The Yukon’s newest lake, formerly Cultus Bay

As you drive the Alaska Highway along Kluane Lake, you can see a road on the opposite side of the lake as it crosses several steep slopes. I’ve always wondered what that road looked like, and on our last Congdon Creek weekend, we finally went for a look. The main thing we found was that Kluane Lake’s Cultus Bay is now a lake, caused by the lowering of the level of Kluane Lake that I’ve talked about here a few times.

On this map, “Cultus Bay” at the upper right is now “Cultus Lake”, as it’s been completely separated from Kluane Lake.

Map, Kluane Lake / Cultus Bay, Yukon

To get to what I’m calling the Kluane North Road, turn off the Alaska Highway at Km 1635.8, onto the gravel road that leads to the ghost town of Silver City and the Kluane B&B. Then turn right onto a smaller gravel/dirt road 2.1 km from the highway. Mileages that follow are from this point, though there are no mileage makers on either of the gravel roads.

Note that the Kluane North Road is narrow with some very steep hills, and there are creeks to ford and some fairly large rocks on the road. A high-clearance vehicle with awd or 4×4 is strongly recommended.

You may notice different lighting on some of the photos below – we went to Cultus Bay/Lake twice, on Sunday and again on Tuesday when there was a fair bit of forest fire smoke in the air.

From the Silver City road, the road immediately climbs onto a bench above Kluane Lake, into the Kluane Hills. On the opposite side of the road from this view at Km 1.4, Jenny Lake can be seen below.

Kluane North Road Km 1.4 - Kluane Lake, Yukon
At Km 3.7, you drive through Christmas Creek. Both the drop down into and the climb out of this valley are very steep. The water in the creek was about 10 inches deep last weekend, but can clearly get much higher at times.

Christmas Creek, Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
At Km 4.9, you cross Little John Creek. For a few hundred yards leading up to this point, you’re driving on what is sometimes the creek bed.

Little John Creek, Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 5.0 – the climb out of the Little John Creek valley is very steep.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 5.2 – at the top of the climb out of the Little John Creek valley, the views are wonderful.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
At Km 7.0, a lovely, unnamed emerald lake can be seen below, with Kluane Lake in the distance. I had a brief but unsuccessful look for access to the emerald lake.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
The road runs on top of glacial eskers in several places, for several kilometers in total. This esker is at Km 9.1. An esker is the sand/gravel/rock deposited by streams/rivers that ran along the bottom of the glaciers that covered this region thousands of years ago.

Kluane North Road on an esker - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 12.9 – one of the many dry grassy slopes along the road that offer great views.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 13.1

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
There is some interesting geology along the road. This boulder of tortured sedimentary rock at Km 14.2 is about 3 feet across.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 14.3

Km 14.3, Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
For a short distance around Km 14.9, there are some impressive cliffs towering above the road.

Cliffs above the Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
The view ahead at Km 16.5.

Km 16.5, Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
The gravel beaches of Kluane Lake below the road at Km 17.0 are enticing, offering great walking and ATV riding.

Beach below the Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
At Km 17.3, the road drops steeply down to the the point where Cultus Bay used to lead off Kluane Lake. Much of the road surface on this hill is soft dirt.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 17.8 – a well-used campsite on what is now Cultus Lake.

Kluane North Road - Cultus Lake, Yukon
Driving along Cultus Lake at Km 18.3. Because this lake is now about 4 feet higher than Kluane Lake, the beaches are much smaller than on the big lake.

Kluane North Road - Cultus Lake, Yukon
Seen from Km 19.3, a pair of Trumpeter swans were at the far end of the marsh at the north end of Cultus Lake. “Cultus” is a word in the Chinook language that was used in the early fur trade. It means “bad” or “worthless”, and this marsh (and the creatures that inhabit it) would make the water here undrinkable.

Kluane North Road - Cultus Lake, Yukon
There are 2 crossings of Cultus Creek, at Km 19.8, and here at Km 19.9.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 22.5 is where we turned around on Sunday – on Tuesday, we didn’t even come this far. Cultus Lake was where we wanted to play and explore both days. A pickup truck from Alberta was raising the dust ahead of us.

The road north of Cultus Bay, Yukon

Two roads lead off the Kluane North Road at the south end of Cultus Lake – the one to the north is only 30 or so meters/yards long, but the south one leads onto the Kluane Lake beach and with the right vehicle could provide many miles of driving.

This is the south end of the Cultus Lake. There used to be a narrow channel connecting it to Kluane Lake, but now it’s a wide gravel dam.

Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake, Yukon
There is some drainage from Cultus Lake into Kluane Lake, but Cultus is still about 4 feet higher than Kluane.

Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake draining into Kluane Lake, Yukon
We had great fun playing in the lake. It’s still not warm, but it’s warmer than Kluane is, and Bella was hilarious. Just after Cathy took this photo, Bella started swimming back to shore, then came back to make sure that I was okay and coming with her. What a love she is!

Murray Lundberg and Bella in Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake, Yukon
The hill to the north of Cultus looked like it would provide some good views. The beach of Kluane is so wide now that it appears you could ride an ATV right around the lake if you could get across the Kluane River – that would be about a 100-mile ride.

Kluane Lake, Yukon
An old Cat road climbs the hill.

An old Cat road along Kluane Lake, Yukon
These 5 ravens started hassling Bella and Tucker as we got near the top of the hill. I never did figure what their problem was, but they sure cut our time at the top short.

Ravens hassling dogs at Kluane Lake, Yukon
The hill did provide some of the views I was hoping for, though trees blocked any views to the north, to Rat Lake, Grayling Lake, and beyond.

Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake and Kluane Lake, Yukon
Getting a drink on the way back to the car.

Dogs drinking from Kluane Lake, Yukon
On the drive out, I had a look at the side road at Km 6.5. The main road goes to a group of cabins, but a side road off it leads to this view of Christmas Bay.

That side road continues along the ridge above Kluane Lake, but this was as far as I went.

It’s going to be interesting to see how much Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake is going to change in the coming years. Will the lake eventually drain down to the same level as Kluane? Will the warmer water create a completely new ecosystem that will change the creatures and vegetation around and in it? There’s no end to the amount of exploring that I still want to do – and I still want to see the end of the Kluane North Road!


The Yukon’s newest lake, formerly Cultus Bay — 9 Comments

  1. Hi Murray! Absolutely love your blog!
    I’ve been living here for 25 years now but am nowhere near to your level of exploring the Yukon 🙂

    After reading this I checked out the place on google earth and found some interesting places I did not know existed.

    I noticed a property just past Cultus Lake towards the north beside Rat Lake.,-138.4157267,573m/data=!3m1!1e3

    It also looks like if you hang a right just at the north end of Cultus Lake, theres a long winding trail that follows Ruby mountain and goes up to a placer mining camp about 20 KM into the mountains with a small airstrip under it.'01.4%22N+138%C2%B004'02.9%22W/@61.1752424,-138.2113801,16964m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d61.183709!4d-138.067464'46.0%22N+138%C2%B002'45.1%22W/@61.1525818,-138.1867954,17170m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d61.12944!4d-138.045849

  2. Pingback: Mud, Dust, and History at Kluane Lake - the ExploreNorth Blog

  3. Just this little side excursion(s) proves out the reason for having the Tracker along… and so neat to now see from your pics the changes in the lakes, the outflow, etc.

    Looking through this post quickly the first time around I nearly snorted my hot tea, looking at the pic of the creek crossing, wondering if you had taken the RV after all – since the Tracker certainly doesn’t tread like a dually rear! Patience…I had to then read it all again –with pleasure!

    Love these little adventures of yours.

    • Without the Tracker, we’d quickly have gotten frustrated with the motorhome’s limitations. It’s the flexibility that’s made it such a perfect way to travel for us.

  4. Sell the big bike and get you and Kathy 2 KLR 650’s…that’d be something. Just enough bike for some highways and some good and safe off asphalt adventuring and noodling around.

    Oh, yeah, what to do with the 4 legged kids…darn.

    • Cathy convinced me a few years ago that she’d kill herself on anything but a trike 🙁

      Tucker, though, might really like riding in a backpack! Get him some of those cool little goggles… 🙂

  5. My wife is the same. Working our way up to a nice RV rental for 2017 fall, but how I could get a bike on the same trip, huh…guess it will have to stay a daydream.