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20537
Yukon Territory

Off the Map: Canoeing Along the Yukon’s Pristine Nature

Explore the tranquil Yukon River by canoe, and learn about Gold Rush history, explore remote historic sites and enjoy exceptional fishing in pristine nature on this 200-mile journey.
Rating (5)
Program No. 20537RJ
Length
12 days
Starts at
2,699
Yukon Territory

Off the Map: Canoeing Along the Yukon’s Pristine Nature

Explore the tranquil Yukon River by canoe, and learn about Gold Rush history, explore remote historic sites and enjoy exceptional fishing in pristine nature on this 200-mile journey.
Length
12 days
Starts at
2,699
Program No. 20537 RJ
climate
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At a Glance

Breathe in the fresh, clean air of the Yukon wilderness as you glide along the legendary Yukon River by canoe. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of these remote landscapes while learning about its natural wonders and gold rush history. As you and your fellow adventurers paddle more than 200 miles and camp under the Milky Way, experience nature in its purest form and observe the incredible wildlife that calls this remote wilderness home.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Canoe on the mighty Yukon River from Minto, near historic Fort Selkirk to Dawson City in the heart of Gold Rush territory.
  • Marvel as you are carried along on the rapid current of the Yukon at 5 mph before you even start paddling!
  • Tales of Jack London and Robert Service and the Klondike's raucous Diamond Tooth Gerties Casino await you in Dawson City!

General Notes

This program is part of our “Off the Map” series, exploring truly remote areas of Canada as a way to connect with local culture and landscapes, and disconnect with the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Our goal is to bring you to places that have limited access to Wi-Fi, cell service and other technology so you can enjoy authentic learning experiences without modern distractions. Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available. Please note that single participants will be provided a canoe partner. In addition, traveling partners that are both novice canoers can be paired with more experienced canoers if they're not comfortable together. For groups under 8 people, the group will have one river guide, unless otherwise stipulated in program materials; while for groups of 8 people and more, the group will have at least two guides.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Wildflowers Along the Alaska Highway
by Verna E. Pratt
After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America
by E. C. Pielou
All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms
by David Arora
Klondike: The Last Great Goldrush
by Pierre Berton
A Summer in Alaska
by Frederick Schwatka
Tr'ochëk - The Archaeology and History of a Hän Fish Camp
by Helene Dobrowolsky & T. J. Hammer
Wild Flowers of the Yukon, Alaska & Northwestern Canada
by John Trelawny
Land of the Midnight Sun: A History of the Yukon
by Kenneth S. Coates, William R. Morrison
Hammerstones: A History of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in
by Helene Dobrowolsky
The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North
by Beverley Gray
The Best of Robert Service
by Robert Service
In 1904, the Canadian Bank of Commerce transferred teller Robert W. Service to the Yukon Territory. Soon, he was famous as the poet who chronicled the Klondike gold rush and the savage beauty of the frozen north. His verse tales of hard-bitten prospectors and sourdoughs make vivid, exciting reading, with such colorful characters as One-Eyed Mike, Dangerous Dan McGrew, Pious Pete, Blasphemous Bill-and, of course, the lady known as Lou. This book features 49 of Service's poems, along with stunning duotone photos of people and landscapes of the Yukon.
Common Yukon Roadside Wildflowers (and trees)
by Yukon Government
The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush
by Kathryn Morse
The Call of the Wild
by Jack London
Gold Diggers: Striking it Rich in the Klondike
by Charlotte Gray
A Look Back in Time - The Archaeology of Fort Selkirk
by Gotthardt, R. M. (Ruth Margrit), Greg Hare
Make it Pay! Gold Dredge #4
by David Neufeld, Patrick Habiluk
The Yukon
by Pat & Baiba Morrow
Common Yukon Mushrooms
by Yukon Government
A Cheechako in Alaska and Yukon
by Charlotte Cameron
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12 days
11 nights
32 meals
11 B 10 L 11 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Whitehorse, Yukon
D
Days Inn by Wyndham Whitehorse

Activity note: Hotel check in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the hotel meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Remember to bring your name-tag (sent previously). Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. While this program requires no prior camping or canoeing experience, please note that the journey will be physically demanding. We’ll be paddling an average of 25 miles (about 6-8 hours) per day, hauling canoes in/out of water, setting up/tearing down camp, and helping to prepare meals. We will be in bear country for the entirety of this program. While traveling in a group typically deters bear encounters, we will be taking a few precautions to further minimize the risks. The Group Leader is trained in bear safety and will be carrying bear spray. We will review bear behavior and safety tips, including how to behave if you encounter a bear. All food will be stored in bear proof tins. Anyone who wishes to explore on their own must inform the Group Leader before leaving camp. River conditions, interests of the group, serendipitous opportunities for viewing wildlife, etc., will determine the day’s activities. While we will experience all of the activities listed, the order of activities is flexible and may change in the spirit of adventure. In the event of such changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have dinner with a beverage choice of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. As we eat, a local expert will give a presentation on the mighty Yukon territory. "Yukon” means “great river” in the native Gwich'in language. It is aptly named! It runs more than 1,850 miles (3,000km) from its source near Whitehorse to the Bering Sea.

Evening: At Leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning. During this program, we’ll paddle over 200 miles on the Yukon River as we retrace the route of the historic Gold Rush of 1898. The Group Leader will accompany us on all our paddles and provide expert commentary and instruction. Most evenings at camp, our Group Leader will give an illuminating lecture related to the program theme, including topics such as Gold Rush history, First Nation culture, local wildlife, and more.

DAY
2
Paddling Lesson, Yukon River, Fort Selkirk, Campfire Lecture
Yukon River
B,L,D
Camping along the Yukon River

Activity note: Getting in/out of canoe; paddling up to 14 miles with stops; calm, cold water; about 16-18 degrees Celsius; dress in layers with waterproof or quick drying material; no cotton Getting in/out of van; traveling about 157 miles, approximately 4 hours over the course of the day. Note: There is not a lot of camping spots in this area and we might have to improvise one. Walking less than 1 mile; forest trails. Bathing suits recommended for bath in Yukon.

Breakfast: At the motel, we’ll have a breakfast buffet with a variety of foods and beverage choices of milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: The Group Leader will review your gear and confirm you have all the necessary equipment. After checking out of the hotel, we’ll stop at a local hardware store for any last minute items we may need. Then, we’ll board a van and begin our drive along the legendary Yukon River to our launch point in Minto. We’ll make several stops along the way to take in the beautiful landscape and stretch our legs. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before lunch.

Lunch: En route to Minto, we’ll stop at a scenic spot and have a sandwich bar served with a piece of fruit and water.

Afternoon: In Minto, we will go over basic canoe safety and paddling techniques with a local expert. Then, we will board our canoes and set off for our first paddle on the Yukon. As we begin to retrace the Gold Rush route, a local expert will provide instruction and help us finesse our technique. We’ll paddle down the river, making several stops along the way to explore abandoned Native, European and trapper settlements. We’ll learn the history behind these camps and about the challenges these people faced living in the Yukon. We will set up our camp on the gravel and sand banks of the river. We’ll have independent time to take a refreshing bath in the Yukon or go fishing before dinner.

Dinner: At the campsite, our Group Leader plus volunteers from our group will use the gas camping stove to prepare a family-style meal with fresh ingredients (including any fish we catch while on the river!) We’ll have a beverage choice of coffee, tea, water.

Evening: We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before our evening lecture. We’ll relax around the fire as our Group Leader teaches us more about the area. We’ll conclude the lecture with an open discussion about the day’s experiences.

DAY
3
Fort Selkirk, Campfire Lecture
Yukon River
B,L,D
Camping along the Yukon River

Activity note: Getting in/out of canoe; paddling up to 18 miles with stops; calm, cold water; about 16-18 degrees Celsius; dress in layers with waterproof or quick drying material; no cotton. Carrying gear up a slope to make camp.

Breakfast: At our campsite, our Group Leader plus volunteers from our group will prepare a family-style meal featuring cold choices such as sandwiches, cereal, porridge and beverage choices of coffee, tea, water. Then we will pack a lunch comprising of a cold sandwich and a side of veggies or fruit, and fill our reusable water bottles.

Morning: We’ll break camp and walk a short distance to the water. Before we launch our canoes, our Group Leader will provide instruction on basic paddling techniques. Then we will continue our paddle of the Gold Rush route. Today, we’ll paddle to Fort Selkirk with our Group Leader. Along the way, we’ll pass by the confluence of the Pelly River and we’ll learn about how the river and land have changed over the years. On arrival, we’ll set out on a walking field trip with a local expert to explore Fort Selkirk. The Selkirk People have been living in the area for centuries. We’ll learn about the history of the fort, the people who lived here, and how the fort is currently being used today. Robert Campbell of the Hudson Bay Company made history when he established Fort Selkirk as a fur trading post in 1848 — the first European settlement in the Yukon. This angered the coastal Tlingit traders; until the arrival of Robert Campbell, these traders monopolized the fur trade. These coastal traders razed the original fort in an effort to eliminate the competition. The post was re-established in the late 1800s as gold rush traffic increased and quickly became known for its riverside hospitality. Today, Fort Selkirk is a Yukon Territorial Historic Site, and is home to a few residents from the local Selkirk First Nation. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before lunch.

Lunch: We’ll haul our canoes out of the water, find a scenic spot along the shore, and eat the meal we prepared this morning.

Afternoon: We’ll continue paddling the Gold Rush route. Our Group Leader will continue to discuss the history of the area and answer any questions we may have. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before dinner.

Dinner: At the campsite.

Evening: We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before our evening lecture. We’ll relax around the fire as our Group Leader teaches us more about the area. We’ll conclude the lecture with an open discussion about the day’s experiences.

DAY
4
Paddle Yukon, Native History & Lore, Campfire Lecture
Yukon River
B,L,D
Camping along the Yukon River

Activity note: Getting on/off canoe; paddling about 31 miles (50 km) with stops; calm, cold water; about 16-18 degrees Celsius; dress in layers with waterproof or quick drying material; no cotton. Walking less than 1 mile; varied terrain; gravel or sand.

Breakfast: At the campsite.

Morning: With our Group Leader, we’ll paddle into the far reaches of the Yukon. As we paddle, we’ll observe wildlife, remnants from the Gold Rush, and take in the beauty of this remote area. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before lunch.

Lunch: We’ll find a scenic spot along the shore and prepare a sandwich with a side of fruit or veggie and a beverage.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our paddle along the Gold Rush route with our local expert. As we travel, we’ll keep an eye out for animals that typically frequent the area, such as black bears and grizzly bears. We’ll learn about the history of the rapids and how they’ve been altered to accommodate travel between Whitehorse and Dawson City. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before dinner.

Dinner: At the campsite.

Evening: We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before our evening lecture. We’ll relax around the fire as our Group Leader teaches us more about the area. We’ll conclude the lecture with an open discussion about the day’s experiences.

DAY
5
Kirkman Creek Homestead, Paddle Yukon, Campfire Lecture
Yukon River
B,L,D
Camping along the Yukon River

Activity note: Getting in/out of canoe; paddling up to 33 miles with stops; calm, cold water; about 16-18 degrees Celsius; dress in layers with waterproof or quick drying material; no cotton. Walking less than 1 mile; forest trails.

Breakfast: At the campsite.

Morning: With our Group Leader, we'll set out on our paddle. En route, we’ll stop at Kirkman Creek. This 120-year-old homestead used to be a telegraph office. It is still in use and has a working bakery. We’ll learn about the history of the bakery and enjoy a sweet treat before resuming our paddle. Along the way, we’ll observe the confluence of the Stewart and Yukon Rivers. We'll paddle to the opposite bank and dock. Then, we’ll take a walk along the riverbank with our Group Leader and take in the view. From this lookout, we’ll be able to see the 20-mile-wide White River Valley in Kluane National Park. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before lunch. NOTE: Due to the remoteness of the location, the bakery may be closed due to local circumstances. If the bakery is closed, the Group Leader will provide an alternative educational activity.

Lunch: We’ll stop at a scenic spot along the river to have lunch.

Afternoon: With our group leader, we’ll continue our paddle of the Gold Rush route. As we retrace the journey of rugged miners and prospectors, we’ll observe the pristine wilderness and learn more about the history of the area. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before dinner.

Dinner: At the campsite.

Evening: At leisure. Take advantage of the clear water and go fishing, socialize with fellow Road Scholars by the campfire, or just relax with your feet in the river!

DAY
6
King Salmon Dome, Active Gold Mining, Campfire Lecture
Yukon River
B,L,D
Camping along the Yukon River

Activity note: Getting in/out canoe; paddling about 26 miles towards mouth of the White River, with a stop for lunch; some waves; cold water; about 16-18 degrees Celsius; dress in layers with waterproof or quick drying material; no cotton. Extent and duration of walking and other activities during free time according to personal choice. Note: We must stay close together at the confluence of White River and The Yukon River because the river is braided. The Group Leader will direct us on how to accomplish this.

Breakfast: At the campsite.

Morning: We’ll continue our paddle with a local expert. We'll observe the river widening into the Klondike Valley. Then we'll cross Indian River — one of the many creeks that mouth into the Yukon from King Salmon Dome. This is a geographical high point that sources many other rivers. We will observe an increase in river traffic as we approach Dawson City and encounter active gold mining rivers. As we paddle, we’ll observe the gold dredges. Many of the dredges — some dormant for up to 50 years — have recently been reactivated due to an increase in the value of gold. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before lunch.

Lunch: We’ll stop at a scenic spot along the river for lunch.

Afternoon: Free time. This period of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You might like to go fishing on the river or spend time relaxing at camp.

Dinner: At the campsite.

Evening: We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before our evening lecture. We’ll relax around the fire as our Group Leader teaches us more about the area. We’ll conclude the lecture with an open discussion about the day’s experiences.

DAY
7
Bald Eagles & Trapper Cabins, Campfire Lecture
Yukon River
B,L,D
Camping along the Yukon River

Activity note: Getting on/off canoe; paddling up to 32 miles; calm, cold water; about 16-18 degrees Celsius; dress in layers with waterproof or quick drying material; no cotton.

Breakfast: At the campsite.

Morning: We’ll continue our paddle. We’ll observe the Stewart River converging with the Yukon on the river-right. During the Gold Rush, The Stewart River was an important component of the Yukon Territory's transport chain. It carried silver ore from the heart of the Yukon Territory to the Yukon River and on to Whitehorse via the White Pass Railroad. As we paddle, we’ll observe and learn about the plentiful wildlife along the nearby ridges and cliffs; some of the animals we may see include Black Bears, Moose, Beavers, Grizzly Bears, and Bald Eagles. The Group Leader will be available to answer any questions we have about the area’s wildlife. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before lunch.

Lunch: We’ll stop at a spot along the river for lunch.

Afternoon: We'll continue our paddle. We’ll travel past many small islands and observe remnants of trapper cabins and wood camps, dating back to the late 1800s. As we paddle, we’ll take in the beautiful landscape and learn about the fur trade. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before dinner.

Dinner: At the campsite.

Evening: We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before our evening lecture. We’ll relax around the fire as our Group Leader teaches us more about the area. We’ll conclude the lecture with an open discussion about the day’s experiences.

DAY
8
Paddle Yukon, Campfire Lecture
Yukon River
B,L,D
Camping along the Yukon River

Activity note: Getting in/out canoe; paddling up to 19 miles; calm, cold water; about 16-18 degrees Celsius; dress in layers with waterproof or quick drying material; no cotton.

Breakfast: Late breakfast at our campsite.

Morning: We’ll continue our paddle of the Gold Rush route with our Group Leader. Along the way, we’ll learn about the area’s flora and fauna. Many anthropologists believe this part of the river was the main immigration route for North America’s first human inhabitants. The isthmus — now submerged — used to link present-day Alaska with Siberia. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before lunch.

Lunch: We’ll stop at a spot along the river for lunch.

Afternoon: With our Group Leader, we’ll continue our paddle. Along the way, we’ll observe the changing water conditions as we learn about the history of the river. We will pass the mouth of the Indian River on the southern boundary of the Klondike gold fields. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before dinner.

Dinner: At the campsite.

Evening: We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before our evening lecture. We’ll relax around the fire as our Group Leader teaches us more about the area. We’ll conclude the lecture with an open discussion about the day’s experiences.

DAY
9
Dawson City & Diamond Tooth Gerties Casino
Dawson City, Yukon
B,L,D
Westmark Inn Dawson City

Activity note: Getting in/out of canoe; paddling up to 17 miles; calm, cold water; about 16-18 degrees Celsius; dress in layers with waterproof or quick drying material; no cotton. Docking and packing up equipment.

Breakfast: At the campsite.

Morning: We’ll continue our paddle of the Gold Rush route to our final destination — Dawson City. We’ll have independent time for fishing on the river before lunch.

Lunch: We’ll stop at a spot along the river for lunch.

Afternoon: Located at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, Dawson City will be a welcome sight after more than eight days in the remote Yukon wilderness. On arrival, we’ll dock and pack up all of our equipment. We’ll have some independent time to explore this frontier town before dinner.

Dinner: At a restaurant in Dawson City, we’ll have a buffet meal with a variety of foods and beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll “hit the town” just like the Klondike Gold Rushers of more than a century ago with a visit to experience the period ambience and activities at Diamond Tooth Gerties. This lively casino features nostalgic music, can-can inspired shows, and games of chance. Observe and imagine what it might have been like all those years ago. Note: Participating in games of chance is not part of the Road Scholar program and strictly according to personal choice. We’ll then go to our hotel and check-in for the night.

DAY
10
Dawson City, Bonanza Creek & Pan for Gold, Dome Overlook
Dawson City, Yukon
B,L,D
Westmark Inn Dawson City

Activity note: Getting on/off van; traveling about 10 miles, approximately 1/2 hour roundtrip. Walking about 1.5 miles; gravel roads. Bending down to pan for gold in riverbank.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a breakfast buffet with a variety of foods and a beverage choice of juice, milk, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: At the hotel, we’ll have a lecture by our Group Leader on topics relevant to the program theme. Next, we’ll set out with a local expert on a walking field trip to explore Dawson City’s historic sites, including the SS Keno, Palace Grand Theatre, the Commissioner's Residence, and the cabins of Jack London and Robert Service. We’ll learn that there are, according to poet Robert Service, truly "strange things done under the Midnight sun by the men who moil for gold."

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll order off of a menu and have a beverage choice of juice, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We'll travel via van to the famous Bonanza Creek goldfields — the site that began the Klondike Gold Rush. On arrival, we’ll learn from our Group Leader about the famous Gold Rush and the current uses of this active mine. We’ll observe the famous Dredge #4. Now a National Historic Site, this wooden-lined bucketline sluice dredge was placed on the Yukon River from 1913-1959. Then, we’ll learn the basics of gold panning. We’ll have a go at gold panning and see what our luck yields. We’ll keep any gold we find! We’ll reboard our van and drive to the Midnight Dome overlook. We’ll have a fantastic view of Dawson City and both the Klondike and Yukon River valleys. We’ll observe from above the vastness of the territory we paddled through the past few days.

Dinner: At a restaurant in Dawson City, we’ll have a plated meal with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to end the night with a drive up the mountain with our Group Leader, explore the town and casino on your own, or meet locals at a quirky local bar called The Pit.

DAY
11
Transfer to Whitehorse, Campfire Lecture
Whitehorse, Yukon
B,L,D
Days Inn by Wyndham Whitehorse

Activity note: Getting on/off minibus; traveling about 332 miles, approximately 8 hours, with stops. Elective hike at Five Fingers Rapids; about 2 miles total; 220 unavoidable steps; fairly steep; gravel trail.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will begin our drive back to Whitehorse, stopping at pleasant Moose Creek Lodge for a coffee break along the way. En route, our Group Leader will discuss the lifestyles of the people that live in these different communities.

Lunch: En route to Whitehorse we’ll have a boxed lunch with a sandwich, piece of fruit and a bottle of water.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our drive to Whitehorse, stopping at Stewart Crossing for coffee, baked goods, and to check out local art. We'll make several more brief stops along the way, including Pelly Crossing, which is a First Nation village. We’ll learn from our Group Leader about the history of the tribe. There, we'll visit a local exhibition and view crafts. We’ll stop just outside Carmacks and take a short walk to observe the Five Finger Rapids. We’ll learn about how the rapids were opened for the sternwheelers and how it used to be a dangerous obstacle for the voyageurs and ships during the Gold Rush era. For those interested, we will take a hike at Five Finger Rapids and learn about the history of this sacred area. Those who do not wish to hike may remain on the shore and admire the scenery. After checking into the hotel, we’ll have some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: We’ll ride to a restaurant in Whitehorse, we’ll have a plated meal with a beverage choice of soft drink, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Our hotel is within walking distance of the Yukon River and downtown Main Street. Prepare for check out and departure in the morning.

DAY
12
Program Concludes
Whitehorse, Yukon
B

Activity note: Hotel check out 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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