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Miles Canyon and Whitehorse Rapids

An Explorer's Guide to Whitehorse, Yukon

All-Year Round Guide to the Yukon, 1947     The article and photograph below (article by Horace E. Moore, photo by James Quong) have been copied from the 80-page booklet "All-Year Round Guide to the Yukon", which was compiled and published for The Kiwanis Club of Whitehorse by Horace E. Moore of The Whitehorse Star in 1947. We have done a high-resolution scan of the booklet, and it can be downloaded from our Public folder at Dropbox by clicking on the cover image to the right (pdf, 24MB).

    For current information and many photos of Miles Canyon, see our Miles Canyon on the Yukon River page.

Whitehorse hospital, 1947

Miles Canyon and Whitehorse Rapids

    TWO OF THE most famous beauty spots in the Yukon are adjacent to Whitehorse. They are Miles Canyon and the Whitehorse Rapids and are visited by thousands of tourists each year. The rapids are about a mile distant from town and the canyon roughly five miles.

    To stand on the rocky shores of these turbulent waters and behold the majestic grandeur of these impressive scenes leave an indelible impression upon the memory never to be effaced.

    As one gazes upon the on-rushing waters it is difficult to realize how those who took part in the Klondike gold rush of '98 ever navigated the swirling and roaring torrents in their heavily-laden, home-made scows or rafts and lived to tell the tale. Some of them never did. Among those who survived the ordeal is Mrs. Sarah D. Taylor. wife of Mr. Isaac Taylor of Taylor & Drury Ltd, residents of Whitehorse. Here is Mrs. Taylor's account of her experiences when she made the hazardous trip:

    To be seated on a scow of native lumber, while shooting Miles Canyon and the Whitehorse Rapids gives one a tremendous thrill which still lives after forty years in the Yukon.

    A new hotel was to be built in Whitehorse and native lumber was needed in its construction. Trees had been felled and brought by horse team to the sawmill which was located south of the Canyon.

    The logs had been sawn into planks and were delivered to Whitehorse by scow. There were three or four passengers besides my husband and myself.

    It was a lovely day. Birds were singing and while waiting for the scow, we gathered wild flowers by the side of a small stream that ran into the river ahead of the Canyon.

    Ed. Dixon, an experienced river man, was the pilot, while Mike Cyr and a tall dark French Canadian were in charge of the sweeps. Our lives were in the hands of these courageous men.

    The noise of the wild water rushing through the precipitous canyon almost drowned the pilot's commands to the men in charge of the sweeps.

    The ravages of time had made the steep side of the canyon appear almost like the prehistoric walls of an old forgotten fortress.

    Soon we passed the Devil's Punch Bowl on our left. Wild flowers and junipers decorated its banks amid poplar trees and spruce.

    These were the waters where so many men had lost their outfits and lives in the excited rush to the Klondike gold fields of 1897-8.

    Wooden rail tramways had been built on both banks from the head of the canyon to the foot of the rapids, thus enabling those who preferred safety, to transfer their outfits in this way.

    Parts of the old wooden tramway are still to be seen and make a pleasant walk in places through the woods.

    The Whitehorse Rapids soon came in sight. This is the climax of five miles of roaring torrent of which Miles Canyon is a part. It derives its name really from the great manes of white spray and foam (imaginary white horses), that seem to chase each other through the Rapids and then lose themselves in the river below.

    An Indian legend was told in the early days that an Indian woman had been drowned in the smaller rapids above, which had been named "Squaw Rapids", and that her husband who was named "Whitehorse", in despair and grief; drowned himself in the larger rapids which hear his name.
-- H. E. M.