The Yukon Territory
- a term for freedom and adventure, for wilderness, vast landscape and intact wildlife habitat....
The Yukon Territory is Canada's northwesterly region, sharing its western border with Alaska. With a size of 400.000 square kilometers, the size of Germany, Switzerland and Austria combined and a population of about 30.000 people, it is easy to understand the extent of wilderness. Whitehorse, the capitol, concentrates most of its inhabitants. If you are visiting by air, this will be your port of entry.
Besides 15 smaller communities, scattered throughout the Territory, there are only a limited number of roadways (7 highways, some are just gravel roads, to be precise) to get around. The best way to get a real Yukon Outdoor Experience is on a camping trip, either on a river or lake or in the mountains. This is not very difficult, since there are countless rivers, lakes and mountains in the Yukon. And the majority is still prime habitat for wildlife species common in the north.
Grizzly- and Black Bears are probably the best known wildlife species up here. But Bison, Dall Sheep, Bald Eagles, Caribou and Moose are other examples of free roaming wildlife. A major contribution factot for the prevention of overcrowding are a bunch of mosquitoes. But for a serious lover of a nature experience that's just a flick of a wrist.
And yes, indeed, the Yukon is "Larger than life", as the territory's slogan promotes. If you like the outdoors and northern culture that's the place to be. Not too much city life, no crowds, and for some people an overwhelming natural environment with huge expanses.
In the summer it never gets totally dark up here, and depending where you are you can see the midnight sun. Winters are long and cold, but very rewarding. The northern lights are a bonus for those who stick around for a dogsled trip, ice fishing, snow shoeing or skiing.
The boreal forest is probably the prevailing vegetation in the Yukon. Stretching from the Beaufort Sea in the north almost to the Pacific Ocean in the south, it covers quite a variety of landscape. Kluane National Park with the largest non polar ice field in the world is dominated by huge glaciers. The tundra in the north, home of the caribou, with its low and delicate vegetation, is one of the most spectacular sights in the fall. Wherever you are in the Yukon, it will be always close to mountains or rivers.
The Klondike Gold Rush in 1898 put the Yukon on the map. Jack London and Robert Service described in words what life up north was all about in those days, and somehow it still is.
The Yukon is a paradise for anybody loving the outdoors in a natural untamed way.
Traveling through a country without fences
Sitting around a campfire and eating a freshly caught fish
Moving through an environment filled with wildlife, you otherwise only see in the zoo.
Drinking the water just out of a nearby stream.
Being surrounded by natures beauty and finding your own piece of mind, but you have to earn it through your own efforts
Being distracted from your thoughts only by the sound of the woods, the whisper of the wind, or the rustle of a shallow creek.
That is what makes the Yukon so special to me
- Rainer Russmann-
Rivers and lakes start to break up in April or May, and around Whitehorse snow is more or less gone. Winter is over, but it can be pretty muddy because of the frozen ground. In the mountains there is still lots of snow, and winter sports are still possible in higher elevations. Until the end of May, rivers and lakes are very low. With the warmer weather water levels rise and June is the time for high water and the beginning of the canoeing season. At that time we have the longest days, and it never gets totally dark through most of the summer. Temperatures from June to mid August are in the 20 degree Celsius range, but we do have periods of 30 degrees as well. The Yukon has a fairly dry climate in general, and if it rains, it usually won't last very long. A common saying is "if you don't like the weather, walk 5 miles or wait 5 minutes" Weather moves in and out quickly. But don't be fooled, no matter when you go, always be prepared for a rain shower or a cool night. Best paddling conditions for most rivers are from the beginning of June to mid September, when water levels are moderate. From the end of August on you have to expect frosty nights with temperatures dipping below freezing, while days are usually still in the 20 degree ranges. Leaves canstart to change colours by then, and and start to fall off by mid September. Nights are dark at this time and you can enjoy the warmth of a campfire in the evening.
By the end of September the mountains have white crowns around their peaks, and most migratory birds have left the Yukon. This is still a nice time to travel, but even during daytime it might not be that warm as temperatures don't rise far beyond 5 degrees C. Usually fall has nice clear sunny days, and chances to see the northern lights can already start at the beginning of September.
Winters are cold and long, but not always dark. Sometimes we have fairly cold weather starting in November ( -30C ) . But the best time for winter activities is from December to end of March. Lakes and rivers are usually frozen by then, and there is enough snow to enjoy the outdoors.
Canada Customs and Immigration
No Visa is required to enter Canada from most European Countries and the US. A passport, valid at least 3 month beyond your stay is required.
Please note: travelers coming from Europe with Condor to Whitehorse, do have a stopover in Alaska, U.S.A. on their way back.
Because of that it isabsolutely necessary to carry a machine readable passporteven if your destination is Canada only.
Please check with your air carrier about dangerous goods which are not allowed in your luggage. Those are for example fuel for cook stoves and explosives of any kind, liquids and gels beyond a certain amount and bear spray.
You can bring : 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, 1L hard liquor , or 8.5 L beer.
Credit cards are accepted almost anywhere in the Yukon. Mastercard and Visa work best , and are a good idea to bring along for any unexpected costs ( such as medical, souvenirs). For car rentals a credit card is mandatory, and your local drivers license is accepted in the Yukon. Travellers cheques work well too. Some cash is always handy for minor expenses.
In most cases your backcountry trip will take you far from help and rescue. If you are an independent traveler, you must be prepared to travel safely and handle any emergencies on your own. It is your responsibility, however, to ensure that you have the necessary skills, experience and equipment to have an enjoyable, injury-free adventure. If you have any doubts about your abilities, consider a guided trip.
If you are going on any type of wilderness trip you need to be prepared for:
- adverse weather conditions, and
- potentially dangerous wildlife encounters.
If your trip involves river paddling you need to know how to:
- deal with rapids, log jams and sweepers,
- prepare your craft for whitewater, and
- perform basic river rescues.
If your trip involves hiking you need to know how to:
- use a compass,
- make hazardous stream crossings, and
- negotiate terrain obstacles such as steep ridges, boggy areas and hummocky ground.
Keeping the Yukon green and pristine
Our shared goal is to preserve high quality Yukon wilderness experiences
What does impact mean?
The most obvious impact is garbage left in the wilderness. Another is the disturbed ground and damaged vegetation caused by too many people camping or traveling through an area.
While some impacts involve damage to ecosystems, others damage the aesthetics of the wilderness experience. Toilet paper blown onto a riverside shrub may have little environmental impact, but it can destroy the pleasure of wilderness travel. Commercial wilderness tourism operators must follow special regulations applying to wilderness travel and waste disposal (Yukon Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act).
Larger groups have larger impacts so plan on a small group size. Avoid bringing smelly, easily-spoiled foods that will be attractive to scavengers. This includes fresh meat, fish and seafood.
Plan to burn the cans and then pack them out and deposit them at your nearest recycling center. Learn as much as you can about the region’s wildlife so you will know how to minimize potential impacts.
Choose travel and camping gear carefully, for both safety and minimal impact. Try to plan for all conditions and environments that you may experience.
Camp and travel on durable surfaces
Use existing trails to avoid creating new impacts. If the trail is used by wildlife, be alert. Read the bear safety section. Hike single file to prevent widening the trail. Where there are no trails, select a route over durable terrain such as gravel creek beds, sandy or rocky areas, or grassy vegetation. Try to avoid steep, loose slopes and wet terrain. If you must walk across vegetated areas, spread out to avoid creating new trails.
Even an overnight stop can leave a lasting impression on the land and the next wilderness enthusiast. Keep the following suggestions in mind. Try to choose sites that are already impacted. If possible, leave the site cleaner than it was when you arrived. Cleaning up, reducing the number of fire circles, and encouraging re-growth in damaged spots all help make the site better for the next visitor.
When choosing a new campsite, look for durable terrain. Bare rock, sand, fine gravel, snow and ice are the most forgiving surfaces. Plants that can best sustain the impact of camping are generally those living on coarse-grained, well-drained, fairly level soils.
When traveling by water, consider camping on gravel bars or sandbars. Spring floods will purge these sites so that even slight traces of your camp will be removed. But remember, heavy rains can make some rivers rise quickly and dramatically because landscapes containing permafrost or exposed bedrock cannot absorb much runoff.
Try to keep access routes to water and other commonly used places as inconspicuous as possible. Vary your route between such areas. Wearing light runners in camp will also help to minimize impact.
Pack in, pack out
Garbage is a major concern in the backcountry. But there are ways to dispose of virtually everything. Burn paper garbage such as toilet paper, pads and tampons to reduce odors that attract animals. Sift through the campfire ashes and pack out anything that remains. Pack out any garbage or toilet paper that you don’t burn. Double- or triple-bag it to reduce odors. An airtight, reusable garbage container may be a better option. Don’t bury garbage. Scavenging wildlife will dig it up, spread it around, and perhaps suffer injury or death from it.
Pack it out. Make a final sweep before you leave camp. Small items such as twist ties or bits of plastic are easy to overlook.
Wastewater and waste food
Wash your dishes in a container, then drain the dishwater into a hole well away from tents and standing water. You can also get rid of strained wastewater in a swift-flowing river. Fling it far out into the current to ensure dilution. This is a better option than using a hole in the ground because it completely eliminates food odors.
By keeping cooking odors, spilled food and dishwater well away from your campsite, you can avoid attracting scavenging wildlife. Avoid or minimize the use of soaps and shampoos. Biodegradable products are essential. Keep well away from water to avoid contaminating an otherwise pure lake or stream.
Your toilet should be at least 60 m (66 yd.) away from any body of water; even further if you are camped on a floodplain. Feces can be disposed in a shallow, 15 cm (6 in.) cat hole dug in the soil with the heel of your boot or a small trowel. Add surface soil and stir with a stick to encourage decomposition. Use the remaining soil you have dug out to cover things afterwards. Pick a site well away from any other cat holes and far from any campsite In the North, bacterial action is much slower than in more southerly climates. Your organic garbage and human waste can take a long time to decompose.
Used toilet paper should be put in a paper bag and burned in a campfire or packed out.
Wildlife viewing is one of the thrills of backcountry travel. Give animals ample space and distance and remain quiet and still to prolong your viewing opportunities and minimize the animal’s stress. • Binoculars, scopes, and telephoto lenses (300mm or more) are the best tools for observing wildlife. They allow you to watch an animal’s natural behavior from a safe distance. If the animal notices you, you are probably too close and causing undue stress. And you may be putting yourself at risk. Don’t camp where there are signs of obvious wildlife use such as nesting, dening, feeding or rutting sites. To reduce potential bear encounters, try to set up your campsite so that cooking and food storage areas are at least 100 m(110 yd.) downwind of your tent.
Cutting trees building small campfires
The only reason you may cut or damage a tree is to build a campfire. Only dry/dead trees (standing or down) may be used.
The Yukon has abundant firewood in many places. Use only dead wood, preferably from fallen trees. The smallest, dead, dry branches from a spruce tree are great fire starters. Small pieces of dead, dry willow burn hot, with mild smoke. Collect only what you need, keep the fire small, and take your wood from different locations. Saw cuts on stumps are sure signs that someone has been there before, so be discrete if you do any sawing Burn wood down to ash before extinguishing your fire, if time permits. If not, soak the pieces until cold to the touch. Stir and drench the site until you feel no hot spots with your hand. Sandbars and gravel bars are idea campfire sites if there is no flood threat. The remaining indications of your campfire will be washed away during high-water periods.
But certain areas have lost part of that wilderness feeling because of blackened circles of rocks and other campfire-related debris. Campfires also pose a risk of starting forest fires. Many fires have been started by travelers who let their campfire get out of hand. Sparks, or fires that have spread underground through peat or roots can smolder for days, weeks or months before erupting. There are many types of inexpensive, lightweight, efficient and reliable backpacking stoves that can eliminate the need for campfires. Always carry one of these stoves so that you will have the option. If it is safe to have a campfire, however, consider the following suggestions. Use an existing fire circle. If there is more than one circle, eliminate the others if you can.
Always use a stove in areas where fires are prohibited, where a fire hazard exists, or where there is little dead wood available.
Leave it natural
Cutting trees and building tables, shelters or other structures will diminish the next visitor’s wilderness experience.
Showing consideration for wilderness residents and other travelers helps make everyone’s journey more enjoyable. So, appropriate behavior or gear depends on the circumstances. The key is to keep others in mind when planning and traveling.
Most of the cabins you’ll find in the backcountry belong to licensed trappers who use them during the winter trapping season. Please do not disturb these cabins or any traps or equipment you find in wilderness areas. Chances are, someone is counting on that cabin being in good shape, and the equipment being in place, when winter returns. You cannot go out into the wilderness and build your own cabin unless you own the land.
Don't surprise a bear. Choose travel routes with good visibility where possible. Stay alert and look ahead for bears. Approach thickets from upwind if possible. Make noise to let bears know you’re coming. Travel in groups. Choose a campsite well away from wildlife trails, human travel routes and areas with heavy bear signs or foods.
Don’t crowd a bear: Don’t approach a bear for a closer look or a better photo. Use binoculars or a telephoto lens.
Don’t attract a bear: Never feed a bear. Don’t bring greasy, smelly foods like bacon or canned fish. Pack your food in airtight containers such as zip-lock bags or hard plastic boxes. Thoroughly burn your garbage or pack it out in airtight containers. At night, move the food away from your tent—100 m (110 yd.) or more. Put it up in a tree if you can. Don’t bring food or cosmetics into your tent. If you catch a fish, clean it far from camp and toss the guts in the water. If you see a bear… Stay calm. Stop and assess the situation. Don’t run, crouch down or play dead too soon.
If the bear is unaware of you : Avoid it if possible. Leave the area, detour around the bear, or wait it out. If you can’t avoid the bear, gently alert i to your presence by moving upwind, waving your arms, and calling out in a calm voice.
If the bear approaches you or you surprise it: Don’t run. Talk in a calm voice. Slowly back away in the direction from which you came. If the bear keeps following you, stand your ground. Group together to present a stronger front. Remain firm but non-threatening as you give the bear time to think things over. If you’re carrying bear spray, get it in your hand, point the nozzle away from you, and check the wind direction to make sure the spray doesn’t blow back on you. Try to figure out if the bear is acting in self-defenseor if it’s seeking food. If it’s a grizzly that you’ve surprised at close range, or is accompanied by cubs, or has a carcass near by, it’s probably attacking in self-defense. If it’s a black bear, it’s probably seeking food. If the bear attacks, you have two choices: play dead or fight back. The right choice depends on whether the bear is acting in self-defense or seeking food.
Play dead: If the bear seems to be attacking in self-defense, the best thing to do is play dead so the bear no longer feels threatened. Don’t play dead before the bear contacts you — especially when a bear is approaching at a distance — or you may actually encourage the bear to attack. Play dead by dropping to the ground, face down, hands clasped tightly over the back of your neck, and legs slightly apart to prevent the bear from rolling you. Keeping your backpack on may help protect you. If playing dead works the bear will make brief contact with you, then will leave when it’s convinced you’re not dangerous. In this case, play dead as long as possible and don’t move until the bear leaves the area.
Fight back: You should fight back if you are attacked by: any black bear, any grizzly that stalks, or attacks in circumstances that do not involve cubs, a carcass, or surprise at close range, or any bear that breaks into a tent or building. These bears are motivated by food rather than self-defense. You need to fight back with all your energy with whatever you have. Kick, punch or hit the bear with a rock, chunk of wood or whatever is handy. A bear’s nose is a good place to strike.
Using bear spray: If a bear approaches slowly or follows at a distance, fire two or three short bursts of spray between you and the bear while you continue backing away. The spray will create a cloud of deterrent which may stop the bear. But make sure you have enough left to spray the bear in the face at short distance if it keeps coming. If a bear is charging, stand your ground, fire a couple of short bursts to create a cloud in front of you, then save remaining spray for use at close range if necessary.
You need a valid Yukon Angling License if you want to fish in the Yukon. A Yukon Angling License entitles you to fish for all species except salmon. To fish for salmon, you also need a Salmon Conservation Catch Card. When you buy your license you will receive a copy of the Yukon Fishing Regulations Summary. The regulation booklet is available in English, French and German, and includes illustrations of all Yukon fish species. You must follow the catch limits and all other regulations described in the booklet. You can fish with a rod, line and hook only. All other methods of taking fish are unlawful without a permit. Angling licenses are available at Environment Yukon offices, and most highway lodges, sporting goods stores and convenience stores throughout the Yukon.
As a non-resident of the Yukon, the only animals you can hunt on your own in the summer, without a licensed guide, are snowshoe hares, ground squirrels and porcupines. In the fall, after September 1, you can also hunt grouse, ptarmigan and waterfowl. You can see that hunting is not going to be a big part of your experience if you are on a summer wilderness trip
Small Game : You must have a valid license to hunt small game such as snowshoe hares, ground squirrels, porcupine, grouse and ptarmigan. Small game hunting licenses are available at the main Yukon government building in Whitehorse and selected sporting goods stores. You’ll receive a copy of the Yukon Hunting Regulations Summary when you purchase a license.
Migratory Game Birds : You must have a valid permit to hunt migratory birds such as ducks and geese. Migratory bird hunting permits are available at postal outlets throughout the Yukon. You will receive a copy of the migratory bird hunting regulations when you obtain your permit. Open season for most migratory birds runs from September 1 to October 31.
Big Game : You cannot hunt big game animals in the Yukon unless you are outfitted by a licensed outfitter and accompanied by a licensed big game guide. Big game animals include moose, caribou, mountain sheep, mountain goat, black bear, grizzly bear, bison, wolf, coyote and wolverine. For a list of big game outfitters contact the Yukon Outfitters Association www.yukonoutfitters.net
A firearm is not a necessary piece of equipment for a Yukon wilderness journey. In fact most Yukon residents and visitors do not carry a firearm on their canoe trips and hiking trips. It’s a heavy item, you can’t use it to “live off the land” and, in the hands of someone who is not well-trained in its use, it’s a lethal accident waiting to happen. Firearms are not allowed inside Kluane, Ivvavik and Vuntut National Parks. If you decide to bring a firearm for hunting, or for bear protection (it’s a personal choice), you will have to follow Canada’s strict firearm control laws. For more information call the Canadian Firearms Center toll free at 1-800-731-4000.
Some of this information is an excerpt from an excellent publication by Environment Yukon - Into the Yukon Wilderness -
We strongly recommend to read this very informative booklet before you start your trip. You find this, and more useful information on the Website below