The Alsek is a mighty river, and not one to be challenged by the faint of heart. It's fed by the massive glaciers of the St. Elias Mountains in Kluane National Park. Here lies an incredible landscape of towering mountains, active glaciers and broad valleys. The Alsek is one of the park's most precious jewels. Like a lot of places in the Yukon, it had many names. Its native name was first reported by Russian explorers in 1825. As early as 1786, a French explorer, LaPerouse, called it the Riviere du Behring. In 1886, Frederick Schwatka named it the Jones River after one of his expedition's sponsors. Schwatka had a habit of honoring those who paid his way and seldom cared if a geographical feature had another name. At one time, the U.S. geographical survey called it the Harrison River after a U.S. president. The Canadian government finally got its act together and officially restored the original name, Alsek, in 1891.
From its origin as a meandering stream at the confluence of the Kaskawulsh, Dust and Dezadeash rivers, the Alsek flows for 250 km across the Yukon, the northern top of British Columbia and the Alaskan panhandle, emptying into the Pacific Ocean at Dry Bay in Alaska. This is a region of big-water rapids, canyons, glaciers and floating icebergs. On its way through the park, the river passes through a remote wilderness area, an undisturbed natural habitat for species of both Pacific Coast and Arctic plant life. The largest population of Grizzly bears in the world lives here.
The Alsek River contains many significant natural features which have resulted from the action of water, wind and glaciers on the landscape. Many areas of exceptional natural beauty and some of Canada's most important northern ecosystems are found here. The Lowell Glacier, one of the largest in the world, forms a large section of the Alsek Valley wall and calves, with tremendous force, into the Alsek below.
Small numbers of native people have inhabited the Kluane region for perhaps 10,000 years. Ancestors of the Southern Tutchone arrived in the vicinity about 4,500 years ago.
Some of the traditional hunting, fishing and trading camps, such as the village of Klukshu, just outside the park, have been used for more than 1,000 years. In the 1890's, during the Klondike Gold Rush, the first white men came into the area from the south, travelling over the Dalton Trail to Dalton Post and other points north. Some stayed to prospect and mine the Kluane Ranges for a period at the beginning of the century.
In 1986, a 90-kilometer section of the Alsek River was designated a Canadian Heritage River. A plaque commemorating the dedication is located in Haines Junction.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
It was a magical time - a time during the endless Vancouver summer to showcase the sights, sounds and pleasures of the Yukon. They called it Expo '86, a six-month world fair about transportation and communications. It featured exhibits from fifty-four countries and countless corporations.
Expo '86 was opened by Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on May 2, 1986. The largest single-day attendance was a whopping 341,806 on Sunday, October 12.
As someone lucky enough to spend time on the False Creek fair grounds, I can say the Yukon Pavilion was among the most colourful and accessible. The front of the dramatic Yukon Pavilion formed an open-air theatre with a brilliant 3-D northern sky backdrop designed by famed Yukon artist Ted Harrison and looking every bit like a colourful Harrison painting.
Mirrored panels helped capture the magical qualities of the Northern Lights. Surrounded by artefacts from the Klondike Gold Rush, the entranceway also served as a stage for entertainers.
Overhead hung a replica of the sister plane to Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. The bush plane "Queen of the Yukon", owned by aviation pioneer Clyde Wann, was a striking symbol of the role played by aircraft in opening up the Yukon.
Inside, the Yukon's transportation story unfolded. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 came alive with the tales of the men and women who laboured to locate the gold in the valley of Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks. Visitors could pan for gold nuggets and, as I did, obtain a passport to take part in the Great Yukon Treasure hunt of 1986. Nope, I did not find the treasure, but that's another story.
Exhibits also showed the awesome story of building the Alaska Highway. The pavilion's main attraction was a stunning eighteen projector audio-visual show. From the ice-covered peaks of Kluane National Park to the wilderness of Dempster Highway, the Yukon's history and natural splendours unfolded to the delight of countless thousands of potential Yukon visitors.
The Yukon's native culture and history was highlighted through ancient artefacts from Old Crow. Also on display were traditional and modern dog sleds, including high-tech, long-distance racing sleds.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
News that glaciers in Greenland are surging from their landlocked base to the sea brings to mind a similar phenomenon that has shaped the ice fields in the St. Elias Mountains. The Steele, Hubbard and Grand Pacific are glaciers known for erratic behavior.
From its source at Mount Logan in the Yukon, the Hubbard Glacier extends 76 miles to the sea, at Yukutat Bay in Alaska. In 1986 it advanced so rapidly that it trapped seals, porpoises, and other marine animals when a new lake was formed by the blockage of the bay. Hubbard’s surge was unprecedented in modern times, and is still underway. The glacier had been moving slowly for years. Now scientists say its current surge pattern was set off by the movement of other nearby glaciers. The Steele glacier is located on the north side of Mount Steele in the Yukon. It galloped for several months in 1966, and moved more than 1.5 billion tonnes of ice at about 50 feet a day. The Lowell is another surging glacier which usually ends at the edge of the Alsek river. Ice burgs calving off the glacier tumble into a wide spot in the river called Lowell lake. But every so often this glacier rushes forward dramatically. In the distant past it completely blocked the Alsek River, creating a massive glacial lake. In 1852 Lake Alsek was 100km long and about 100 metres deep, making it bigger than Lake Kluane. When the ice dam finally broke, it sent a wall of water down the Alsek River. Native stories tell of a group of people camped at the confluence of the Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers who were drowned in the flood. If the town of Haines Junction had existed back then, it would have been either under water, or people living there would have had lakefront property. About 15km of the Alaska Highway would also have been submerged.
Studies have shown that surging glaciers seem to go for regular gallops regardless of whether the climate is cooling or warming. Surging, or for that matter receding, glaciers may also have geopolitical repercussions. For example, in the 1960s, the 25 mile long Grand Pacific Glacier, which flows into tar inlet just 70 miles from Skagway, began receding almost far enough to put its nose in British Columbia. I recall a local bush pilot and entrepreneur Leo Proctor stirring up a lot of excitement in the local business community by pointing out that if the glacier receded into B.C., Canada would then be able to claim a freshwater port in the Alaskan panhandle. At the moment the Grand Pacific still ends in Alaskan territory, but who knows what the future holds…
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
In 1983 Finning of Vancouver acquired the Caterpillar dealership for Western England, Wales and Scotland.
From time to time the board of directors held meetings and toured the various branches. Since 1980 Rolf Hougen was on the board of Finning.
Every year the Commissioner holds a "Commissioners Ball" in the Palace Grand in Dawson City. The dress code is "turn of the century". Commissioners guests include local citizens, ambassadors, government officials, etc. A dinner is served, can-can dancers entertain and at midnight a stroll down the streets of Dawson City in the daylight.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney attended the wedding reception of former Deputy Prime Minister Erik Nielsen's daughter, Roxanne and Scott Temple of Strathroy, ON. Roxanne's grandmother, Irene Hall of Lincolnshire, England was in attendance. Also attending were many friends and relatives, George Hees, Alvin Hamilton, Leslie Nielsen, Harry Boyle, Aub and Peg Tanner, Rick and Maureen Nielsen, Marg and Rolf Hougen. Both Roxanne and Scott are RCMP officers. They will reside in Ottawa.
|January 8, 1986||Charlie and Betty Taylor are selected Mr. and Mrs. Yukon 1986.|
|January 10, 1986||Barbara Currie of Tagish receive the Commissioner's Award for her years of dedication and community involvement.|
|January 16, 1986||Dawson City's Anglican Church's Good Samaritan Hall is sold for demolition and won't be restored.|
|January 22, 1986||Harry Joe, hereditary chief of the Crow Clan of the Champagne-Hutchi tribe, dies at the age of 76.|
|January 23, 1986
→ December 3, 1986
|The United States government announces it is ready to start negotiations on west coast boundary disputes, including a dispute over the location of the Yukon-Alaska border in the Beaufort Sea (January 23, 1986). However, at the end of the year, a U.S. proposal for new offshore exploration of Alaska's oil and gas resources includes a portion of the Beaufort Sea Canada considers part of the Yukon (December 3, 1986).|
|January 29, 1986||CBC Yukon plans to provide a limited form of television coverage from the territory starting in February.|
|January 30, 1986||Joe Bell, publisher of the Northwest Travel Guide and involved in a number of business enterprises in the Yukon, dies at the age of 60.|
|February 12, 1986||Johnnie Johns, Julie Cruikshank and John Gould receive the Yukon Historical and Museums Association Heritage Award for their outstanding contributions to the preservation of the Yukon's culture and history.|
|February 13, 1986
→ May 20, 1986
→ August 13, 1986
|Production workers at the Canada Tungsten mine in Tungsten, N.W.T. vote 96 per cent in favour of strike (February 13, 1986). 135 workers go on strike May 20, 1986. In August, the Canada Tungsten Mining Corporation closes its mine at Tungsten, N.W.T. indefinitely (August 13, 1986).|
|February 26, 1986
→ March 12, 1986
→ June 19, 1986
|A deal is reached between Alaska and the Yukon that sees the year-round opening of the South Klondike Highway (February 26, 1986). The deal allows year-round trucking of ore concentrates from Faro to Skagway. In return, Skagway got jobs on the waterfront, a 10-year opening clause even if the mine closes earlier, and the Yukon government pays half of its costs (March 12, 1986). June 25, 1986 Canadian and U.S. border posts begin 24-hour service for the first time ever at the Canada-U.S. border post above Skagway. The full-time opening is an interim summer operation to benefit Curragh Resource Ltd.|
|March 4, 1986||After 16 years of negotiations, federal, territorial, city and Kwanlin Dun governments officially sign an agreement that allows the band to move from its village in the Marwell area to the McIntyre subdivision.|
|March 4, 1986
→ March 31, 1986
|Ken McKinnon is named Yukon Commissioner (March 4, 1986) and sworn in March 31, 1985.|
|March 10, 1986||The Yukon Quest sees its first Canadian winner: Bruce Johnson of Atlin River.|
|March 11, 1986||The Mount Skukum gold mine south of Whitehorse is running and poured its first 1,000 gold bar.|
|March 16, 1986||The Arctic Winter Games open in Whitehorse.|
|March 20, 1986||Dyea Development plans to build a new shopping mall on Main Street, starting by late summer.|
|March 26, 1986||"Dan Sha" - Yukon's bimonthly native newspaper closes temporarily because of delays in government funding.|
|April 1, 1986
→ December 3, 1986
|1986 lead to a few changes in airline service: April 1, 1986 Trans North stops its airline services. December 3, 1986 Pacific Western Airlines takes over Canadian Pacific Airlines.|
|April 10, 1986||Yukon elder Angela Sidney receives the Order of Canada award.|
|April 29, 1986
→ July 25, 1986
→ August 26, 1986
|The downtown commercial core zone of Whitehorse has been expanded. The new bylaw means that 3 city blocks have been added onto each side of the existing commercial zone (from Elliott to Lambert Street and from Wood Street to Jarvis Street) (April 29, 1986). In July workers begin demolishing of three old stores on Main Street at Third Ave. to clear the way for the $3 million urban development (July 25, 1986). Starting in August, Whitehorse's Main Street gets a second 4-storey building: two floors are added to the People's Drug Mart Building (August 26, 1986).|
|May 6, 1986
→ June 3, 1986
|Yukon has a pavillon at the '86 Expo in Vancouver, hoping to promote tourism to the Yukon (May 6, 1986). The pavillion is one of the busiest with an attendance that is far beyond expectations (June 3, 1986).|
|May 9, 1986
→ October 31, 1986
→ November 3, 1986
|Yukon Liberal leader Roger Coles resigns from his position after being arrested and charged with illegally selling cocaine. Jim McLachlan is named the party's interim leader (May 9, 1986). October 31, 1986 MLA Roger Coles pleads guilty to cocaine deal and resigns his seat as MLA. A few days later he is sentenced to 3 years in prison (November 3, 1986).|
|May 23, 1986||Northern Native Broadcasting and Yukon network (NNBY) plans to broadcast 26 half-hour shows in the Yukon from September to March.|
|June 3, 1986||The cabletelevision station WHTV replaces "Moviechannel" with WTBS, Atlanta.|
|June 5, 1986||The mill at the Faro lead-zinc mine goes back into production, under the ownership of Curragh Resources.|
|June 10, 1986||Whitehorse's time capsule is buried on the corner of Main Street and Third Ave. The capsule is not to be opened until 2050, the 100th birthday of the city. The capsule is a 45kg plastic drum that is filled with letters, photos, tapes and miscellaneous items donated by Whitehorse residents.|
|June 11, 1986||The first 13 students graduate from Yukon College's native language instructor course.|
|June 13, 1986||The Yukon's oldest war veteran, George Fuller, dies at the age of 93.|
|June 18, 1986||The founders of CHON-FM are delving into television by building a half-million dollar studio to be built by the end of August.|
|June 23, 1986||Whitehorse and the Japanese city of Ushiku sign a deal in Whitehorse making the two sister cities.|
|June 26, 1986||An influential defence magazine reports that the United States Air Force is designing a scheme that would try to keep all nuclear battles to the far north of Canada.|
|June 27, 1986
→ September 16, 1986
|The federal government insists on official bilingualism in the Yukon as the price for helping to improve the government's French-language services to Yukoners (June 27, 1986). September 16, 1986 a court rules the Yukon government is not a federally-controlled agency and, thus, need not become officially bilingual.|
|June 30, 1986||Bill McKnight is the new minister of Indian and Northern affairs. Former minister David Crombie is assigned to the Secretary of State department.|
|June 30, 1986
→ July 4, 1986
|A midterm-cabinet shuffle sees Erik Nielsen depart from the federal cabinet. Newspapers reports he had asked to be released. Nielsen remains the Yukon's MP.|
|July 15, 1986||Michael Smith is elected chairman of the Council for Yukon Indians.|
|July 21, 1986||Gordon Gibson Sr., a Yukon-born millionaire, dies at the age of 81.|
|July 23, 1986||Ethel Deyo Gramms, daugther of Sam McGee, dies at the age of 83.|
|July 30, 1986
→ August 7, 1986
→ August 20, 1986
|Yukon government announces it won't provide any funding for the Whitehorse Arts Centre unless it is built as part of the Yukon College complex in Takhini (July 30, 1986). The ultimatum prompts suggestions to build part of the College at the Whitehorse waterfront (August 7, 1986). August 20, 1986 the Arts Canada North committee agrees to have the Arts built at the site of the new College.|
|August 14, 1986||The federal government transfers its responsibility for (re)naming geographical features in the Yukon Territory to the Yukon government.|
|August 15, 1986||The Alaska government announces $8 million of its U.S. federal government highway funds will be diverted to the Shakwak Highway project, involving reconstruction of the Haines Road in British Columbia and the Yukon.|
|August 19, 1986||Joseph Whiteside Boyle is honored with a plaque to him on dredge No. 4 at Bonanza Creek, outside of Dawson City.|
|August 22, 1986||Gulf Canada Corp. decides to pull out of the Beaufort Sea for cost reasons. Its departure costs 750 employees their jobs and weakens the N.W.T.'s economy.|
|September 15, 1986||CBC kicks off its first full-time television production unit in Whitehorse.|
|September 17, 1986||The Yukon government announces that the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce was chosen as the government bank.|
|September 18, 1986||Former Yukon cabinet minister Peter "Swede" Hanson dies at the age of 70.|
|September 23, 1986||The Carcross-Tagish band becomes the 11th band to agree to negotiate land claims.|
|October 6, 1986||Capt. Dick Stevenson's toe, the "main ingredient" of the famous Sourtoe Cocktail, has been lifted while Stephenson was traveling.|
|October 6, 1986||The Yukon government backs down on the coat-of-arms controversy and its battle over them with the Yukon's senior judge: the coat-of-arms come out of all five courtrooms.|
|November 20, 1986||A New York City railway broker is putting together a $50 million proposal in a bid to buy and operate the White Pass Railway, beginning summer 1987.|
|November 28, 1986||A U.S. Interior Department study calls for petroleum exploration leasing on the coastal plain of northeast Alaska used for calving by the Porcupine Caribou Herd.|
|December 1, 1986||The Yukon government introduces its new Human Rights Bill. It includes gay rights but leaves out equal pay in the private and public sectors.|
|December 4, 1986||A tentative Canada - United States agreement has been reached for international management of the Porcupine caribou herd, requiring consultation on hunting quotas and protection of the herd and its habitat.|
|December 5, 1986||The Yukon government introduces legislation requiring seatbelts or child restraints for young children riding in automobiles.|
|December 11, 1986||Rolf Hougen is elected Third Vice Chairman of the Board of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.|
|December 11, 1986||The first Yukoner is tested HIV-positive.|
|December 15, 1986||The federal government transfers more than 1,500 hectares of land in the Kluane region to the territorial government and the Champagne-Aishihik Indian band. It's the first-ever transfer under the pre-claims land availability process.|
|December 19, 1986||The Kaska Dena Council files a lawsuit claiming a land freeze in the area of Watson Lake.|
|December 31, 1986||Rev. John A. Davies, D.D. Canon Emeritus, dies at the age of 101.|