Canoe trips, Yukon River

Paddling Marsh Lake to Whitehorse

September 4, 2016

Waking up in a comfortable bed at Six Mile River Resort I didn’t feel like I was on a canoe trip anymore. The cabin was nice but we did hope it wouldn’t interfere with the flow of the trip, especially for the kids.  After a home cooked breakfast at the resort Chuck and I butt heads.  Today was the last day of the trip I insisted he wear a sun hat rather than his ball hat.  It was a losing battle that ended up with him sitting between my legs in the front of the canoe.  He eventually calmed down and feel asleep, but my ability to paddle was limited so we set the sail in the light wind and had a nice slow trip down Marsh Lake.


We had a nice lynx sighting later that afternoon and a little further along we found a beautiful sand and gravel beach about half way down the lake. Perfect! The kids spent the afternoon playing happily on their own, there was a sand hill to slide down, rocks to collect and goose feathers to play with.  After paddling on the very cold lakes upstream Marsh Lake felt surprisingly warm so Molly and I went for a swim and Chuck got his first bath of the trip.






The next morning we decided to take another day off from paddling and enjoy this beautiful place. The weather was perfect for a hike down the beach. The kids brought their buckets and enjoyed collecting snail shells and identifying the different animal tracks in the sand. They liked imagining what animal made each set of tracks and following them to see where they were going. Molly enjoyed finding the enormous moose tracks the most.  When we reached a lagoon the kids were excited to wade across before arriving at another beautiful sandy beach where they happily made sandcastles until it was time to head back to camp.




Although part of us felt like we could stay on this beach longer, we were also excited to finally reach the Yukon River which begins at the north end of Marsh Lake. The next morning we packed camp, loaded the canoe and made our way north. When we finally reached the river it was exciting to feel the pull of the current under our canoe after such a long trip through the big southern lakes of the Yukon.



As we transitioned from Marsh Lake into the Yukon River any breeze that we had felt on the lake disappeared and it got really hot! We stopped for lunch on a small shady beach to cool off and have a break from the unrelenting sun. The weather was so hot that afternoon we had to stop again downstream to jump in the river to cool off before reaching our next camp.

Having been on the water from 9 am to 4 pm it was our longest day yet and we were tired. We had planned the trip with the idea of always taking it easy with the kids.  Unfortunately there is was no campsite to stop at on that section of river so we were forced to paddle a much longer day than we would have preferred.  Finally we found a campsite on a river bend just past Wolf Creek.  We were happy that the campsite was vacant, however it was a very well-used campsite.  After over a week of practicing no trace camping on desolate beaches it was a little shocking going to a site that had been cut out of the forest with fire pits and broken glass everywhere.

The following day started off into a head wind. It started raining really hard just before getting to Canyon City. We paddled as hard as we could but we were soaked by the time we pulled into the beach. We hid under a tree to get our raingear on then we went exploring the old historic site.  Canyon City was the place where the police stopped the stampeders and made them either take the tramway or pay an experienced river guide to get them down thru Miles Canyon and the Whitehorse rapids after many stampeders had lost their lives in the white water.




Canyon City was a beautiful place so we decided to stay and enjoy the park. It was a bit odd because the occasional jogger or dog walker would pass by and give us a strange look.  On these occasions it felt like we were camped in a city park, but the fact that it was only accessible by a hiking trail did keep the number of passersby down.  We did the laundry, hung the hammock, played card games and read books for the afternoon.  It turned into another very hot day, but in our private park, shaded by the trees it was a pleasant summer day.

The next day started with a paddle down Miles Canyon. The water has been slowed by the building of the Whitehorse Dam downstream, but the canyon walls are still beautiful and the water was fast enough to create a fun ride that we all enjoyed (Molly especially!).

To get past the Whitehorse Dam we used the help of a taxi. I had initially been reluctant to use a taxi but this portage is down a road, not in the wilderness. We were concerned with keeping the kids safe and not leaving our gear unattended in a populated area.  After visiting the tramway at Canyon City I started thinking of the taxi as our modern day tramway.  If horses were still pulling trams down the side of the canyon we would have happily paid them to move us and our gear. From where the taxi dropped us off below the dam, getting down to the water still took us quite a bit of time and effort.  We had to lower the canoe down a very steep bank to a small eddy, re-rig the canoe and load all the gear back in, all the while keeping an eye on Molly and Chuck who were anxious to get going to the next beach.

The ride downstream from the dam to downtown Whitehorse was fast and fun. A thunder and lightning storm was quickly catching up to us which made for an anxious paddle down to where we pulled in to the beach beside Kanoe People. We had to unpack the canoe again to drop off some excess gear and pick up our food re-supply we had stored at Up North Adventures for the second leg of the trip. At 4 pm the thunder and lighting was getting worse and we wondered if we should leave at all.  As he finished repacking the canoe Dwane realized he had lost the map case that also contained his sunglasses and some medication.  He took a taxi back to the portage and looked everywhere we had been but the missing items were nowhere to be found.

By the time he returned both kids were asleep on the beach. As I sat with them in the pouring rain I reminisced about canoe trips in Ontario when I was a teenager.  Those trips were always full of adversity, particularly sitting in the pouring rain as a counsellor set off to figure out where we were because we always seemed to get lost.  I had expected sitting on the beach in Whitehorse in the rain would be miserable, but instead of feeling upset or angry I was overcome by happy memories.



In the end we decided to throw in the towel for the night. The thunderstorm was getting worse by the minute and to keep the kids safe and happy we unloaded the canoe one more time and stored our gear at Kanoe People for the night. I woke Molly up and carried sleeping Chuck to the Best Value hotel across the street to regroup and wait out the storm.  After listening to the local night club from our room that night and seeing a $500 fine sign for camping in the city the next morning I was glad that Dwane has scoffed at my idea to camp beside the river in downtown Whitehorse that night.  I’m looking forward to getting back into the wilderness!


To read about the previous leg of our trip click here.

To read the next leg of our trip click here.