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An Explorer's Guide to Elsa, Yukon


Location: on the Silver Trail at Km 94

Population (June 2014): 0

Elevation: 808 meters (2,650 feet)

Postal Code: Y0B 1J0

   


All photos were taken by Murray Lundberg.

Elsa, Yukon Clicking on this image from Google Earth will open a new page with an interactive map of the Elsa area. This area can still (2014) only be seen in low resolution images.

Elsa, Yukon Most people can only see Elsa from the Silver Trail, the road that passes by it. The town, which died when the last silver mine closed in 1989, is privately owned, by mining company Alexco Resources.

Elsa, Yukon A closer look at Elsa and the Silver Trail, on August 25, 2007. The buildings that remain are mostly industrial and commercial - most residences were sold and moved.

Monumnet to Livingstone Wernecke at Elsa, Yukon Although his name was properly spelled Livingston Wernecke, the text on this monument at a viewpoint across the road from the former Elsa school says: This monument is dedicated to Livingstone Wernecke (1883-1941) - geologist, manager and director of Treadwell Yukon Corp. Ltd., the man whose keen geological insight and outstanding leadership led to the first large scale development of the Lucky Queen, Sadie Ladue, Silver King, Elsa and Hector Calumet mines. Erected by the Klondike 73 Committee, and the residents of Elsa. June 17, 1973.

Elsa, Yukon

Elsa, Yukon

The late Alastair Findlay, a resident of Keno when these photos were taken on May 21, 2012, looks at an interpretive sign at the viewpoint. The sign reads:

In 1924 the "Lucky Swede", Charlie Brefault, staked a lead-zinc-silver claim on Galena Hill behind the townsite and named it after his sister, Elsa. Treadwell Yukon purchased the Elsa Claim and it became one of that company's richest mines. The Elsa community grew up at the entrance to the mine to support it and other mines in the area.

Yukon mining communities rise and fall with the price of metals. In 1947 Elsa became the administrative centre for United Keno Hill Mines and reached a population of about 700 people. After the mine closed in 1989, a small maintenance crew remained to protect the otherwise abandoned town.

The South McQuesten River valley lies below the townsite. A First Nation family, the Germaines, has trapped and hunted in this area for generations. The valley is rich with moose, beaver, martin and lynx. The McQuesten Lakes, further up the valley, have lingcod, whitefish, pike and inconnu. Nets were set in the narrows of an emptying creek, and Jenny Germaine reports "lots of fish there". "Keno, in summer time we stayed there, picked lots of blueberries. We also had a house in Keno. We hunted gophers and whistlers, we used to walk there. There was graylings in Cristal Creek." After the prospectors started settling here, the Germaines provided fish and wild game to the mining camps.

Elsa school, Yukon When this photo of the former Elsa School was shot in May 2002, you could still go into the building, where many papers - students' art and tests mostly - still littered the floors.

Elsa school, Yukon The former Elsa School as it looked on August 25, 2007.

Elsa school, Yukon When this photo was shot on May 21, 2012, the former school property was securely fenced and was being used for storage of drill cores and mining equipment.

Elsa, Yukon There are old mines everywhere around Elsa - this one is seen from the Silver Trail close to the town on August 25, 2007.

Elsa, Yukon This is a broad view of the tailings below Elsa on May 21, 2012. Between the early 1930s and 1988, the Elsa mill processed ore from 10 major mines in the area, resulting in about 3.67 million tonnes of tailings being deposited here. In 1990 Alexco used sonic drilling to drill 283 holes in the tailings to get an estimate of mineral resources left. The estimates are that there are 9,526,000 ounces of silver and 9,600 ounces of gold available for extraction!

Elsa, Yukon The main entrance to Elsa, looking south - the Silver Trail is to the right.

Leaving the Hamlet of Elsa, Yukon Northbound right at the Km 98 marker is a sign stating that you are now "Leaving the Hamlet of Elsa".

Elsa, Yukon The view to the south towards Elsa from Km 104 on the Silver Trail.



At least 3 books have been written about the Elsa area - used copies (and some new) are available through the AbeBooks network:
  • Cashing In, by Jane Gaffin

  • Hills of Silver: The Yukon's Mighty Keno Hill Mine, by Dr. Aaro E. Aho

  • A Rock Fell on the Moon: Dad and the Great Yukon Silver Ore Heist, by Alicia Priest




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