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.
Shooting Miles Canyon
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 stay.