Photo essay: Carcross in the Yukon, Canada
Welcome to Carcross
Once a hunting and fishing camp for Inland Tlingit and Tagish people, Carcross became a key stopover and supply center during the Klondike Gold Rush. The White Pass and Yukon Railway, as seen on our tours, extends from Skagway through Carcross to Whitehorse. With the completion of the railroad in 1900, Carcross became a major transportation hub. Well worth a visit: book a Full Day Yukon tour to see for yourself.
The White Pass & Yukon Route railroad suspended operations in 1982 when Yukon’s mining industry collapsed due to low mineral prices. Reopened in 1988 as a seasonal tourism operation, which served 37,000 passengers. Today, the WP&YR is Alaska’s most popular shore excursion carrying circa 400,000 people in 2014 during the summer from May to September. Namely operating on the first 67.5 miles (Skagway, Alaska to Carcross, Y.T., Canada) of the original 110 mile line.
Originally, Dunsmuir, Diggle & Co. 30-inch gauge, is the steam locomotive, The Duchess. Sold to Wellington Colliery R.R. in 1883, it was then resold to Albion Iron Works before sold again to John Irving thereafter. In 1900, it was used for use on the Taku Tram, which the Duchess powered until 1920. Later used as a trash burner at Carcross, Yukon from 1920 to 1931 before put on display ever since. Avid trainspotter or not, she’s a beauty alright!
Carcross Desert is located outside Carcross in the Yukon, Canada. It’s often considered the smallest desert in the world. Go figure–it measures 1 square mile or 640 acres. Although commonly referred to and signposted as a desert, it’s actually a series of northern sand dunes where the climate is too humid to be considered a true desert. But to-ma-to, to-mato–it’s a sweet spot on our Full Day Yukon Tour.
Join us in Carcross on the Full Day Yukon adventure to discover some of Canada’s iconic totem poles. Did you know totem poles are carved from cedar, which are rot resistant? They’re carved to display characters and ancient stories and often include fish, eagles, bears, human faces and even supernatural figures.
Gold rush history
At the northern tip of Bennett Lake, on the old Klondike Gold Rush trail taken on our tour of the Yukon, lies the village of Carcross. It’s just 68 miles north of Skagway. Gloriously, it’s a sustainable year-round hot spot for visitors, where the village aim is to celebrate the beauty and richness of the land, First Nations culture and gold rush history.
Caribou Crossing, the original name of the village, came from the miners, who observed large herds of caribou that swam the narrows between Bennett and Nares lakes twice a year. In 1902, the name was changed to Carcross. The reason being: the postal mail for the local school kept being redirected to Caribou Crossing in British Columbia and to the one in Alaska.
If Giants Had Sandboxes…
If Giants had sandboxes, what would they be like? Many children spend hours pondering this question, but you might be surprised to learn that the answer lies just north of the tiny Yukon town of Carcross. Namely, a tiny square mile of Canadian sand, mayhap the world’s smallest “desert.”
Exploring the magic of Carcross, Lake Tutshi in British Columbia, the Yukon Territories and the magic that is Skagway, Alaska will leave you spellbound!
Origin of Carcross
Known previously as “Naataase Heen”–water running through the narrows. And then “Todezzane”–wind blowing all the time, “Caribou Crossing”. In 1906, it became “Carcross.”
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
The train, courtesy of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, coasts Lake Bennett, filled once by the rafts of gold-seekers. But disturbed now by no more than a ruffling wind or the spatter of water-drops behind a string of ducks rising to fly, clicks along the rails around the bays and promontories, rumbles over a bridge and stops at Carcross.
There’s much and more to see in Carcross
Carcross may be small but there’s much and more to do and see here! You’ll be treated to any number of activities. Such as visiting the old railway station, general store to buy old-fashioned candy and the museums to view historic artifacts. Meet and pet the husky puppies, learn wild stories about the Klondike Gold Rush and all the fun little parts of Carcross Commons. Including a carving shed, Visitor Information Center, bakery / coffee shop, a restaurant and art gallery.
The World’s Smallest “Desert”
When you think of the Yukon, sandy deserts might not spring to mind. Well, bizarrely, they should: the Carcross Desert is just 642 acres and has been recognized by Guiness as ‘The World’s Smallest Desert.’ On our Full Day Yukon tour, you’ll get to feel the sand between your toes but 10,000 years ago, this was the bottom of a large glacial lake.
The expanse of sand once lay on the bottom of a large glacial lake covering the entire valley bottom. Strong winds off Bennett Lake keep the sand constantly shifting, making it difficult for plants other than Lodgepole Pine and Kinnikinnick to grow.
There’s quite a bit more than meets the eye when you explore Carcross. Visit the cemetery for example: the resting place for two famous Tagish First Nation residents. Skookum Jim and Dawson “Tagish” Charlie struck gold at Bonanza Creek–which was a significant find, as it sparked the Klondike Gold Rush. Skookum Jim’s First Nation name is Keish, and Tagish Charlie’s name is Káa Goox.
Also buried in the cemetery is Kate Carmack, whose First Nations’ name was Shaaw Tláa. She was Skookum Jim’s sister; and, at the time of the strike, the wife of the third man in the Bonanza Creek strike, George Carmack. Learn more fascinating gold rush history with us at Skagway Tours.