Whitehorse, Yukon – Supported salmon migration

We are continuing on the Klondike Highway north, from BC back to Yukon. The Carcross Desert, one of the numerous “North America’s smallest deserts” isn’t really a desert. It is neither particularly hot, nor cold, and not even dry. But there are a couple of sand dunes partially overgrown with grass, bushes and trees that offer a good subject for photo. The sand comes from ancient glaciers that ground stones to dust and that has been blown over here. Some kilometres further at Emerald Lake I learn that even limestone sediment at the lake bottom in the form of calcium carbonate can cause water’s green shade.

Back on the Alaska Hwy we first turn north not to miss Whitehorse. 24,500 inhabitants, about 75 % of Yukon’s entire population, live in its capital. The city’s name comes from the rapids in Miles Canyon that reminded the former prospectors of the fluttering mane of a white horse. Schwatka Lake reservoir permanently increased water level in the canyon and made the rapids disappear. But it is still an experience to look from the small suspension bridge how Yukon River’s forest green waters squeeze through the dark red-brown vertical rock faces.

Schwatka Lake dam causes a completely different problem: It obstructs salmon migration. To surmount the 20 m height difference the world’s longest wooden fish ladder with 165 m – that’s what is said – was built. As soon as the fishes enter the ladder the constant contercurrent encourages them to continue swimming. Windows were set in the side panel of the fish ladder not only to allow visitors to glance at the upstream moving salmon. Closing some bars the animals are caught for few minutes to identify and count them.

We are following Alaska Hwy south to Jakes Corner, where we are heading into 100 km long Atlin dead end. Atlin Lake is British Columbia’s largest natural lake and known for its beautiful scenery. In Atlin town adjoin another 24 km unpaved lake road. Right before it ends, between 2nd and 3rd recreational area, you find on your left hand side the Public Warm Springs that rise from a shallow natural pond. The water is warm with nearly 30°C, but with 8° outside even Joerg’s enthusiasm for a bath is limited. It isn’t good for more than the legs.

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