We’re in Canada now, so we have to change our watches to Pacific Coast Time.
It’s sulky weather today.
We take a look in the Visitor Reception Center where we find an exhibition about steamers with a water wheel travelling the Yukon in older days.
Across the road we find the Northern
Territories Visitor Center.
The friendly man at the desk is half Eskimo, his mother was an Inuit and his father turned out to be Danish. A small world, so it seems, he even visited Belgium ! We will have to revise our opinion about who’s ever heard about our country. Apparently, Belgium has had more visitors than we expected.
Anyway, he tries to convince us to do
the Dempster Highway. It starts northwards somewhere outside Dawson and
ends in Inuvik. 735 kilometers and only one supply facility, about halfway.
He shows us a video documentary about the journey to Inuvik, amazing !
The road is open all year round. During the summer, the rivers can be
crossed by means of a ferry, in wintertime you just drive over the ice.
Only at the beginning and the end of the winter, in times of frost and when
the thaw sets in, Inuvik is unreachable. No one can cross the river by
We don’t have the time to go to Inuvik this time, but we promise to do it the next time we visit Dawson.
The weather is improving. There is still a lot of wind, but the sun breaks through and the streets are already drying. Now, we have a good chance to cross the streets without getting dirty shoes.
After lunch we leave Dawson City direction Bonanza Creek.
A small road, 13 kilometers long brings us to a deserted place in the hills. Along the road there is plenty of rubble originating from the mining industry.
This region is also called ‘The White Channel’, because of the white rocks coming visible after digging off the hills.
Actually, this valley is completely devastated, excavated, we drive in a huge opencast mine. Scrap of old trucks, bulldozers and digging machines has been left behind between the gloomy trees and shrubs that try to find a way to grow in this rubble.
The road leads to a large parking place. We are standing in front of the Klondike dredge, also called “Historic Dredge No. 4”. It’s an enormous floating dredging machine to mine gold and that explains the weird condition of this valley.
We are just in time for a guided tour in
side the dredge.
Sue, our guide, looks like a heavy-weight wrestler, especially when she holds one of the heavy metal sieves above her haed. We are in turn overloaded with technical details and lots of figures about weights, distances and volumes which we can hardly imagine. The ‘huge washing-machine’, as she calls the mean part of the dredge, looks impressive. It’s a 3 meter wide cylindrical tunnel in an inclined position. The side is perforated with holes becoming smaller to the end. When turning around this tube, the rocks are sorted according to size. The gold nuggets are mostly smaller than a nut. Even the dust is filtered in coconut mats for not loosing a gram of gold. The machine was running day and night to be cost-effective. It was operated and maintained by 4 workers. You could hear and even feel as far as Dawson the rasping of the dredge against the rocks.
Sue tells that the prosperity of the city was mainly owed to this dredge.
“Most cities here were boom, boost and ghost towns, but not Dawson. Thanks to THIS dredge.”
Every striking phrase is followed by a searching glance of our wrestling champion. I do my best not to show a disbelieving face, I don’t think a would survive it …
“You know”, she continues her speech, “this is MY dredge. THIS is MY dredge. This is also YOUR dredge, if you’re Canadian. The reconstruction is paid with YOUR tax money.”
Everything indicates that Belgians and other foreigners better not ask provoking questions.
Every guiding tour must be a bit of cheering up for Sue. Her husband is gold-digger since 1966. She even assisted him by burning the coconut mats to take out the gold dust. Anyway, she knows what she’s talking about and I would not dream of it to contradict her …
We drive back to Dawson. On the way we feel an inner urge to take a ride on the Dempster Highway for a few kilometers. So, we turn right over Klondike River, heading to the high plains.
After about ten kilometers on the Dempster Highway we decide to turn back.
The rain is coming down in buckets. We would have to drive another 40 kilometers to come on the high plains. That’s too far and besides there is nothing to see in such a weather.
Anyway, we have got the idea how it feels to go to the end of the world. Certainly with signs like :
“Next services 370 km”.
“NOTICE : There are no emergency medical services on the Yukon section of the Dempster Highway. Drive with care.”
“Eagle Lodge 363 km, Inuvik 735 km”.
We’re back at the start of the Dempster Highway. Our Chevy gets a rinse in a local car-wash. For 2 dollars I can clean it with a high-pressure spraying pistol into the smallest holes.