Outdoors Editor’s note: Trip Report is an ongoing series about trail conditions around Interior Alaska. Mary Matthews submitted this trip report about her trip canoeing from Dawson City, Yukon, to Eagle.
Trip location: Pelly Crossing to Dawson City, Yukon Territory.
Trip dates: July 22-29.
Travelers: Mary Matthews, Nori Bowman, Lynn Slusher and Kathy Dohner.
Trail or route conditions, wildlife sightings and highlights: We left Fairbanks on a sunny morning for the eight hour drive to Dawson City. Our plan was to float a section of the Yukon River that we had not yet done: Pelly Crossing to Dawson City.
At the fabulous and quirky Dawson City River Hostel, owner/manager Dieter Reinmuth rented us (Mary Matthews, Nori Bowman, Lynn Slusher and Kathy Dohner — average age: 70) canoes and transported us 3 ½ hours down the Klondike Highway to our put-in at Pelly Crossing, Yukon Territory. This is a standard access point to the Yukon River, via the Pelly River, and we hoped it would allow us about six days of river time.
The Pelly River is a slow and easy float. There was evidence of active salmon runs, with a number of fish camps and fish nets along the river. We saw Dall sheep and, surprisingly, many cows. The Pelly River Farm is a large establishment on this remote piece of territory.
Two long half days of paddling brought us to Fort Selkirk at the confluence of the Pelly and Yukon rivers. The Selkirk First Nations and the Yukon Territorial Government have collaborated to maintain this former trading post of the Northern Tutchone and other First Nation tribes.
From Fort Selkirk, we paddled onto the majestic Yukon. We stopped at mid-river islands and set up camp on sandy beaches with rock mosaics. Our days started early, and we were on the river at 9 a.m. (ish) ready for five to seven hours on the river. We paddled in bright sun, gusty winds, smoky air and rain, and more rain.
Our map reading was inconclusive and we were anxious about our plan of when we would be off the river. Our group mantra became “I know where I want to be.”
Mike Rourke’s detailed river map guided us, though every curve of the river seemed to have “low rounded hills” or “several pinnacles.” Endless canoe conversation and much laughter kept us positive and paddling.
We saw eagles, Dall sheep, a bear, a lynx, a wolf and a moose giving us an awed moment with her swim across the swift current.
Several characters enriched our river days: Dieter Reinmuth of the Dawson City River Hostel; volunteer Deputy Conservation Officer Gerard, who motored up to us and checked on our safety; and the two-generation family at the remote Bake Shop at Kirkman River mile 374.
The slow flowing Pelly River and the lower than normal Yukon gave us one unplanned day on the river — we ended up spending two days on the Pelly and five on the Yukon. We conversed as we floated into Dawson: what other sections of the mighty Yukon River are calling to us?