Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory, received its name from the nearby rapids of the Yukon River where the frothing water looked like the manes of white horses. The name has been used since 1887.


Whitehorse became was important terminal station for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. During the Gold Rush, passengers and freight came from Skagway, Alaska to Whitehorse. Once in Whitehorse, passengers were able to go by stern wheeler to Dawson City and the gold fields.

Work on the White Pass and Yukon Route railway began in 1898 with the tracks crossing the summit and reaching Lake Bennet by July 6, 1899. The railway connected Carcross and Whitehorse in June of 1900, and the entire line was completed on July 29, 1900 with a golden spike celebration at Carcross!

After the railroad reached Whitehorse in the summer of 1900, regularly scheduled freight and passenger service was established to connect Skagway with the riverboat service at Whitehorse. Once in Whitehorse, passengers were able to go by stern wheeler to Dawson City and the gold fields.Finally there was a route to the Klondike gold fields.

Steam boating on the Yukon River began in 1886. After the discovery of gold in the Klondike, many more stern wheelers began to travel the river. These boats carried passengers and supplies to and from Dawson during the months when the river was not frozen. They were fueled by wood, burning up to two cords an hour. This meant stopping about every 30 miles to get more wood at wood camps.


An upstream trip from Dawson to Whitehorse would take about four and one-half to six days to complete, while the same distance downstream could be covered in about a day and one-half. Visitors to Whitehorse can see one of the few remaining sternwheelers, the S.S. Klondike which now sits on the banks of the Yukon River in downtown Whitehorse.

In 1939, the airport was built and shortly after that the Alaska Highway was constructed. In 1953 the capital was moved from Dawson City to Whitehorse which was by then a service and supply center. Whitehorse has continued to grow ever since with tourism now being an important industry.

photos: courtesy of Yukon Archives

These pages were created through the efforts of Jack Hulland School students.

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