Relaxing and poking around Dawson City

Cathy and I had 3 nights (July 31st and August 1st and 2nd) and 2 full days to explore the Dawson area. We didn’t have any plans, but saw a little bit of a lot, and spent a lot of time just relaxing at the Yukon River Campground in West Dawson.

We were in campsite #42, a large pull-through right on the Yukon River.

Camp site #42 at the Yukon River Campground in Dawson City, Yukon
The view of the river from the campsite was good, but a short trail from the campsite leads to the riverbank. Peregrine falcons and gulls nest on those cliffs. We saw gulls constantly, but no falcons.

The Yukon River in front of the Yukon River Campground
Our first destination was the Midnight Dome, on Monday night (July 31st). This was the view down the Yukon River from the 887-meter (2,911-foot) summit at 7:35 pm.

The Yukon River from the Midnight Dome at Dawson City
Looking over Dawson City and up the Yukon River.

Looking over Dawson City and up the Yukon River from the Midnight Dome
We watching a hang-glider prepare his gear and launch, and a few minute slater, land on the waterfront park in downtown Dawson. We had just missed his previous launch which resulted almost immediately in a spectacular crash into the top of a tree. Apparently only his pride was injured 🙂

Hang glider launches from the Midnight Dome at Dawson City
We finished our evening with a walk along the river dyke. The city has done a great job making this pile of gravel into a lovely, people-friendly place. This photo was taken at 8:50 pm, just before te sun dipped behind the mountain to the west.

Dawson City waterfront
On Tuesday afternoon we took the free ferry back across the river again. Our first destination was the Bonanza Creek Road. Both Claim #6, where you can pan for gold for free, and Dredge No. 4, seen in the photo, were very busy.

Dredge No. 4, Dawson City
The cemeteries above Dawson City were our next stop. We took a walk through the upper part of St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery.

St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Dawson City
There are many babies and children in the cemetery. Catherine Mary A. MacDonald died on August 31, 1905, at the age of 2 years, 6 months.

St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Dawson City
It was very warm, and Cathy wanted to find a shady spot to walk, but I made a short stop to pay my respects at the grave of my friend Ken Spotswood, in the YOOP Cemetery (Yukon Order of Pioneers).

Headstone for Ken Spotswood at the YOOP Cemetery (Yukon Order of Pioneers) at Dawson City

The YOOP Cemetery (Yukon Order of Pioneers) at Dawson City
The skies were threatening as we crossed the Yukon River back to the campground at 3:20, but the rain never arrived.

Ferry across the Yukon River at Dawson City, Yukon
We went back into Dawson Tuesday night, for a fabulous dinner at our favourite restaurant, The Drunken Goat Taverna. We shared the Poikilia, which is an assortment of Greek specialities – lamb chops, Greek style ribs, chicken breast, garides, spanakopita, tiropita, pita bread with feta dip, and a Greek salad. It’s a bit spendy at $77.95 (which seems like a huge increase since the last time we had it), but it’s best as a meal for 4, so we took plenty of leftovers back to the RV!

On Wednesday morning, the situation at the Dawson side of the ferry was a mess. Two RV caravans were trying to get to the Top of the World Highway, and it apparently hadn’t occurred to anybody in those caravans to assign times for each rig. We talked to one woman who drove the couple’s “toad” (the towed car) across and then waited for more than 4 hours for her husband to get across.

RVs at the Dawson ferry crossing
We certainly weren’t going to take a ferry, so headed up the Top of the World Highway. This was the view ahead at Km 30.

Top of the World Highway, Yukon
We went to the summit, a few hundred meters from the Alaska border, then headed southwest on an old mining road that goes into the Sixty Mile gold mining area. I hadn’t been on the road since I came out on it when I was working on the gold dredge that’s now a tourist attraction in Skagway (I was researching its history for the new owner).

This is spectacular country, with ghosts everywhere. Almost every valley bottom has been mined over the past 120 years.

The Sixty Mile gold district, Yukon
The road got too small and rough for comfort after about half an hour, so we headed back to the highway. The next photo shows the Canada/USA (Yukon/Alaska) border crossing.

Canada/USA border crossing on the Top of the World Highway
Looking down the Top of the World Highway from the summit towards Dawson as we started back down, at 1:20 pm.

the Top of the World Highway
By 4:00 most of the RVs had made it across the ferry, so we went back into Dawson to visit the Dawson City Firefighters Museum. Did we ever luck in – their freshly-restored steam fire engine had just been unloaded from the shipping container!

Dawson City Firefighters Museum
The quality of the restoration of this 1898 Clapp & Jones steam pump is absolutely superb. I expect that this is the finest example of its type in the world now. The restoration was done by Stan Uher of Classic Coachworks in Bleinheim, Ontario. It took over 1,400 hours and 18 months to complete. The cost was $250,000, of which some $50,000 was for nickel plating. Many of these steam pumps are now copper – once the nickel/corroded nickel has ben stripped off, it’s just too expensive to re-do. Most of the money for the restoration came from Dawson’s volunteer firefighters donating the stipends they get for attending fires, for several years. To me, that says a lot about Dawson, and is a significant part of the story.

1898 Clapp & Jones steam pump at the Dawson City Firefighters Museum
I went around and around, over and under this magnificent machine, and the quality is consistently perfect.

1898 Clapp & Jones steam pump at the Dawson City Firefighters Museum
It wasn’t possible to restore the fire engine to operating status, as parts of the boiler such as the water sight glass seen in the next photo don’t meet current standards.

1898 Clapp & Jones steam pump at the Dawson City Firefighters Museum
This painting on the wall hints at what the steam pump would have looked like in operation. It must have been very impressive.

Dawson City Firefighters Museum
After the Firefighters Museum, we went to the Visitor Information Centre so I could use the wifi, and get another look at the incredibly detailed model of the Klondike Mines Railway that’s pretty much hidden in a back room (temporarily, I hope).

Incredibly detailed model of the Klondike Mines Railway
I often don’t realize that Cathy has never seen sights that I’ve been to many times. The Sternwheeler Graveyard is one of those places, so after having dinner at our campsite, we walked down the riverbank to see it.

Sternwheeler Graveyard in Dawson, Yukon
Before leaving the campground on Thursday morning, I walked around the entire campground taking photos for my campground guide. There’s a huge variation in the quality of campsites – some are quite awful (tight and very un-level), while others have great character, such as this terraced pull-through one on the upper level.

Yukon River Campground, Dawson
The riverfront sites are all very nice, ranging from tenting sights such as the one in the next photo, to large pull-throughs such as the one we were in.

Yukon River Campground, Dawson
Just after 11:30, we boarded the ferry for the last time, and after a bit of grocery shopping, headed north towards Tombstone Territorial Park.

Dawson ferry


Relaxing and poking around Dawson City — 11 Comments

  1. Great post and photos. I am surprised you did not go to Sourdough Joe’s for Halibut. fish & chips they were excellent. the last time i was up there

  2. Thanks for bring back memories from our stop there 3 years ago. Really a neat place to visit!

  3. Did you happen to pull into Clinton Creek at the old asbestos mine? I was last there 23 years ago – it was a neat walk around an old ghost town. There probably isn’t much left to see there now.

    • I tried to get to Clinton Creek last September, Gordon, but it’s gated now and you can’t get near the townsite – the mine is being cleaned up due to some serious slumping of the tailings. I hear that there’s little left to see, but I wanted to see how little.

  4. There is a lot of us reliving our dreams of the vacation(s) we have had travelling through the Yukon and NWT by following you posts. – thanks Murray cheers (next time there I will try the fish and chip place Sourdough Joe’s)

  5. I’ve gotten to despise the RV caravans who insist on traveling as a pack. Almost impossible to safely pass and clog up everywhere they go.

    Sorry for the rant…

    Thank you for all the great photos and travel tips.

  6. We’re run into some of those groups too in the interior near Denali or out on the Kenai…I understand the concept but the reality is quite different for the other travelers they share the roads and byways, pull offs with…

    Seeing 5 guys on ADK or touring bikes or a couple of traveling together pick up truck or small trailer campers…different type of adventure. And adventurer!