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S.S. Klondike National Historic Site

Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures

S.S. Klondike and S.S. Whitehorse in Dawson.
S.S. Klondike and S.S. Whitehorse in Dawson.
© R. Willis Collection #38-127 / Parks Canada

Steam powered sternwheelers were used on many river and lake systems in Canada. While not unique to the Yukon there are few other places where they were used as extensively – sternwheelers were the centrepiece of the Yukon's transportation system for almost four generations. During this ninety-year period over 250 sternwheelers plied the Yukon River and its tributaries. The S.S. Klondike is designated as a National Historic Site of Canada to commemorate the role these sternwheelers played in the history of the Yukon.

Loading cordwood with a hand truck.
Loading cordwood with a hand truck. Watch the movie
© G.D. Bissell Collection #232, ca. 1935 / Parks Canada

Most Yukon River sternwheel steamers burned wood. While there was coal in the Yukon it was not widely distributed and hence not readily available. Wood on the other hand was plentiful, and at least in the early days available along the length of the river. There were wood camps located every fifty to one hundred miles between Whitehorse and Dawson City.

River Transportation on the Yukon

The Journey

S.S. Klondike

The People