|The R.C.M.P. were part of the Colour Party at this year's Remembrance Day ceremonies. Photo by Dan Davidson.|
Welcome to the online version of the November 27 Klondike Sun. The hard copy edition was 16 pages long, with 23 articles, a kids activity page and 16 photographs. We hope you enjoy this sample of life in Dawson.
by Dan Davidson
Any problem usually has more than one side. From the point of view of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Dept. of Indian Affairs - Northern Development, the issue of Dawson's sewage discharge into the Yukon River is simple: it's potentially hazardous to fish and it has to stop.
For those bodies that means the construction of a secondary sewage treatment system and, given the topography of the region that certainly means mechanical treatment.
That the cure will cost between 4 and 7 million to built and a quarter million a year to operate is not important.
From Dawson's point of view those financial realities are the starting point. According to city manager Jim Kincaid the whole package would be a neat trick if anyone could afford to pull it off. The town can't and it is only responsible for 15% of the capital costs. The territorial government can't, and it has to pony up the remaining 85%. After that, the citizens of Dawson can't, not without absorbing about a 30% increase in a utility bill which is already unrivalled in the territory.
So for Dawson the questions are equally simple: is this trip really necessary? How do we know? Is the danger real or just potential? What measurements prove it?
Kincaid says that the questions directed at DOF and DIAND led council to the conclusion that there wasn't much science behind the moral outrage which seems to be the main force driving the push to purify Dawson's sewage discharge.
So the town council decided to get some. Two Victoria companies, McLeay Environmental Ltd. and Enkon Environmental Ltd., have been carrying out just that kind of scientific review of the data over the last several months and will be presenting their findings to the Yukon Territorial Water Board when it meets to assess Dawson's request for water license amendments on December 12.
Don McLeay presented the same material to an audience of about 12 people in council chambers on November 19. The presentation was broadcast live over DCTV.
His conclusion is that the most conservative scenarios his six part study could construct showed there was "no significant toxic risk" either close to the sewer discharge pipe that runs out to the river from Church Street or further downstream.
Why are fish dying in the summer LC50 toxicity tests taken monthly from samples of river water? McLeay says they're not being poisoned, they're drowning. In the river fish are exposed to normally oxygenated water at temperatures of generally less than 7? C. By the time the test samples have been taken and shipped to the test labs in Vancouver, the water has been warmed to 15? and the bacteria in the sample have gone to work on the effluent, consuming nearly all the dissolved oxygen in the process. The test fish can't breathe.
McLeay further concludes that the most pressing danger to any fish in the Yukon River is probably the high proportion of suspended solids in the water, a naturally occurring condition which no amount of fiddling will ever cure.
The study carried out six tasks: Analysis of regional fisheries, Analysis of the waste water content, Analysis of the receiving water; Effluent Mixing and Dispersal; Toxicity of domestic sewage; Appraisal of toxic risk.
Dawson's discharge is primarily domestic waste, he says, and can in no way be characterized as being close to the "soup" that it has sometimes been called by intervening groups. McLeay has studied such "soup"; it occurs in areas of high industrial discharge.
There are no salmonid species spawning within range of the sewage outfall pipe, the study says. Indigenous fish breed elsewhere too, largely due to the suspended solids in the Yukon River. Fish on the Yukon near Dawson are just passing through on their way to the cleaner creeks.
Most of the year Dawson passes its tests, but it tends to fail in the summer, when there is an extra internal load on the system, when there is less mixing from the bleeders and heavy concentrations of effluent being dumped in from holding tanks, septic systems and recreational vehicles.
Jim Kincaid says that part of the answer to this problem is to put this material somewhere else. To that end, Dawson and the YTG are working on a sewage lagoon out near the Dempster Highway.
Dispersal studies show that the only possible danger occurs within 50 metres of the outfall, but here the plume of material is so small as to make it unlikely, and rapidly gets to be even less likely. By 1500 metres from the outfall the mix shows only .9% concentrations and by the time full dilution is achieved it is less than one-thousandth of one per cent.
The Yukon's Medical Health Officer, Dr. Timmermans, upbraided the federal departments from causing the waterfront of Dawson to be posted with toxic warning signs during the summer of 1997 and stated that there was no human health risk here. Since then, Jim Kincaid reported that Timmermans has said that the pools of standing water in the community during the summer pose a more serious risk than the sewage discharge.
McLeay concludes that there is no scientific evidence to support the need for secondary sewage treatment at this time. Long term monitoring could be conducted to keep ahead of the problem. The report proposes a regimen of regular studies which would run in three year cycles over the next nine years and cost an average of $100,000 per year, or slightly less than half the O&M costs of a secondary sewage treatment plant.
This study would include a wide range of tests not being done now as well as those already included in the water license requirements. It would expand the number of testing sites beyond the four used now, including two baseline sites above the outfall and two further downstream.
The suspect LC50 tests would be augmented with duplicate tests using oxygenated water, while a fish survey during the first year and every third year thereafter would keep track of the population.
Will this be enough to convince the Water Board to rescind the requirement to have secondary treatment on stream here within the next thirteen months? Stay tuned.
by Dan Davidson
There used to be seven permanent rural physicians in the Yukon. That number is down to four now, and two of them, the team living and working in Dawson City, are indicating that the workload is getting to be a bit much.
Doctors Suzanne Crocker and Gerard Parsons have prepared an open letter to their community, appearing in this edition of the Klondike Sun. In it, they indicate that, while they are happy living here and have no wish to move on, some features of their employment need to change fairly quickly or they will have to give that thought consideration.
The physicians here are paid on a fee for service basis and are not paid for being on-call all day several days a week. This adds up to working conditions which their letter says are not sustainable.
In an interview Suzanne Crocker says that Dawson is actually supposed to be a three doctor community, but the senior residents have had a lot of trouble attracting and keeping that third person due to the hours and situation. The same problems make it difficult for them to schedule in locums, temporary physicians who take over a doctor's practice to allow for travel, trips to the city, conferences and continuing education.
Crocker says that something - perhaps the mystique of Dawson, she's not sure - has made it possible for the couple to continue to find locums, but it is getting harder all the time.
"There's a novelty factor which attracts some docs up here, but there's really nothing else to attract them."
One of her main arguments is that these issues have already been dealt with in mostk it's acceptable to say that Dawson won't have doctors on call. I think it decreases the standard of care in Dawson."
The letter indicates that Dawson's physicians have been trying to open negotiations on this matter for the last two years without success. In her view the issue does not seem to be one which is given much priority by the Yukon Medical Association, which is the main bargaining agent for the territory's physicians. Crocker represents the remaining four rural doctors on the YMA, which negotiatk it's acceptable to say that Dawson won't have doctors on call. I think it decreases the standard of care in Dawson."
The letter indicates that Dawson's physicians have been trying to open negotiations on this matter for the last two years without success. In her view the issue does not seem to be one which is given much priority by the Yukon Medical Association, which is the main bargaining agent for the territory's physicians. Crocker represents the remaining four rural doctors on the YMA, which negotiates fee for service arrangements with the YTG.
While it has not yet taken an official stand on the issue of sustainable working conditions for rural physicians, Dawson's town council indicated on November 16 that it was essentially in support of the doctors' position and did not wish to see any reduction in services here.
"Dr. Parsons has put in - in the last 9 years in Dawson - more hours on-call than most physicians put in in a lifetime," Mayor Glen Everitt said. "It is a real issue."
Everitt says that he's seen all kinds of statistics intended to make the point that the Yukon is very well served right now, but as far as he's concerned the most reliable stats are the ones being produced by the medical staff right here in the community, and they indicate that there is a need to get a handle on questions related to sustainable workloads, on-call provisions and staff numbers.
Everitt intends to have both doctors address council on the issue as soon as it is convenient for them so that council can discuss it officially and take a position. Given the schedules of council and the immediate vacation plans of Doctors Parsons and Crocker, that will probably be early in the new year.
Council's long standing position over the years has been that Dawson needs more medical services, not less, so the eventual official statement is certain to be in favour of most of the doctors' arguments.
In the meantime both Everitt and MLA Peter Jenkins have indicated that they personally support Parsons' and Crocker's case.
The two doctors are about to get away from it all for a few weeks as they head south for about a month. South ... well ... Antarctica, actually, but that's another story.
by John Firth
The first annual Yukon River Quest is scheduled to start in Whitehorse, Yukon, on Wednesday, June 9, 1999, travel 460 miles across Lake Laberge and down the Yukon River to Dawson City in the Klondike Valley - home of the world's last great gold rush.
It will be the longest endurance marathon canoe race in the world.
The Yukon River Quest has it's roots in the two successful Dyea-to-Dawson races, held in 1997 and 1998, that attracted 108 competitors from Canada, the United States and Europe.
One of the organizers of that race, Skagway's Jeff Brady, can actually be credited with founding the new race. He informed interested competitors that Whitehorse resident John Firth would organize the new, shorter, annual event. Firth discovered he was organizing the race when people from Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and the Yukon started calling to ask him about the race.
"When there's that much interest in an event that doesn't even exist yet, you can't very well say 'no', says Firth, who went on to explain that the race route was dictated by economy and logistics. Some competitors had suggested started the race on Lake Bennett, approximately 80 miles south of Whitehorse.
"The cost of getting teams onto the southern lakes and ensuring their safe return was prohibitive. We could increase the safety margin and cut the cost by half, for both competitors and organizers, simply by starting in Whitehorse and heading north. It also makes for a faster, more exciting race."
The event will have a LeMans style of start, where competitors will run or walk from downtown Whitehorse to a gravel bar where they will load their gear into their canoe, put on their spray skirt (mandatory for crossing Lake Laberge) and start paddling. There will be an eight hour mandatory stop at Minto, approximately halfway, which is also the only point at which the competitors can receive outside assistance.
"For this first year, we will restrict the type of canoe to two-person recreational canoes. In the future, we will introduce more categories to appeal to a wider range of competitors." Professional marathon canoeists compete as individuals, teams of two or teams of six in most races. Their boats tend to resemble rowing shells rather than the traditional canoe that most people are familiar with.
A cash purse of $5,000 U.S. is what the organization hopes to offer in 1999, says Firth. This will be divided among the top three finishers in each of the men's, women's and mixed categories. The entry fee will be $400 U.S. Entries in 1999 will be limited to 60 teams.
"We have calculated that we should be able to break even on this event. We cannot afford to run an event like this in the red. If the entry fees and sponsorship money is less than we have budgeted for, we will scale back things like the purse, or the pre and post race goodies. But we will not compromise on safety along the river."
The race will be a production of Yukon Quest International, which stages the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest sled dog race between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska, each February.
"This will be easier than putting on the Quest. There's no trail to put in...it's already there."
They will be assisted by the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club.
A web site is currently being developed for the event. It should be on line before the end of November. An entry form, detailed information and the full set of rules will be on the site which organizers hope will be linked to other paddling industry web sites. The address will be www.polarcom.com/~riverquest.
John Firth can currently be reached at (867) 667-2144 for further details.
Dawson has always had a large group of creative people. But it has been disheartening having no place to call home for the display of the arts, or instruction in the arts.
A group has been formed called the Dawson City Arts Society. That there is a concern for the development of the arts in Dawson is shown when its membership has grown to 54 in the few short months since it was formed.
Enthusiasm is one thing but practical help goes a long way.
We therefore would like to give a most sincere Thank You to the following for their assistance to date.
This is not only practical help for us, but it gives such encouragement to the Society when shown such support.
Adapted from an article by Chuck Tobin
Originally published in the Whitehorse Star
John Gould didn't see combat duty in the Second World War.
His three brothers did, two having landed on the beaches of France, the other having gone through North Africa, up through Italy and finally into southern Germany.
Having completed his fighter-pilot training in Canada, John shipped overseas to England, then Scotland to continue training as a Hurricane pilot.
His brother Bill was captured in France, and was a prisoner of war for 11 months.
All four Gould boys returned home - a fortunate family.
Remembering Canadian wartime efforts, whether it be in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War or otherwise, is more than remembering the fallen. It's remembering all those who contributed, on the field of battle, in the support networks set up at home. It's remembering the families who gave so much.
Gould said what he remembers is his father once saying he hadn't expected to see Bill come back alive. He also remembers his captured brother's resistance to speaking of his wartime experience. Only after repeated inquiries from his mother did he agree with the corollary "Only this once."
Veterans don't like to speak of their experiences, for the memories of battle are not recalled with fondness, Gould explained.
A Yukon pioneer in his own right, Gould told a Whitehorse audience on the evening of November 9 that in the First World War, more than 600 men enlisted from the Klondike.
Dawson's Joe Boyle used his own money to put together a machine gun detachment, Gould pointed out.
Gould and several veterans were among those gathered at the Yukon Archives for a pre-Remembrance Day Ceremony.
Compiled by John Gould
We have dog problems to day, they also had these problems in 1898, the Klondike Nugget of November 5, 1898 speaks of...
There have been a number of inquiries at this office concerning the dog muzzling ordinance of which we notified our readers in the last issue. In answer we will particularize:
The Klondike Nugget of November 26,1898 also had a column titled Police Items. Some of these items are quite humorous:
A slack week; mostly common drunks.
C. Holgard "d and d" $25. and costs.
Wm. McKinney willingly contributed $25.00 and cost and now sits at the head of the table.
Dan McRae, combined too much Scotch with his already Scotch physique and was scotched $25.00 and costs.
J. O. O'Mellar, is ambidex- trous, digitally expert, a master of Hoyle, and so contributes $50.00 and costs to the public funds.
Miss Carrie Boyle, is not amiss excepting when she has boiled over. Too much liquid refreshment brings with it a headache, and a fine of $25.00 and costs.
R. Harold was inebriated and couldn't whisper - in fact was decidedly emotional and incoherent. The doctor prescribed and Harold took his dose. $5.00 and costs.
C. B. Brown plays with a slight percentage in his favor. The law took a hand, played a "sure thing" and Brown is $50.00 and cost poorer, but well assured it don't pay to buck the other fellows' game.
Isaac Lewis has committed a sad indiscretion, A man that will "swipe" a tent with the thermometer at 40 below deserves a month in the care of the striped-legged boys who live in log houses. So thought the Justice. The man acted ill advisably, he should have taken nothing less than a two story frame.
B. Fuller dislikes to have his sleep disturbed by the everlasting uproar of Klondike beasts of burden. J. P. Douglas, has a dog or rather had a dog much given to nocturnal peregrinations and lunar serenades. The results of the coming together of these opposing elements was an angry man rudely wrenched from the arms of Morpheus, who sallied forth from his domicile en-dishabille but armed with a gun.
The gun went off. Fuller says he fired in the air, but one thing is quite sure, the bullet and the dog met, formed a close and abiding friendship and Fuller paid $125.00 into the court next morning. One hundred went to salve the feelings of the bereaved Mr. Douglas, and twenty five to soothe the ruffled majesty of the law.
by Barb Hogan
(This is a slightly edited version of Barb's presentation to town council on November 16, 1998)
If you live in one of Dawson's older privately owned buildings and you suddenly have people snapping photographs and wanting to take measurements of the place, don't be surprised.
Barb Hogan has begun a new project, "The Dawson City Inventory" under a contract awarded to her by Heritage Branch of YTG . It is a co-operative effort between YTG, the City of Dawson, Parks Canada and the Dawson City Museum.
A team of four people, Barb, Glenda Bolt, John Gould and Greg Skuce will be gathering research and information concerning any standing buildings that were built before 1950 and are on the street grid pattern of Dawson.
They will be photographing and measuring the buildings and entering this information onto the Yukon Historic Sites data base. Details of period design, decorative ornamentation and unique features will also be recorded. A chronology of the legal title holders over the years as well as the saga of the building's historical and social use will be documented. A copy of this data base will reside in the Heritage Branch office in Whitehorse and also at the City Office in Dawson.
The last inventory was conducted in 1972. It is extremely important that the older structures that are still standing are recorded as fire, flood, relocation and demolition have all taken their toll over the last twenty-seven years.
Some of the numbers that have resulted from the initial investigation during the first week of the project are quite alarming. The inventory in 1972 consisted of over 400 buildings; the rough estimate at this early date is around 165 that are left. On Harper Street there were over twenty buildings documented in 1972, now there are less than ten.
As the research continues, the team will have a more accurate figure - likely by the time you read this.
This inventory can be used in future planning, by the development officer or planning board, and to determine historic use of specific areas - whether it was commercial, industrial or residential. Residents will be able to access the history or early design features the buildings may have had.
This winter the team will be contacting home owners for information and permission to photograph and measure their buildings. Records and historic photographs held at the Dawson Museum, Parks Canada, City Office, YTG land titles, and the Yukon Archives will be researched. Once spring arrives, the team will be out in the community recording the buildings with a completion date around the first week in July.
If any one has any questions or information please drop by the office - it's downstairs in the museum or give us a call at 993-5007 or 993-5736.
by Dan Davidson and the English 10 class
The gods of volleyball (Serve, Return, Spike, Set and Tip) must have been smiling on the Whitehorse high schools at the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament over the weekend of November 12-14.
All but one of the top spots were taken by Whitehorse teams in a series of hard-fought games that ran from Thursday night until Saturday afternoon.
Many of the Dawson teams made it to the finals but none came out with a gold.
Porter Creek Secondary School took the largest number of gold medals, beating their rivals in the Grade 7/8 boys, 9/10 girls and 11/12 girls divisions. Second place in those contests went to Robert Service School, the RSS Girls White team, and the Del Van Gorder School from Faro, respectively.
The Dawson Damsels had come out of the semi-finals with high hopes, as they had won all their previous games.
The Faro Grade 9/10 girls team captured the Grade 9/10 level gold, beating the Porter Creek squad and earning the only rural gold at the tournament.
Players from F.H. Collins Secondary School took the remaining two gold spots, beating RSS Squires in the boy's Grade 9/10 division and the Vanier Crusaders in the Grade 11/12 boy's contest. There seemed to be no love lost between the two Riverdale schools in that contest, which was the last of the day.
This tournament is the second event in a series of three which will culminate in the Yukon Volleyball Championships at the end of this week. This year a record 27 teams showed up to participate in the games in the three categories, with teams coming from Whitehorse, Carmacks, Faro and Mayo.
Thursday and Friday the teams had a chance to play all the teams in their pool. Then the winners from pool A played the second from pool B and so on in the semi-finals. After that the winners played for gold.
As usual the camaraderie and general goodwill of the event were assisted by a successful dance, organized by Mrs. Webster and Mr. Hartwick and d.j.'d by Michael Davidson, for all the players on Friday evening.
Elementary and primary students got to watch the games during the day on Friday. A healthy audience of students, parents and sports fans turned out to witness the competitions on Friday night and on through Saturday until the last games ended around 4 p.m.
It's important not to forget all the volunteers that help to put on this tournament and the people that helped with the concession, which was run by next year's Young Women Exploring Career's group to help finance their trip. They made over $700.
(Ed Note: A shorter version of this story, just winners and numbers, was prepared for the Whitehorse Star. Collecting the local impressions and fleshing out the colour commentary became an exercise for the English 10 class during the week after the tournament. Their contributions were edited into the original to make this story.)
by Dan Davidson
The fall fine arts season is off to a great start at the Robert Service School, as could be seen by the cultural evening presented on November 6. It was a musical evening in several senses, with school and extra-curricular programs coming together to entertain parents and friends.
Miss Rowe's band classes kicked off the evening with three progressively more complicated sets.
The grade 7 band, whose members first picked up their instruments in early September, proved to their parents that all those assorted toots and tweets did ad up to something when they put them all together in six short pieces. Most may have been nursery rhymes of some descriptions, but most of them were also variations on classical and traditional tunes that have been around for centuries. They were were all completely recognizable.
The Junior Concert Band (gr. 8-9) presented three more complex pieces of music: "Roko Poko", the first movement of "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik", and "Stand By Me". This is an accomplished junior group which has learned that it can master a variety of styles and voices if it just tries hard enough.
The Senior Concert Band (gr. 11-12) is made up of students who either need this credit or want it badly enough to attend classes which fall outside of the regular school day. The focus of their work this term has been more in the big band/jazz band area, which they demonstrated with lively version of "Night Train" and "Puttin' on the Ritz". The small group was augmented by Alex Hakonson's clarinet, Mr. Silver's energetic drums and Miss Rowe's saxophone, but everybody worked hard to pull off the set.
After the very tasty intermission included to break up the evening and raise travel money for the two groups, the members of the school choir took over the stage and presented a lively and amusing musical version of "Tom Sawyer". If the production was shorter and less ambitious than last spring's "Wind in the Willows", it was still well suited to the younger cast and shorter evening and was a good deal less stressful to mount.
Sam Clemens (Michael Davidson) and his alter ego Mark Twain (Amy Ball) were the hosts for this abbreviated version of the famous novel. They summarized the story, kept the audience up to date and generally acted as an amusing chorus to the event. The audience got a great kick out of Clemens' frustrations in dealing with the slower witted Twain.
Monica Fras was engaging as the impish Tom, and Sam Phelan-McCullough played Huck with the right air of abandon. Jenni Matchett's Becky Thatcher was a hit and you may imagine that the love duet between Tom and Becky was accompanied by quite a bit of audience tittering.
Anna Vogt provided a long-suffering Aunt Polly, with Kyla Kobayashi and Robyn Touchie filling out the family as Mary and Sid.
The musical focussed on just a few key areas of the story: the famous whitewashing of the fence, Tom's tooth and the graveyard scene which follows from it, troubles in school, the romance, the run-away boys, the horror of being trapped in the caves with Joe.
Each scene led to a song quite naturally. With piano accompaniment by Ms Gwen Bell, the young actors managed to fill the packed gym most of the time on Friday night. Parents, students and friends were bouncing along to the rhythm and having a great time.
"Tom Sawyer" played a repeat performance on Saturday. The audience wasn't as large, but this show was important, too, as it was video-taped by Troy Suzuki for later distribution to the cast members.
Aside from the forty youngsters who filled the stage for the performances, a host of people were backstage, helping with makeup and costumes and keeping the whole production moving along. Directors Grant Hartwick, Betty Davidson and Shelly Rowe had a lot of help. Particular mention should go to Kathryn Bruce, who organized the creation of the costumes, Bob McCauley, who put together the sets, and all the parents who made sure their children learned their lines and made it to rehearsals on time.
These productions wouldn't happen without all that community participation, and if they didn't happen, both the school and the community would be a lot duller.
Review by Michael Gates
A Klondike Christmas: Celebrating the Season in a Northern Frontier, Edited by Anne Templeman-Kluit.
129 pages. photographs and illustrations
With the Christmas season rapidly approaching, thoughts turn to new gifts to give and things to enjoy during the holiday. The usual decorations are brought, and familiar music is broadcast or played everywhere you turn. Many products are offered to eager consumers throughout the season. The question is: which are the most appropriate?
A Klondike Christmas is one of the offerings this year, and one that is well worth looking at. Anne Templeman-Kluit is a name familiar to many Yukoners. Having lived in the territory, and worked as a reporter and feature writer for the Whitehorse Star, she has built up a self-earned awareness and knowledge of the north. The author has published articles in many national and regional publications and wrote Discover Canada: Yukon.
This anthology consists of 40 short items all related to the celebration of Christmas in the Klondike. The span a period of time from 1882-1926, but most of them centre around the period of the Klondike Gold Rush. Some of the items are authored by well-known authors such as Robert Service and Jack London. Some of the articles are extracted from Larger books published near the turn of the century. Included are newspaper articles and poems. Despite the inclusion of standards such as The Cremation of Sam McGee the average reader won't be familiar with most of the items included, so they need not fear being bored by the selection.
The chosen articles represent the personal reflections and experiences of Christmas in our isolated and peculiar landscape. This makes the at the same time both relevant and fresh. reading. Each article is illustrated with a drawing by Darlene Fletcher, a map, or historic photograph. Included with some are interesting northern recipes including bannock, bear roast, beaver tail and beans or sourdough starter. Templeman-Kluit also includes a brief note at the end of each contribution explains its origin. A short bibliography at the back of the book provides the curious reader with the source for each article, should they want to read further from the sources.
The book is an attractive offering, with a pleasing hard cover illustrated with a Ted Harrison painting of a Yukon Christmas. The layout of the text is pleasing and easy to read. Due to the shortness of each contribution, these can easily be read during quiet moments , which are frequently all that is available during the busy Christmas season.
If Christmas is a special time of year, then Christmas is still more so, even today. These articles reflect the product of a unique era in Canadian history, different from the traditional celebration because of geography and circumstances. To readers anywhere in Canada, this should make Templeman-Kluit's book an interesting addition to their holiday reading. I recommend it.
by Michael Gates
"How on earth did he do it? I'm truly humbled" said Bill Berry . It was the second day of our river journey . We had just come some fifty miles up the Fortymile River from the Fortymile Bridge and had arrived at Franklin Gulch, which had been mined for gold, ten years before the Klondike Gold Rush. Bill was marveling over his famous Uncle Clarence Berry's memoirs of mining in that area , in less than ideal conditions, late in the last century.
It was here that Bill's great uncle, Clarence Berry, ( or C.J. as he was known) , a fruit farmer from Fresno, came to make his fortune. Bill was making the pilgrimage from his California home, to the site of C. J.'s first gold mining attempt. The site is now overgrown with heavy vegetation, and the few derelict cabins located there are now in a serious state of decline. Their presence conjures up faint echoes of 110 years of life and mining on one of Yukon's and Alaska's historic rivers.
Bill is the Berry family historian and a big champion of his uncle's accomplishments. Although Clarence worked hard at Franklin Gulch, he didn't make any money here to speak of, and only later, after nearly starving to death, did he go on to make not one, but several fortunes. Clarence ended up with some of the richest claims on Eldorado Creek, but then, that's another story. That day, we were content to walk around the now-abandoned gold camp and absorb the atmosphere, and view the clear waters of Franklin Creek.
This trip had started as an idea more than a year before in conversations with both Bill and Phil Lind, from Toronto. . Plans were made over the winter to make a short trip into the Fortymile to visit the sites that their ancestors had mined the century before. At the last moment, ill health prevented Phil and his father, Walter from joining us on this trip. While on the river, we also planned to take pictures, fish for grayling, and, most important, pan for gold.
Also on the trip was John Gould, a well known local, second generation, placer miner and authority on the early mining in the Klondike. John was keen to visit many of the famous bars (gold mining bars that is) along the river, and add to his already voluminous knowledge of the region. John came equipped with a video camera and more important, a sparkling sense of humour. Throughout the journey, he contributed wit and wisdom. Somewhat like a colour commentator, he was able to put a human face upon the seemingly endless miles of shoreline and sandbars.
Having done extensive research for the preparation of a book published four years ago (Gold at Fortymile Creek UBC Press 1994 ), I found that I was knowledgeable of the places, names and events, but at the same time embarrassed that I had written about a place of which I was woefully lacking in first-hand knowledge. I wanted to see the river and satisfy myself that I had published something which did justice to it.
In the end, we visited most of the sites we had planned and had a very good time too. Much of the success for the trip is due to our hosts, Larry and June Taylor, long time residents of O'Brien Creek, a Fortymile tributary. Larry, who acted as our tour guide for the several days of our adventure, proved an excellent choice due to his knowledge of the river and his experience with the people who live along the watershed.
The Fortymile was declared a national wild and scenic river on the Alaska side by the American government almost twenty years ago. It is a formidable piece of water and not one to be taken lightly. The historic accounts of the river are peppered with descriptions of those who lost their lives, or had a near miss, in its treacherous waters. The Fortymile is not an easy piece of water, compared, in my limited experience, with the mild-mannered Yukon.
Checking the pamphlets provided by the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM (the American government agency responsible for the US. portion of the river) , you will find that there are a number of rapids on the Fortymile. Reading about them in a government brochure is not the same as experiencing them first hand, however, and as we were to learn, one of the rapids was deceptively misplaced on the map, which could prove to be deadly for the unsuspecting river traveler. The formidable Cleghorn riffle is not mentioned in the brochure, while the less challenging deadman's riffle is. We were fortunate to be with Larry; he knows the river well and got us safely through these hazards.
Our first day on the river gave us an immediate initiation to the challenges of the Fortymile. Within a short distance from the Fortymile bridge, which crosses the river on the way to Eagle, is the Falls. Described in BLM brochure as "class II to III rapids" . The scanty details provided did not really prepare us. What we encountered was two hundred metres of churning whitecaps and standing waves. The closer we got to them, the more my stomach churned, and the bigger the waves became. Larry, our capable navigator, eyed them carefully before entering, and displayed an uncanny knack for finding the calm pools within the wild water, and within thirty seconds, which seemed to me to stretch out into several minutes, we were through. Before we were finished, we would pass through them several times, and, by the end, it seemed like old hat.
The wildlife is abundant on the Fortymile River. The second day rewarded us with sightings of moose, in one case, a cow and two calves, as well as a variety of birds. Coming around one bend in the river, Larry drew our attention to a pair of peregrine falcons swooping and diving in the sky above us. The reason for their appearance became immediately apparent, and for a few minutes, we witnessed a display of aerial acrobatics which I will never forget.
As we came up the river, our motor had startled wildlife along the shore. We had just frightened a small flock of ducks into the air when the peregrines appeared. The ducks must have been aware of them too, for they barely cleared the surface of the water, wings nearly touching the surface, and flew a low-level pattern upstream. The falcons have a peculiar way of swooping and diving that I soon came to recognize . These birds have a fearsome way of attack, and I watched as one of the pair went into a bullet-like free fall. Unfortunately for the falcons, there was no dinner on this occasion, although they followed us for some distance. We encountered others along the river who treated us to similar aerial displays.
Hidden behind the dense shoreline vegetation are numerous abandoned cabins which are slowly being reclaimed by nature. In one, recently abandoned site, we found a small memorial to a loved one who had drowned in the grand canyon of the Fortymile, the last and most treacherous stretch of the river, on the Canadian side. At this cabin, we found several examples of neatly crafted twig furniture, all carefully shaped and joined so that even today, they provide a good place to sit.
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