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The Yukon River Sternwheeler Graveyard

Dawson City, Yukon

by Murray Lundberg


Roster of Yukon/Alaska Sternwheelers

An Explorer's Guide to Dawson City



    One of the historic sites that I've been visiting since 1990 is the "Sternwheeler Graveyard" at Dawson City. I still haven't done as thorough a survey of the site as I want to, so I'll be back in the summer of 2017 with that in mind. I have, though, gathered many photos and a lot of information over the years. As well as this main page with 21 of the photos, each of the six identified boats has their own page, as does a possible seventh boat.

    The Sternwheeler Graveyard is the former Canadian Development Company shipyard (the company was bought by the British Yukon Navigation Company on April 1, 1901), down the Yukon River from Dawson City. To reach the site from Dawson, take the free ferry George Black across the river, walk through the large Yukon River Campground, and then walk along the river bank.

    There were 4 sets of ways at the shipyard. On the upriver one is a hull that has not been identified; on the second set, which is the one clearly seen from the river, are (from the river) the Julia B., Seattle No.3, and Schwatka; the next set of ways are empty; and the final one holds the barely-recognizable remains of the Mary F. Graff, Victorian, and Tyrrell.

    Some sources say that the unidentified hull is the Zealandian, but all of my informations says that the Zealandian was put on the ways at Whitehorse in 1904, and demolished there in 1931.

    Comments are often seen that these boats ended up here because construction of what is now the North Klondike Highway made them obsolete. However, they were abandoned here between 1903 and 1928, decades before the highway reached Dawson:

  • 1903: The Mary F. Graff was a wood and steel sternwheeler, built in 1898 by the Moran Brothers Shipyard for the Seattle-Yukon Transportation Company. She was 176.1 feet long, with a 35.4-foot beam and a 5.9-foot hold. Her gross tonnage was 718.68, registered as 409.06 tons. She had one deck, was a carvel build, with a straight head and square stern. She had accommodation for 16 passengers. The Mary F. Graff, in 1903, "has proved too large, unwieldy and awkward to handle well in low water..." and was never launched again after going on the ways that fall. More about the Mary F. Graff.

  • 1912: The Victorian was a wooden sternwheeler, built in 1898 at Victoria by John Todd for the Canadian Development Company Ltd.; she was intended for Stikine River service, but never worked there. She was 146.5 feet long, with a 33.4-foot beam and a 4.7-foot hold. Her gross tonnage was 716.39, registered as 455.15 tons. She had one deck, was a carvel build, with a sharp head and square stern. She was licenced for 75 first class passengers and 100 second class, with accommodation for 29. The Victorian was taken out of service in early 1909, and was moved to Dawson in 1912 to be used for parts for other boats. More about the Victorian.

  • 1917: The Schwatka was a wooden sternwheeler, built in 1898 at Port Blakely, Washington by Hall Brothers, for Canadian Pacific. She was intended for the Klondike trade, but was never worked by the CPR. She was 146.0 feet long, with a 30.0-foot beam and a 5.0-foot hold. Her gross tonnage was 484.11, registered as 291.76 tons. She had one deck, with a stem head and square stern. The freight deck was 9.0 feet high, the passenger deck 7.0 feet. She drew 4 feet of water empty. There were 14 rooms for crew, 26 for passengers, with 73 berths; the dining room seated 37. The Schwatka was pulled up onto the ways for the final time in the fall of 1917. More about the Schwatka.

  • 1922: The Seattle No.3 was a wooden sternwheeler, built in 1898 at Dutch Harbour by Moran Brothers, for the Seattle-Yukon Transportation Company. She was 151 feet long, with a 34.9-foot beam, and a 6.2-foot hold. Her gross tonnage was 548.12, registered as 326.45 tons. She has two decks, with a plain head and square stern. The final haulout of the Seattle No.3 was in the fall of 1922. More about the Seattle No. 3.

  • 1924: The Julia B. was a wooden sternwheeler, built in 1908 at Ballard, Washington by Cook & Lake, for the Merchant's Yukon Transportation Company. She was 158.7 feet long, with a 38-foot beam and 6-foot hold. Her gross tonnage was 835.33, registered as 511.08 tons. She had one deck, 2 masts, a sharp head and square stern. The Julia B. was put on the ways at the Dawson Shipyards in the fall of 1924 and was never launched again. More about the Julia B..

  • 1928: The Tyrrell was a steel and wood sternwheeler, built in 1898 at Vancouver by J. M. Bulger, for the Canadian Pacific Steam Navigation Company. She was intended for service on the Stikine River, but never worked there. She was 142 feet long, with a 30.2-foot beam and 4.8-foot hold. Her gross tonnage was 678.26, registered as 408.08 tons. The final date that the Tyrrell was used is still unknown to me, but was possibly as late as 1928. More about the Tyrrell.


Click on each of the photos below to greatly enlarge it. After the initial historic photo, they have been posted in chronological order, from 1990 to 2017.

The Julia B., the Seattle No. 3, and the Schwatka as they looked in about 1932. Photo by Claude Tidd. Click on the image to go to a larger copy on the Yukon Archives page.

August 1990

August 1990

August 1990

August 1990 - a stern wall and paddlewheel of the Schwatka.

August 1990

July 17, 2003

July 17, 2003

July 20, 2003

July 17, 2003 - the paddlewheel of the Schwatka.

February 11, 2015 - while guiding a tour following the Yukon Quest sled dog race, I took some of my guests to see the Sternwheeler Graveyard. The name of the Julia B. could still be seen on the bow of the boat.

September 23, 2016 - the Sternwheeler Graveyard and Yukon River as seen from the Top of the World Highway.

September 23, 2016

On September 23, 2016, I was extremely disappointed to see that, after nearly a century of most visitors being respectful beyond the taking of "souvenirs", vandals with paint cans have arrived in a big way.

September 23, 2016

September 23, 2016

September 23, 2016

September 24, 2016 - a broad view of the site as seen on the approach from Dawson.

September 24, 2016 - launching my drone (a DJI Phantom 3 Professional) for a look at the 3 most visible boats.

September 24, 2016 - a drone view of (from the river) the Julia B., Seattle No.3, and Schwatka.

February 9, 2017 - I was back at the Sternwheeler Graveyard while guiding another tour following the Yukon Quest sled dog race.

February 9, 2017 - Yukon Quest musher Katherine Keith departs Dawson in 6th place, with 12 dogs. She went on to finish the race in Fairbanks in 7th place.




More Information

2008 Yukon River Wreck Survey by John Pollack and Doug Davidge.

The Steamboat Graveyard - excellent photo album by Pete Cramp.

Sternwheeler Graveyard in 1939 - photo.