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A 1949 Steam Adventure
from Skagway to Dawson

Part 2 - Down the Yukon River to Dawson City

To Part 1 - Skagway to Whitehorse

The wheelhouse of the Yukon River steamer Casca in 1949     The Whitehorse Shipyards is seen in the midnight sun, and then next morning, we're on our way down the Yukon River. This is the highlight of the film, as the detail is superb. Again, there is little scenery and little footage of the details of the ship itself, but lots showing what the crew and locals are doing.

A Yukon River barge filled with lumber, 
crates, a new Willys Jeep truck and a bulldozer in 1949     Heading downriver towards Lake Laberge, the Casca is pushing a barge filled with lumber, crates, a new Willys Jeep truck and a bulldozer.

The BYN workboat 'Loon' unloads freight from a barge     The Loon pulls up alongside the barge and unloads freight while the boats are still moving.

 in 1949     Crossing Lake Laberge.

 in 1949     Passengers enjoy the slendid weather and scenery.

 in 1949     The Nasutlin pulls alongside, the crew tosses some freight across, a man jumps from one barge to the other...

 in 1949 ...and then she's gone. This particular section is where I wish that the film had sound - I love the sound of those big paddles slapping the water! Having no sound has been a big advantage in public showings, though, so we can discuss what's going on.

 in 1949     Once the work is done, life for the crew doesn't look like a bad life at all.

The old RCMP cabin above Big Salmon Village in 1949     This may be the NWMP post above Big Salmon.

Big Salmon Village in 1949     Big Salmon Village.

Loading cordwood onto a Yukon River steamboat in 1949     This scene is the beginning of a process seen several times - the crew putting out the plank to load wood for the boilers.

Loading cordwood onto a Yukon River steamboat in 1949     I've seen a lot of pictures of woodyards along the Yukon River, but nothing on this scale! Phyllis Simpson, daughter of famous Yukon River pioneer Happy Lepage, reports that this woodpile (about 400 cords) was about 14 miles below Carmacks.

Loading cordwood onto a Yukon River steamboat in 1949     The purser measures out the amount of wood he wants to take on...

Loading cordwood onto a Yukon River steamboat in 1949 ...and the loading begins.

The Hudson's Bay Company trading post at Fort Selkirk in 1949     The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) trading post at Fort Selkirk is seen here. This would have been a major stop, as Fort Selkirk was still an important centre in 1949. The highway from Whitehorse to Dawson City wasn't yet built, so the river was the highway in the summer. When the river froze, the Overland Trail was used.

A Yukon River sternwheeler with a load of silver ore in 1949     The sternwheeler White Horse with a barge loaded with bags of silver ore from the mines in the Mayo-Keno area, steams upstream to her namesake city. There, her cargo will go aboard a train to Skagway.

 in 1949     Life aboard ship...

 in 1949 ...while more cordwood is loaded.

 in 1949     Captain Malcolm Campbell joins the passengers for a while. Captain Campbell served on the Casca for many years, right to the end of her service in 1952.

 in 1949     A passenger talks to a local old-timer, who is heading home to an apparently remote location along the river. The backgroud hills and the width of the river make it likely that his home is in the Indian River area.

 in 1949     The crew launches a rowboat belonging to the fellow above, loads it with freight...

 in 1949 ...and off he goes.

 in 1949     The Klondike is at Stewart Island, where she will probably pick up a barge of silver ore. The sternwheeler Keno dropped her barges in a slough behind the town after bringing them down the Stewart River.

 in 1949     Erosion of the bank at Stewart Island goes on constantly. It's hard to say how many times the buildings have been moved - several were in danger of falling into the river (and an HBC house had fallen in) when I went down by canoe in 1997. My friend Henry Breaden, who worked on the boats, says that the bank eroded some 65 feet between 1942 and 1950.

 in 1949     The pause that refreshes...

 in 1949     Huskies are shown at several points along the river - this exuberant fellow at Stewart obviously enjoys boat day!

 in 1949     This large farm was 28 miles upriver from Stewart Island, at Kirkman Creek. In his guide to the Yukon River, Mike Rourke states that F. Laderoute had been farming there since 1898, and that Jack and Hazel Meloy moved to the farm in 1948 and remained until moving to Dawson in 1964.

 in 1949     We're heading upstream in this shot, as this barge is loaded with cars headed for Dawson, probably belonging to seasonal mining workers.

 in 1949     A deckhand and the engineer on the ship.

 in 1949     Sunset along the river.

 in 1949     There seems to have been enough fishing rods carried on the ship so that everyone could try their luck. The fish caught would usually be cooked for the passengers, so it would certainly have been to the company's advantage to encourage the sport.

 in 1949     Second Avenue, looking north from Queen Street. The Downtown Hotel Annex now occupies the empty lot to the right of Oak Hall, one of the buildings that has been restored by Parks Canada.

 in 1949     The long-abandoned Rochester Hotel. It's easy to see from the images in this film why, the very next year, Dawson City lost her status as capital of the Territory.

 in 1949     While the Yukon Order of Pioneers hall appears to be in good condition, it is now gone...

 in 1949 ...as is the Regina Hotel, one of the city's finest hotels in its day.

 in 1949     The Royal Alexandra Hotel was the best lodging in town. That's Fred "Digger" Cook's big 4-wheel-drive truck out front. It's now at the museum in Eagle, Alaska, I believe.

 in 1949     Front Street was still dominated by warehouses for the steamboats.

 in 1949     Here's one sad-looking bear cub.

 in 1949     The beautiful public school, designed by famous architect Thomas W. Fuller, burned in 1957. During his 2½ years in Dawson (1899-1902), Fuller designed 6 buildings, of which 5 still stand! There is also footage of a huge stock of cordwood stacked behind the school, to be used in the building's furnace.

 in 1949     Looking south on Third Avenue from the Post Office.

 in 1949     The very run-down Opera House was operating as the Nugget Dance Hall.

 in 1949     A dredge field up Bonanza Creek, with a working gold dredge seen in the distance. The Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation (YCGC) was the biggest operator, to the point that Dawson was to some degree a "company town".

 in 1949     YCGC Dredge #4 was busy churning up the gravel and extracting the gold.

 in 1949     I wonder what this little Dawson boy is doing now, 54 years later?

 in 1949     A Government Liquor Store, possibly in Grand Forks.

 in 1949     Someone was busy working in this Dawson greenhouse.

 in 1949     Then as now, the huge Dawson cemeteries were a tourist attraction.

 in 1949     The Yukon Crossing Roadhouse still looks pretty much like this.

 in 1949     Clichéd but appropriate, the film ends with a beautiful sunset.