Whitehorse - History
Whitehorse is named after
the historic rapids on the Yukon River which resembled the flowing manes of
charging white horses. On the “Trail of '98”, the stampeders had to bypass
the treacherous water of Miles Canyon and White Horse Rapids, south of the
present city. The White Horse Rapids not only
gave our city its name, but its reason for being.
The White Horse Rapids
became known as the greatest peril on the trail of '98. The construction of
the Whitehorse hydro-electric dam in 1958 tamed Miles Canyon and has replaced
the once foaming White Horse Rapids with Schwatka Lake reservoir.
In 1897, two
entrepreneurs capitalized on the obstacles presented by the Canyon and the
Rapids by building tramways on either side of the river. For a fee, their
horse-drawn tram cars carried goods and small boats around the rapids on log
rails. A tent town called Canyon City appeared at the head of the tramway on
the east bank. A roadhouse and saloon provided lodging and refreshments to the
tens of thousands of gold seekers on their way to the Klondike.
Before the Gold Rush, this area
was a First Nations' campsite. Be sure to visit Canyon City today and take a
tour of Miles Canyon where you can easily imagine the gold-filled excitement
of the past as you enjoy nature's treasures of today. In 1900, construction of
the White Pass & Yukon Route railway from Skagway to a point past the
rapids was completed and Whitehorse came into being at its railhead. Today you
can still ride the WP & YR train, the only international narrow gauge
operating in North America. Round trip excursions depart from Skagway and
there are connections by bus from Whitehorse.
For years, Whitehorse
continued its role connecting rail service with riverboat traffic to
Dawson. In 1920, the first plane landed. In 1942, thousands of
American Army personnel arrived to build the Alaska Highway. In a
record breaking 8 months and 23 days, 1534 miles of highway was laid
down. The boom ceased by the end of the war, but Whitehorse had become
an important centre of communications and transportation. Whitehorse
was incorporated as a City in 1950 and in 1953 the capital of the
Yukon was transferred from Dawson City to Whitehorse.
Our river may have calmed
down a bit since 1898, but our city sure got lively with many events
and attractions. We are pleased to welcome you and wish you a golden