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An Explorer's Guide to Fort Selkirk, Yukon

Dateline: May 15, 2005. Last update: March 4, 2023

Explorer's Guides to Northern Communities

    Fort Selkirk is located on the Yukon River at 62°46'N. 137°23'W., just below the mouth of the Pelly River and about halfway between Whitehorse and Dawson City. In the days when the Yukon River was the primary highway in the Yukon, Fort Selkirk was a vibrant trading community. When highways across the land replaced the sternwheelers, however, the town was bypassed, and can now only be accessed by boat or airplane.

    Over the past few years, the Territorial government has done a commendable job of restoring many of the abandoned buildings - churches, stores and homes. Over 40 strctures and several cemeteries remain at the site, dating from 1892 into the 1950s when sternwheeler traffic ended. Visited by few people other than canoeists heading for Dawson now, there has been no commercial development at the site, and it thus offers a unique look back at our history, with the only sign that you are still in the 21st century being the tents at the north end of town.

    Fort Selkirk Historic Site is co-owned and co-managed by the Selkirk First Nation and the Yukon Government. New exhibits were installed at two interpretive centres in 2001. The primary centre, known as the Stone House, was built by government telegraph operator Charlie Stone in 1935 and is intended as a reception area to orient visitors to the site. The second centre is located in the reconstructed Big Jonathan House, originally built by the Yukon Field Force as a barrack in 1898 and later used as a home by a former Selkirk chief. Here displays focus on the heritage of the Selkirk First Nation. The two interpretive centres are over half a kilometre apart and anchor the ends of the linear, kilometre-long site along the bank of the Yukon River. Archaeological evidence indicates human use and occupation dating back as far as 7,000 years at the site, and up to 11,300 years in the region.

    Other work at Fort Selkirk includes the reconstruction of fences, windows and doors, and the installation of an electrical system featuring "run-of-the-river" hydro and solar power at the work camp area and Stone House.

Back to Fort Selkirk on Canada's Parks Day
A journal with 47 photos from a July 2017 (Parks Day) visit.

Exploring Fort Selkirk
A journal with 52 photos from a July 2013 (Parks Day) visit.

Fort Selkirk Walking Tour
An 18-page pdf booklet from Yukon Heritage.

Yukon Field Force Graves at Fort Selkirk
n June 1900, with the gold rush largely over, the Yukon Field Force was recalled, leaving behind their buildings, and the graves of 3 members in Fort Selkirk.

A Look Back in Time - The Archaeology of Fort Selkirk
A beautifully-illustrated 32-page pdf report on the 1988-1989 work by the Selkirk First Nation, the Yukon Heritage Branch and Yukon College.

Big River Enterprises - no longer in business as of August 2007. There is currently no way for highway travellers to reach Fort Selkirk.

A Northern Steam Adventure
This extensively-illustrated article summarizes a "home movie" shot by a tourist travelling from Skagway to Dawson City in 1949 - a stop is made in Fort Selkirk.

Fort Selkirk by Canoe
This article describes a trip down the river, with special mention and photos of Fort Selkirk.

Fort Selkirk designated a Yukon Historic Site
In August 2010, Fort Selkirk became the seventh Yukon Historic Site and the largest one designated so far.

Steamboat Slough and the Grave of Robert Dougan
Gord Allison has posted an extremely detailed history of this roadhouse and steamboat wintering location about 4 miles upriver from Fort Selkirk.

Robert Campbell
Campbell buit the original Fort Selkirk for the Hudson Bay Company in 1848, but four years later it was sacked by a group of Chilcat men from the coast. An article in the "Perthshire Diary."

Yukon River
A guide to the river, from history to tourism and environmental issues.

Clicking on the aerial view of Fort Selkirk below will open an interactive map at Bing Maps, in a new window.
Fort Selkirk, Yukon