Sarah riverboat

Initially the newcomers, like the First Nations people, used rivers and lakes for summer travel, and in winter, went overland either on foot or by dog sled. But soon Yukon transportation underwent a major change.

By the turn of the century steam-powered riverboats travelled the rivers that once saw only skin boats, rafts, poling boats and canoes. The construction of the White Pass railway established a year-round, mechanized link between the coast and the interior, with Whitehorse as the head of navigation. Communication also improved, with a telegraph line to the coast, and the advent of telephones.

By 1902 a winter road linked Dawson and Whitehorse. Horse-drawn stages delivered passengers, freight and mail. For nearly 20 years the stage line was a vital link, but by the late 1930s airplanes had replaced the stages. The construction of the Alaska Highway, along First Nations trails and early roads, created a corridor across the territory linking it to the rest of the continent. In the 1950s a highway was completed from Whitehorse to Dawson, ending the era of the sternwheelers.

New methods of transportation brought other changes too. Limitations created by the Yukon’s isolation and vast distances gradually diminished as transportation and communication improved. Modern inventions, such as faxes, e-mail and satellites, bring the rest of the world ever closer.

“...I calculate that I easily have covered miles enough on that trail these last twenty years to equal a journey to the moon.”

Overland Trail driver Simon Fiendel

Dawson Daily News, May 5, 1920

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