The Spell of the Yukon

 
I was first attracted to the Yukon by the poems of Robert Service. I was probably about 12 years old when I found a book of his poems in our town Library. I was fascinated from the beginning. The tales of the Gold Rush era, which affected the rest of Canada to a great degree, were always exciting for me. As I started my career in mining, i had often thought of finding work in one of the Yukon mines, but it never worked out. Then later, while working for a mining contractor, I had the opportunity to visit the Yukon for short visits, and then later worked on the development of several mines. My last visits were on behalf of myself and partners involved in staking and owning a large claim block. The place fascinates me. And so few Canadians really know what it is all about. A picture of winter always comes to mind, and it can be quite severe. But even in the winter there is a beauty about it, and the summer months can be breathtaking. It attracts a certain kind of people, and those in the exploration business always say that if you stay in the Yukon for one winter, you will never wish to leave.
The Spell of the Yukon - by Robert Service
I wanted the gold, and I sought it,
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy -- I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it --
Came out with a fortune last fall, --
Yet somehow life's not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn't all.

No! There's the land. (Have you seen it?)
It's the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it's a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there's some as would trade it
For no land on earth -- and I'm one.
Robert Service was actually a Bank teller from Scotland. He immigrated to Canada and found work in BC at about the time of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898. He was transferred to the TD Bank in Whitehorse  and became fascinated with the sourdoughs who arrived from all over the world. He wrote a few poems which became instant classics. The Shooting of Dan McGrew, The Spell of the Yukon, The Cremation of Sam McGee and many more. He moved to Dawson City and built the cabin shown above, and continued to write. When WW1 broke out he went overseas and served in the Ambulance Corps. He never returned to the Yukon, and the cabin above is exactly as he left it in 1914. Apparently, the cabin has never been entered since he left and all the furnishing remain as the day he walked out.
Five Finger Rapids on the Yukon River. This was the most treacherous section for the Gold Rushers to traverse in the their home built rafts. Three island separate the river into five parts, increasing the flow of the river. Paddle  Wheelers had to be pulled through this stretch on the return up river to Whitehorse. This scene was taken in early September.
The SS Klondike was the last Paddle Wheeler to travel the route from Dawson City to Whitehorse. It is now a tourist attraction on the banks of the Yukon River within the City of Whitehorse. It last worked at freight and passenger travel in 1955.
The Yukon River, south of Whitehorse, meandering through the relatively flat valley of the Yukon. Note the housing development in the lower right hand corner of the pic, a neighbourhood of Whitehorse.
A scene on the very beautiful Pelley River, which is several hundred kilometres north of Whitehorse. This river empties into the Yukon River from the north east. In 1906 a Paddle Wheeler wrecked on the island at the cost of many lives.

I worked as VP of Operations for a company in 1985 to 1988. We developed a small gold mine at the above location. Tiny as it was, it produced gold which would now be worth $255,000,000 at todays prices. Unfortunately the price was not that high during my time with the company. I returned to the mine site in 2005, when another company was exploring the area. The photo on the left is taken over the tailings pond with the mine site buildings visible in the middle of the photo. On the right I am standing in front of a glacial pond located high up the valley above the mine site. I used to walk up here on days just to feel the solitude of a mountain valley. It was almost surreal and indeed the Indians considered this area sacred.

I was also VP for a company that resurrected this old mine which was put back into production in 1996. It did not fare too well but did produce about $85,000,000 worth of gold at current prices. Note the very dry country surrounding. This area is close to a desert in precipitation, although severe cold temperatures can be experienced in the winter months.
My last work in the Yukon was on this property. At the time of my last visit they were preparing for an underground exploration program. Since that time, a Chinese Company has acquired it and they are spending millions on exploration.
One of the most exciting times that I enjoyed in the Yukon was being part of a group of four guys who staked a total of 400 mining claims in this area. Our claims covered both peaks of Mount Hinton, seen in the dramatic photo on the left. There were many gold and silver veins located in and around both peaks, but it was extremely difficult terrain to do exploration work.

The claims are located within 10 km of highway, power and telephone. One of the richest silver mines in Canada operated here for almost 90 years, and in fact is producing once more.  We made several deals on the claims, the last one ending in 2012, when the company involved exercised their rights for outright purchase.

I loved the experience and the people that I met while I was involved.
One of my partners, Bob, took a series of photo’s of the claim block.
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