk of meat out when they bite. They make poor Tucker frantic, so inside is better.

The next morning, I drove over to the Lapie Canyon Bridge to get some photos of that part of the canyon before the bridge repair crew got there.

Lapie Canyon from the Campbell Highway bridge
These 3 photos of the canyon were all processed as HDR images to bring the details out with the deep shadows.

Lapie Canyon from the Campbell Highway bridge
The 2 photos above were shot looking down the Lapie River from the bridge, and the one below was shot looking upstream.

Lapie Canyon from the Campbell Highway bridge
The entrance to the Lapie Canyon Campground is right at the bridge.


The entrance to the Lapie Canyon Campground
Time for breakfast! Note, no generator is needed, everything is done with propane.

Breakfast time in the RV
Just after 10:00 am, I drove down to the campground’s lower level, which had been very busy with the 14 bicyclists I met along the highway. They were gone now, and I had the place to myself. The next photo could have been taken at pretty much any Yukon government campground – those are the standard facilities.

Picnic shelter the Lapie Canyon Campground
By my standards, the best of the 18 campsites at the Lapie Canyon Campground is #15, but it’s only suitable for very small RVs or car/tent campers. The best river access trail in the campground goes right through the campsite, though – not well thought out. The next site, #16, is also very nice and can handle larger RVs, though not as large as mine. Like many of the older Yukon campgrounds, Lapie Canyon is not very big-rig friendly – with one exception, even the pull-throughs are tight.

Lapie Canyon Campground
Lapie Canyon has a wonderful vibe when there’s nobody else around, and I wanted to spend more time there.

Lapie Canyon, Yukon
The head of the canyon is a wonderful place to just sit and enjoy the hot sun and the sounds of the rushing water.

Lapie Canyon, Yukon
I brought my Lensball with me, and Lapie Canyon was the perfect place to work with its unique talents. I’ll let Lensball users try to figure out exactly how I got that shot (with no hand holding it) 🙂

Lapie Canyon, Yukon, as seen by a Lensball
One more photo and it was time to get packed up and hit the road.

Lapie Canyon, Yukon


Exploring Lapie Canyon Campground and Ross River — 5 Comments

  1. Beautiful scenery! I always enjoy the rivers and creeks. It sure is odd that people would want to bicycle such a long gravel road no matter how beautiful the scenery.

  2. The little roads are BEST in my explorers book. The end of the road trips (North Canol Road) have their own interest as well. The whole area is very interesting.