Maybe it’s the Midnight Sun, the long winters or the remoteness, but the Yukon seems to be a magnet for the quirky, original and just plain fun. We swear we’re not making any of this up.
Why settle for a cocktail umbrella when you can have a human toe? A time-honoured tradition in Dawson City, the Sourtoe Cocktail has its origins in the 1920’s Prohibition era. Rum-runner Louie Linken was unfortunate enough to have his frostbitten toe amputated. When the toe was discovered years later in an abandoned cabin, the Sourtoe Cocktail Club was born. Since then, there have been 10 toes donated to the club. You can try the Sourtoe Cocktail at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson.
World’s Largest Weathervane
On your way to or from Whitehorse International airport, you’re likely to see an old Douglas DC-3 atop a pedestal. The aircraft flew her last flight in 1970 and now acts as the World’s Largest Weathervane. The aircraft pivots on the specially constructed pedestal so she will forever be flying into the wind. Uses for an old aircraft: level = expert.
It’s hard to move a 1300-ton, 210 foot stern-wheeler through the streets. Just ask the people who moved the S.S. Klondike into its final resting place on the Whitehorse waterfront. Apparently it takes 3 weeks, 12 men, 3 bulldozers and 8 tons of slightly-dampened Palmolive soap flakes.
Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall
Dawson City is home to Canada’s oldest casino, Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall (or simply Gertie’s to those in the know). Opened in 1972 it was inspired by one of the most famous dance hall stars of the gold rush, Gertie Lovejoy who had a diamond between her two front teeth. Gertie’s offers not only gambling but nightly can-can shows throughout summer.
Strange Lights in the Sky
Fox Lake looks like a quiet and scenic locale, but don’t be fooled. On December 11, 1996 more than 20 witnesses saw a very large aerial object with bright lights hovering near the lake. The documentary Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings rates it at number 8 on the list of top ten UFO cases of all time. We’re reliably informed that it had nothing to do with the whiskey.
Just downriver from Dawson City is where old steamships go to die. You can see the skeletons of these old beauties in the Paddlewheel Graveyard.
The frontier meets urban development in Whitehorse.
Embracing the wilder side of its gold rush past, the former brothel Bombay Peggy’s in Dawson City is the perfect spot to sip naughty cocktails. “Bloomer Remover”. “Brazen Hussy”. “Temptress”. Those are just the ones we could mention.
The coldest temperature ever recorded in Canada was a bone chilling -63C (-81.4F) in the hamlet of Snag way back in 1947. Fortunately though, the Yukon has plenty of ways to keep you warm on even the coldest of days.
Find Your Home Town
In 1942, in Watson Lake, a homesick army engineer working on the Alaska Highway nailed up a sign pointing to his home town of Danville, Illinois. Just look what he started. 72,000 signs and counting.
In 2011, American Carter Johnson set the world record for the farthest distance ever paddled in a canoe in 24 hours on flowing water. Leaving Whitehorse he travelled 449.04km (279.02mi.) non-stop. You too can canoe the Yukon River. However we suggest a more leisurely pace.
Fish Climbing Ladders
Each year in mid to late summer thousands of salmon embark on one of the longest salmon runs in the world from the Pacific Ocean to their breeding grounds in the headwaters of the Yukon River. After swimming a whopping 3,200 km (1,988mi.) they meet up with a wall of concrete in the form of the hydroelectric dam in Whitehorse. Recognizing this would be a problem engineers came up with the solution of a wooden fish ladder – the longest of its kind in the world - which allows the fish to swim up and over the dam wall. It also provides an excellent viewing platform for witnessing this annual spectacle.
Great Klondike Outhouse Race
Johnny on the Spot, Privy, Biffy… whatever you call it, the humble outhouse is a ubiquitous sight in the Yukon. But up here they’re more than just utilitarian. That would be boring. Each year teams dress themselves and their outhouses up for the Great Klondike Outhouse Race and race each other through the streets of Dawson City. Visitors are encouraged to participate. And if you didn’t happen to bring your own outhouse, one can be rented for the day.