Yukon Gold: Exploring the Best Part of the Yukon

For this traveller, the contrast between two wildly different landscapes—Emerald Lake and the Carcross Desert—was the best part of the Yukon.

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Best place in the Yukon - SS Klondike sternwheeler
Photo: Beverly Lafortune

This is the Best Part of the Yukon

I have a love of nature that comes from within and has always been a part of me. I grew up in a small community in Lakeside, Nova Scotia, and had lots of friends to play with. There were no computers at the time and we’d spend most of our days outside exploring nature.

I was very excited when, in the summer of 2016, I travelled to the beautiful Yukon with my husband, Paul, to visit his brother and family. The scenery was breathtaking! Among the most spectacular views were those we saw while driving along the South Klondike Highway, near the village of Carcross. The royal couple, William and Kate, would be visiting Carcross a few months later and it was very exciting just knowing that they, too, would be seeing what I believe to be the best part of the Yukon.

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Best part of the Yukon - Carcross Desert
Photo: Beverly Lafortune

The Carcross Desert: The World’s Smallest Desert?

Waterways, roadways and the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad all converge in historic Carcross. This picturesque village is also home to the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. One site that is especially magnificent to see is the nearby Carcross Desert, created about 10,000 years ago, as the huge sheet of ice that once covered North America began to melt. Any sand and silt that was trapped in the glacier settled into a thick layer on the bottom of the many glacial lakes that formed, but that have since dried up. The Watson River continues to carry sand and silt into Bennett Lake, which helps to sustain Carcross Desert.

When we arrived at the desert, we saw a person slowly making his way up the huge slope, which inspired us to make the trek up to see the view from the top. What a sight to behold it was! We could see the village of Carcross, Bennett Lake, the desert and mountain peaks—all in one view. I’m not sure if we had inspired other people to make the long hike up, but we were soon enjoying the scenery with many tourists who also seemed excited to have made it to the top.

Check out more travel experiences that make you feel small next to nature.

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Best part of the Yukon - Emerald Lake
Photo: Beverly Lafortune

Welcome to Emerald Lake

Another must-see if you ever travel along the South Klondike Highway is Emerald Lake. It has a unique blue-green colour from the light reflecting off a layer of white marl—which is simply clay rich in calcium that settles on the bottom of the lake. Emerald Lake is a popular place for tour buses. Although we had the luxury of taking as much time as we needed to bask in Emerald Lake’s glory, we saw many buses stop and unload their passengers, who quickly took some selfies before jumping back on the buses to their next destination.

Check out more spectacular Yukon Territory photography.

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Best place in the Yukon - lynx
Photo: Beverly Lafortune

Lynx on the prowl

During our visit, I longed to be able to get a shot of some wildlife, especially bears—all from a safe distance, of course. I didn’t actually see a bear, but I did get a shot of a lynx that was just strolling along the highway, possibly looking for its next meal.

Find out what it’s like photographing wildlife in the dead of winter.

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Best place in the Yukon - hubcap totem poles
Photo: Beverly Lafortune

Where else could you find hubcap totem poles?

Another adventure back to the Whitehorse area may be in the cards, as something that is on my wish list is to watch the northern lights, which were nowhere to be seen at this time of the year because of the midnight sun. Maybe the next time I will also get to see those bears.

If you decide to go the best place in the Yukon…

  • The Carcross Desert, covering just 642 acres, is considered by some to hold the record for the world’s smallest desert.
  • Emerald Lake was discovered in 1882 by famed mountain guide Tom Wilson while searching for a group of horses that had gone astray.
  • Despite the rugged terrain, the Emerald Lake region is home to a variety of tiny and delicate wild orchids known to put on a colourful show.

Next, check out the 10 places in Canada every Canadian must visit.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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