RubiKon Adventures

Tales and travels of "GrizzLee", "Looksha Lori" & "Yukon Johann"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

RubiKon Quest 2012: Fort Selkirk - Days 9 & 10 on the Yukon River

Days 9 & 10 : July 5th and 6th, 2012

This is the law of the Yukon
And ever she make it plain
Send not your foolish and your feeble
Send your strong and your sane
~Robert Service

Leaving Merrice Creek was hard. The morning was warm and the bugs were virtually non-existent. There was something of magic in the air this morning. The air was deathly silent save for the morning songbirds. We found the old telegraph cable in the trees behind the cabin.
Jurgen, took off pretty early and he floated away down the magical river in the quiet peaceful morning.
Awe, morning cocoa and a nice camp fire.
Of into the water towards hotchiku rocks, where we would meet up with a family from California that dumped one of their 2 canoes in the 5 finger rapids. They lost some of their gear, including their tent poles and stakes... but not their spirit. They were determined to press on and finish the trip. We wished them well.
A quick stop in Minto to try on a new rack. These were extremely heavy.
Heading back on the river toward Minto Bluff and Thom's Cabin.
Up on the bluff we saw a couple of herds of Mountain Goats grazing.
Approaching some volcanic rock formations along the river.
This was typical scenery as we paddled this day.
Lori approaching the basalt cliffs where the Pelly river joins the Yukon river.
As we arrive at Fort Selkirk, the volcanic basalt cliffs become more and more apparent.
The cliffs wrap around and follow the shore of the Pelly river here.

Fort Selkirk is a former trading post on the Yukon River at the confluence of the Pelly River in Canada's Yukon. It is a World Heritage Site. It is home to the Selkirk First Nation (Northern Tutchone). Fort Selkirk is significant for historical and geological reasons. Archaeological evidence shows that the site has been in use for at least 8,000 years. A Hudson's Bay Company trading post was established in 1848. The village was a well known trading destination among the natives. Resenting the interference of the Hudson's Bay Company with their traditional trade with interior Athabaskan First Nations, Chilkat Tlingit warriors attacked and looted the post. Fort Selkirk was essentially abandoned by the mid 1950s after the Klondike Highway bypassed it and Yukon River traffic faded. From a geological standpoint, the shore directly across from the fort is formed of volcanic basalt cliffs. It is believed that the edge of the intercontinental ice sheets ended here, as lava slammed into the glaciers of previous ice ages.

Many of the buildings have been restored and the Fort Selkirk Historic Site is owned and managed jointly by the Selkirk First Nation and the Yukon Government's Department of Tourism and Culture. There is no road access. Most visitors get there by boat.

Fort Selkirk holds many clues to the history of not only the first nations people, but also of the gold rush and volcanic history. There are some volcanoes nearby as well as old cemeteries.  Unlike many historic towns, the buildings here have not been rebuilt, in fact some of the oldest structures in the Yukon can be found here. In some of the buildings, wall paper from old newspapers circa 1906 can be seen. There was a telegraph station here at one time. On a quiet summer's evening, one can easily imagine what this town may have been like. The faded signs, shaky structures and dust tell a story all on their own. If you are fortunat enough to meet one of the elders, you may get a first hand account of what life was like in Fort Selkirk during the heyday of the Stern Wheelers. 
Old churches and buildings on the banks of Fort Selkirk.
Old school house. Sometimes used as a hospital.
An old Taylor & Drury General store.
Some of the furniture can still be seen here.
This was inside one of the work sheds.
An old truck
Transmission made in Seattle... where we live.
Scenes like this make for some profound thinking.
An old water pump.
This is a Ptarmigan protecting her brood. She is attempting to lead me away from her chicks. One of the very few visitors we saw in the village.
An old trunk, left behind in a fallen in cabin.
The village as one looks north with the Yukon river to the right.
A first nation's idea of a joke. "Warning, Electric Fence" :-)
Some spent their life here.
The fireweed is the official flower of the Yukon.
A beautiful sunset to cap off our evening.
Flowery meadows around the cabins.

We spent 2 days at Fort Selkirk for a couple of reasons. 1) to relax and rest from paddling and 2) to spend some time interacting with the natives and the village. Unfortunately, all the natives were gone to get supplies, save for one lone caretaker.

Fort Selkirk is a magical place and any traveler paddling the river should take some time to immerse themselves in history and who knows, maybe, just maybe one can hear the ghosts of the past roaming the town.

Read about our previous days adventures on the river here:
RubiKon Quest 2012: Crossroads of Adventure - Days 6,7 & 8 on the Yukon River

Read on for more as we head farther north with mystical glacier rivers joining the Yukon, floods and stories of fellow paddlers who weren't so lucky and a BBQ Steak Dinner!! Yes, the Yukon River is not to be taken lightly.
RubiKon Quest 2012: Travels To Kirkman Creek - Days 11 & 12 on the Yukon River

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