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The following newspaper article describes the upsetting of a skiff on the Yukon River in Miles Canyon in 1899.

Dateline: December 8, 2013.

Dawson Daily News


How Leon Liard Swam the White Horse, 1899

Three Men Lose Control of Their Boat in the Rapids - It is Turned Over, Throwing Occupants Into the Water - Two Cling to the Boat.

    The successful swimming of the White Horse Rapids by a human being has been regarded as one of the impossible feats of endurance and bravery. But this feat is now a reality and was accomplished by a Frenchman last Wednesday in the person of Leon Liard.

    This accomplished swimmer, in company with his countrymen, Eugene Barbin and Benel Estier, were descending the Yukon River in a skiff, headed for Dawson and keeping a lookout for the White Horse, as the shooting of the canyon had made them fearful of hidden dangers.

    Rounding the point above the whirlpool they saw before them the sign of the mounted police station and the signboard, "Danger, White Horse Rapids." They rowed for shore, but the current drew the skiff into the rapid water and away they went over the foaming billows and seething whirlpools.

    The skiff turned stern foremost and in trying to get the boat about the men upset the flimsy craft. Liard struck out boldly to swim the rapids, while his companions, Barbin and Estier, stuck to the boat.Liard was out of sight half the time, the waves curling over him, while the people on the bank were holding their breath as he appeared again and again, going at a rapid pace.

    He finally, after a desperate struggle, reached the left bank below the steamboat landing. There was a crowd of willing hands to assist him up the bank and cheers followed cheers as he was taken to a tent for a change of dry clothes. Barbin and Estier clung to the boat until opposite the landing and reached shallow water by swimming 20 feet.

    The upsetting of the boat dumped out all the provisions and personal effects except a sled, stove and a few bundles which were recovered with the boat down the river a mile below the rapids.

    Purser C. A. Munro, of the Columbian, took pity on the unfortunate men, who had lost their money and effects and gave them free passage on the steamer to Dawson.

    The three men met friends here and have been given lodging and meals at the French restaurant on Third street and Third avenue.

    The North West Mounted Police station mentioned in the article was at Canyon City, located at the head of the most dangerous stretch of the Yukon River, Miles Canyon and then Whitehorse Rapids. All boats were supposed to stop at the police post for inspection, and to either hire a skilled pilot to take the boat through the rapids, or load everything onto one of the two tramways that had been built around the rough waters. The steamboat landing below the rapids is now the location of the city of Whitehorse. No buildings remain at Canyon City today, but it's a very popular hiking destination, and guided tours are given by the Yukon Conservation Society.

A Guide to the Yukon River