Yukon RVing: Exploring around Kluane Lake

Although I had planned to be on the road for much of the 2 weeks that Cathy was visiting family in Ontario, it didn’t work out that way, for a few reasons, one of them the weather. July has been very wet in Whitehorse, dampening both the forests and my enthusiasm for getting out into the mountains.

When I saw a good weather forecast for Kluane Lake last week, though, I decided that would be our next outing with the RV.

Weather forecast for Kluane Lake, Yukon
I originally planned to get away on Sunday, but by the time I got a bunch of Monty’s special meals barbecued and got the rig loaded, another storm had moved in, so I delayed until Monday.

Barbecuing dog meals
On Monday morning I was ready and finally excited to go. By 08:40 we were about 60 km (37 miles) west at the Takhini River Bridge on the Alaska Highway, where sweeping off the excess gravel from some resurfacing work was just being finished.

Sweeping the Alaska Highway
The rest area at Km 1566 as you near Haines Junction is certainly one of the most scenic on the entire highway. With nobody else there, it was a good place to give the dogs a run.

Rest area at Km 1566, Alaska Highway
For possible future use, I drove into Pine Lake Campground at Km 1572 and had a good look around. I can certainly see why it’s so popular with Whitehorse families – it has a great beach, a lakeshore interpretive trail, and cell phone service. It’s a popular party place, and is gated from 10pm until 8am. We probably won’t be going camping there.

Pine Lake Campground
My goal for this trip was to see a few places and things in detail – some new places/things like Pine Lake Campground, and some I’ve visited before, like the visitor information centre at Haines Junction. It’s a beautiful building, but for me it’s the revolving art displays that make a stop especially worthwhile.

Yukon Visitor Information Centre at Haines Junction
And I wanted to get my Yukon Gold Explorer’s Passport stamped πŸ™‚

Yukon Visitor Information Centre at Haines Junction - Yukon Gold Explorer's Passport stamp
Designed for this space, the large “Ice and Flowers” installation was created by Doug Smarch, Jr., who grew up in Teslin, Yukon. It was inspired by the first drops of water in the Spring, which reflect back the faces that look at them, and uses the light from the large windows to add dimension to the thermo-formed clear acrylic masks. Flowers painted on the wall to the left (I wasn’t happy with the photo I took which included them) echo the decoration on the winter clothing that Doug wore as a child.

Ice and Flowers, by Doug Smarch, Jr.
As well as the art, there is, of course, lots of information for visitors, from these large displays explaining some of the history and geology of the region, to the details of hiking, accommodations, etc.

Yukon Visitor Information Centre at Haines Junction
In a series of rooms adjacent to the visitor centre is the excellent Da Ku Cultural Centre, which celebrates the culture of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation.

Da Ku Cultural Centre, Haines Junction
Just after 11:00, we pulled away from man-made attractions and headed into the vast land of mountains, lakes, and glaciers known to many as Kluane Country. This photo was shot out the RV window at Km 1624.

Hanging glacier in Kluane Country
Kluane Lake – ahhhhhhhhh! I love Kluane, and our first stop on the lake was the large parking area at Km 1642, which is the first place that the Alaska Highway runs beside the lake.

RV at Kluane Lake, Yukon
The beach at this parking area goes on and on, for over a kilometer, I’m sure. It’s a superb place to play with Bella and Monty, with lots of sticks to throw into the water for the little one to fetch πŸ™‚

Huskies at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Our destination was Congdon Creek Campground at Km 1666. There are only 8 lakefront sites (as well as 31 in the forest), and by arriving at 12:30, I got one of them. Within a few minutes, Molly in particular had settled in nicely. I’m still amazed by how much she loves this life πŸ™‚

RV cat
After enjoying a leisurely lunch and another long beach walk with the kids, I unhooked the Tracker, and the dogs and I went exploring. A very strong wind had come up, so launching the canoe at this lovely bay had to be taken off the list.

Kluane Lake, Yukon
This interpretive area at Destruction Bay used to have a wonderful view of the lake. All of the signs installed for the 50th anniversary of the highway in 1992, like the one on the left in this photo, are in very poor condition now.

Alaska Highway interpretive area at Destruction Bay, Yukon
Behind the trees in the photo above, though, is this 1940s International truck, and a shelter with several more interpretive signs, and chairs set up as if it’s used as a classroom of some sort.

1940s International truck at Destruction Bay, Yukon
For Alaska Highway engineers and maintenance crews, the creeks that run under the highway into Kluane Lake have always been a problem. Flash floods are common, and the sand and gravel that they run across erodes quickly – the creeks regularly choose new routes that often don’t match the culvert locations. This is Copper Joe Creek at Km 1695.3.

Copper Joe Creek at Alaska Highway Km 1695.3, Yukon
Beside the current highway at Km 1696 is a well-preserved section of the old highway. The new highway in this area was built in about 2002, but this may well have been the bed of the original 1942 road.

A section of the old Alaska Highway at Km 1696 in the Yukon
Just west of the section of old highway, the new highway makes this odd detour. My memory of it is that a couple of old graves had been found in the location that is bypassed, but a woman I met in Burwash Landing later said that it was done to protect some rare flowers.

A detour on the Alaska Highway near Burwash Landing, Yukon
About 3 years after the bypass above had been built, though, a young man from Burwash missed the curve and was killed in the resulting crash. A large memorial to “Dougie” Twiss now dominates that space.

Memorial to Dougie Twiss on the Alaska Highway near Burwash Landing, Yukon
The next stop was at the Kluane Museum of Natural History in Burwash Landing ($5 admission). With the dogs in the car, it had to be a fairly quick walk-through, but it had been a few years since I’d been in.

Kluane Museum of Natural History in Burwash Landing, Yukon
It’s the extremely high quality taxidermy such as these Dall sheep and mountain goat that the museum is famous for.

Kluane Museum of Natural History in Burwash Landing, Yukon
But other displays are equally as well done.

Kluane Museum of Natural History in Burwash Landing, Yukon
Back outside, this installation tells the story of a garbage fire that got away in June 1999 and resulted in the community being evacuated and 5 homes lost.

Forest fire at Burwash Landing, Yukon, in June 1999
This Cat recalls the day when the Alaska Highway arrived.

1940s Caterpillar tractor at Burwash Landing, Yukon
It was time for a break for the dogs, so we went down to the beach in front of the abandoned Burwash Landing Resort for a walk. Then, probably for the last time, I looked through the resort windows into the lounge where I’ve hoisted many, many pints of beer over the past 30 years (I first came to the Burwash Landing Resort in 1985 during my airplane-based holiday).

Burwash Landing Resort, Yukon
With the kids refreshed, I made a stop at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. It was built in 1944 by Father Eusebe Morisset, OMI, with materials from an abandoned army mess hall at Duke Meadows, on land donated by lodge owners Eugene and Louis Jacquot.

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church at Burwash Landing, Yukon

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church at Burwash Landing, Yukon
Fred and Margaret O’Brien, missionaries at Burwash Landing in the early 1990s, set up the front room of the old rectory as an exhibit to represent the classroom that was in use for many years.

School room at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church at Burwash Landing, Yukon
Thoroughly enjoying my explorations, the Burwash airport was the next stop. I probably hadn’t been here since 1985, and I doubt that anything has changed substantially. The terminal door was locked, and I didn’t bother to knock to see if anyone was there (a car was in front of the terminal, so there may have been).

Burwash airport, Yukon
In an airplane kind of mood now, I went back to the museum, where flightseeing company Rocking Star Adventures has a trailer. I discussed the options with them, and went away hoping that before I left, fewer clouds and much lighter winds would make it worth investing almost $300 for a 45-minute glacier flight.

Rocking Star Adventures flightseeing at Burwash Landing, Yukon
I had forgotten a couple of kitchen items for the RV, so stopped at the convenience store in the Talbot ArmΒ Motel on the way by. A pound of butter at $6.75 and 2 rolls of paper towel at $7.25 will make me more careful about double-checking what I pack πŸ™‚

2 rolls of paper towel, $7.25
We were back at the rig before 6:00 – it had been a fun 3 hours, even for Monty and Bella. After dinner, another long walk on the still-windy beach at the campground…

… and back through the large abandoned part of the campground. Although the Yukon campground guide still says that there are 81 sites, there have only been 39 for several years, the others having been closed because they were in an important grizzly feeding area (there are lots of soapberries, a favourite food).

Abandoned part of the Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon

We were all in bed early, and I had a few plans to make the next couple of days even more fun for all of us.


Yukon RVing: Exploring around Kluane Lake — 10 Comments

  1. We drove the Alaska Highway back in 1973, when I was fourteen and it was still gravel all the way to the Alaska state line. Things have changed an awful lot in the last 42 years. I’m especially impressed by the museum at Haines Junction. What I remember of Haines Junction was nothing but a place where the road forked. There might have been a gas station, I think, but that was it.

    Kluane Lake was one of my favorite parts of that trip. Thanks for the memories.

  2. We were at the Pine Lake campground on that Monday night, after getting non-stop rain forced us away from Million Dollar falls. I am happy to report there were no party-party types there that night. The worst was an RV running its generator well past 11pm. As tenters, we’re not fond of those kind of camping noises. πŸ˜‰

    Still, I’d avoid it on weekends and stick to weekdays.

    • Thanks for the report, Erin. It’s good to know that mid-week is okay – at least was for you (and is what I would expect). I certainly know what you mean about generator noise. Some are very loud and in any case, it’s just inconsiderate – especially when it’s more than likely only running so they can watch TV.

  3. according to environment yukon, the female soapberry bushes have been removed from congdon creek campground so it is not as appealing to the bears now. maybe tents will be allowed there in the future.

    • There’s no sign of bears having been there in a very long time. But the Yukon Parks guides still say that the campground has 81 sites, so don’t look for a tenting update any time soon! πŸ™‚

  4. The advantages of that size RV along with the tow behind and boat are MANY…waiting to see the bike up on that hydraulic hoist you were thinking of…

    Loved Kluane Lake pics…! In 1980, I couldn’t wait to get to the real Alaska (Anchorage, Kenai!) and barely paid attention to sights and scenery here…now I would appreciate it.

    • For a while I questioned taking the bike as well, but I would have loved to have it on my last 2 outings – the White Pass and Kluane – so the hoist is on The List πŸ™‚

      Being able to spend days at a location, with the whole family, instead of hours with part of the family, is so incredible – what an amazing change in my life.

      • I am ‘leveraging’ a few of your posts with my wife for a future trip ‘all up’… one day I will pack the tent away for good. Perhaps a smaller ADV type bike could be the ticket all around, better on some of those not so great highways too. (I run two KLR 650s currently)

  5. We visited that museum on a couple trips to Alaska . It was (and still is ) a very interesting place ! When I saw your photos , I had to get out my albums …… We had stopped at a restaurant where the owner looked like Geraldo Rivera!
    Had a delicious piece of Bumbleberry pie there ! Amazing what one remembers , isn’t it?
    All the best to you folks – Mary