Friday, June 17, 2011

Yukon: Fort Selkirk

 The first stretch along the Yukon boasts a lot of historical monuments. Although most of them are just some rotting log cabins that nobody would look on twice in Germany, they are historical sites here in this relatively new country. We have already seen a fair share of rotting steam wheeler ships and collapsed cabins, but next on our route was Fort Selkirk, an abandoned trading post. Once a flourishing city on the banks of the Yukon it is now bypassed by roads and only accessible via the Yukon River - and therefore an abandoned, but nicely restored ghost town. Even the former keeper has passed away... But our guidebook mentioned camp sites, privies, shelter and even drinking water and therefore we were quite excited to get there.

But before Fort Selkirk we had to survive more adventures in an area suitably called Hell's Gate. There the Yukon widens into a myriad of little islands and channels - and lots of submerged tree trunks and sandbars that pose a serious danger to canoes coming down the river at a swift current of 15 km/h. The name Hell's Gate was given by the steam wheeler captains that feared that stretch as well. We found the right channel without problems but as soon as we were inside Hell's Gate the wind came up. Hiking this sort of wind does not pose any problem but in a canoe and shallow and fast flowing water this is a serious problem. Steering the canoe became almost impossible and we were nearly spinning around. We decided to make an emergency landing on one of the islands, but even getting out of the main channel into one of the side channels turned out to be a painful effort. I only started to relax once we had the boat out of the water and stable ground underneath our feet. Luckily bad weather has not lasted very long so far and within 2 hours of napping and reading under our tarp the wind had calmed down enough to continue.

Old school
Fort Selkirk was coming up soon at the confluence of the Yukon with the Pelly River and a very strong current was to be expected according to our guidebook. We were still 5 km away from it when the wind came up again - and after our scary experience that very day Adrian and I made a quick dash to the shore where a faint path up the banks miraculously showed up - and we even managed to land there without any problem! We were so happy that we decided to stay there instead of continuing on the Fort Selkirk and running the risk of missing it or not being able to land.

General store
Our fear turned out to be unfounded. The next morning we made an easy landing at Fort Selkirk despite the strong current and the high river banks that were needed for the steam wheelers to land. We spent some interesting hours visiting the beautifully restored houses and churches of Fort Selkirk that can easily function is film set for a Wild West movie. I even found a huge thick trash bag in the kitchen shelter that will make a wonderful rain skirt for the rest of the trip. We filled up with drinking water as the Yukon River is so dirty that you cannot drink it without long treatment. We learnt at one of the explanatory boards that during snow melt 1 litre of Yukon water can contain up to 845 gr of sediment! We realise that, too as the rasping sound of our boat in the water gets louder and louder every day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is surprising that the water is un-drinkable.
D