Whitehorse is The Capital of the Yukon and offers unparalleled access to the surrounding wilderness. Over two-thirds of the Yukon’s residents live in Whitehorse, which has a year-round population of about 36,000.

In the late 1800s, the wilderness on the east side of the Yukon River gave way to two settlements of cabins, Closeleigh near the present site of Whitehorse and Canyon City five miles upriver. On June 8, 1900, the White Pass & Yukon Railway from Skagway was completed on the west side of the River and Closeleigh was moved to the present town site and became Whitehorse.

Whitehorse got its name from the rapids of the Yukon River where the frothing water looked like the manes of white horses.

The sparsely populated tent-and-cabin city boomed and became the terminal for freight being transferred from railway to riverboat for shipment to Dawson City. For over 50 years Whitehorse continued in this vital role.

The second great population surge followed the agreement of the US and Canadian Governments to build the Alaska Highway in 1942. During the nine-month construction, the population swelled from 500 to 8000. With building space at a premium, one entrepreneur began building small two and three-story log cabins, or “Log skyscrapers,” which can still be seen in town.

After the war, Whitehorse maintained its importance as a transportation and communications centre for the Yukon. On April 1, 1953, the capital of the Yukon was officially transferred from Dawson City to Whitehorse. Today the mainstays of the Whitehorse economy are tourism, government and mining.

Yukon Visitor Reception Centre is on Hanson St. between 1st and 2nd Ave. This is a great place to start your visit to Whitehorse as the staff are friendly and well trained. Each Visitor Center in the Yukon has something different to offer so be sure and visit all of them. There is ample parking for large vehicles on the north side of the building. 867-667-3084


Whitehorse’s role as a transportation center is as new as the jet age and as old as the Gold Rush of ’98. Founded in 1900 with the arrival of the White Pass & Yukon Railway from tidewater at Skagway, the sparsely populated tent-and-cabin city became the terminal for freight being transferred from railway to riverboat for shipment to Dawson City.

Before the railway was pushed through to provide an easier mode of transportation, the bulk of the early-day stampeders came by ocean steamer to Skagway or Dyea and toiled over the White Pass (the route presently paralleled by the railroad) or Chilkoot Pass to the head of Lake Bennett. Here they whipsawed native lumber and built crude boats and scows to travel the 550-mile Yukon River water route to the gold fields.

The greatest hazards in river navigation were found in Miles Canyon and Whitehorse Rapids. To bypass these once-treacherous waters, wooden rail tramways were constructed on both sides of the canyon. On the east side of the river the wilderness gave way to two settlements of cabins. Closeleigh was near the present site of Whitehorse and Canyon City was five miles upriver, where the portage around the rapids of Miles Canyon began.

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