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Edward Lakenan runs Miles Canyon and White Horse Rapids, 1898

Klondike Gold Rush

Miles Canyon

Mexico Weekly Ledger (Mexico, Missouri) - August 14, 1898

    The following letter from Edward Lakenan, brother of Joseph Lakenan, of this city, will be of interest to our reader:

    YUKON RIVER, BELOW SIXTY MILE CREEK, ON BOARD THE "UNCLE SAM," June 8, 1898. - DEAR JOE: - We are floating along so nicely that I concluded to begin a letter before we reached Dawson. We have been nine days on the trip, and would have made it about a day and a half quicker had we not been stopped by the ice on Tagish and Marsh lakes. We have had an elegant trip, and made over 100 miles a day part of the way.

    Well, of course, you all want to know how I made it through the Canon and Rapids, and as it is all over now, and we got through all right, I don’t mind telling you how it happened. We landed on the right hand bank, just above Miles' Canon, took down the mast pole, arranged our load, and decked the boat over with canvas. We were travelling with two men who built their boat where we did ours - nice fellows - but one of them was a little nervous on rough water. Harvey and I took their boat through the Canon first, and landed between there and White Horse Rapids, then went back and brought our boat that far.

    The current is very swift here, and the water roars and tosses in quite a leckless manner. At times the bow would shoot up in the air and then dip down under the water, but "Uncle Sam" (that’s the name of our boat) floated well and dipped very little water.

    This Canon is three-fourths of a mile long, but it doesn't take long to go through. There is very little danger in ranning thie Canon with good men in a good boat.

    From the foot of Canon each party took their own boat down and landed down the famous White Horse Rapids. We all went down, and after carefully inspecting the rapids, decided to run the boats through just as they were. The danger in these rapids lies in running onto the rocks, although at the foot, where all the water is crowded between two narrow rock walls, it looks like a small boat would be swamped.

    The same three of us who brought our boats through the Canon, boarded the "Uncle Sam" and started down stream like a racer, but instead of trying to check the speed, two rowed as hard as they could pull, while the other steered. We went throngh all right, without taking a gallon of water, but, of course, everything in the boat would have been drenched had we not put the canvas on, for at one time the water appeared to be six or eight feet higher than the boat, on either side. Aside from getting wet ourselves, no damage was done, and we didn't mind that. We didn't take anything out of the boat except the mast pole. Our load weighs something over two tons.

    Just as we got our boat landed below the rapids, we saw sacks of goods and other articles floating past us, which came from a boat not two minutes behind us, and was wrecked on a rock just above the narrow place in the rapids. We started right back after the other boat, and saw two men hanging onto the boat that was stuck on a rock in the middle of the current. The other one was thrown forward when the boat struck. He was seen going throngh the rapids, but nothing could be seen of him afterwards.

    Both banks of the river were lined with people, and we were trying to devise some plan to rescue the men on the wrecked boat, when it swung around off the rock and dashed down through the rapids. When it drifted near the shore one of the men jumped off, and was drowned. The other one stayed with the boat, which soon lodged on an island, and was taken off in a small boat.

    Seeing all this made us feel a little bit shaky about running the other boat through, but we landed her safely below the rapids. Some are so careless as to shoot the rapids without going ahead to look. We knew that the rock was there before starting the first boat through, and took particular pains to avoid it.

    Many packed their outfit around, or bad the tramway company move it for them; others gave a pilot $25.00 to run their boat through, and still others came through as we did.

    Had a good wind and made fast time across Lake Labarge, and since leaving there the current has been good, with fair winds for sailing part of the way. We have seen many wrecked and stranded boats all along the route, but have been particularly fortunate ourselves. "Uncle Sam" is cheered and saluted all along the route, and we are getting tired answering the question: "How are you making it with Spain?"

    We stayed at Stewart River last night, and are now about 15 miles above Dawson, floating on a current that moves us about four miles an hour. We have taken most of our meals on the boat. We made a little deck over the bow of the boat, where we set the stove and cook and eat while traveling. We do this partly to avoid the mosquitoes. They do not bother on the water, but on the land they fully come up to my expectations.

    Will stop for the present and finish this letter in Dawson.

    June 9. - Got in last evening at 6 o'clock, just in time to see the first steamer come up the river - not from St. Michaels, but below Circle City - where it has been in the ice all winter. It is the "May West," which left San Francisco for this place last August.

    I am writing this a little at a time, as there is no chance to send it out before the boats can get to St. Michaels.

    Prices are falling every day here as the boats arrive from Bennett, and I look for them to be quite reasonable this summer; therefore Nels, Harvey and I sold the principal part of our provisions on speculation. We were ahead of the big rush, but should have been here a few days sooner, and would have gotten better prices. Staple articles, such as every miner has in his outfit, are cheap. Here are some of the prices we got: Flour $12.00 to $14.00 per hundred pounds, sugar 75 cents per pound, coffee 65 cents per pound, hams $1.25 per pound, bacon 35 cents per pound, condensed milk $1.00 per can, baking power per can, butter $2.50 per pound. Eggs are in great demand at $5.00 per dozen.

    Harvey, Nels and one of the boys we helped through the rapids, have gone up to Eldorado Creek for a few days. Nick and I are watching camp.

    The weather is quite warm here (90°). The rivers are falling fast, and some of the old-timers are already predicting that the Yukon will be so low that but few steamers will come up from St. Michaels. No mail has reached here from the outside since February.

    A man just passed here selling New York daily papers, date May 1, price $1.00. Very little stamped money is used here. Everybody carries a sack of dust, which is weighed on a basis of $16.00 to the ounce.

    The spring clean up is about over and I hear that it fell below expectations, except Bonanza Creek, which seems to be very rich. Wages are still $1.00 to $1.50 an hour. I like the looks of the place here, am feeling well, and the next thing in order is to find a gold mine, but whether it will be in this district, or somewhere else, I can't tell at this writing.

    Must stop now and write to Thede. With love to all, I am

                    Yours truly,

                        E. M. LAKENAN.

    Direct to Dawson, N. W. T. via Victoria.