on-line contest

What's New

Most Popular




HOW TO GET TO FORT SELKIRK YUKON - WHAT TO SEE ON WALKING TOURS

Story and photos by

Fireweed
Fireweed
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Yukon's earliest permanent settlement is now a ghost town that is fascinating to explore. Located between Carmacks and Pelly Crossing, near the confluence of the Yukon and Pelly Rivers, Fort Selkirk was established in 1849 as a Hudson's Bay Company trading post.

The community of settlers and Selkirk First Nation people existed for 60 years until it was abandoned in 1951 when new roads made steamboats to the upper Yukon River redundant.

Getting to Fort Selkirk from Whitehorse

You can't drive to Fort Selkirk because there are no roads between it and Whitehorse. Other than flying by private or chartered plane to the small gravel airstrip, the only way to get to the cultural heritage site is by boat, canoe, kayak or raft on the Yukon River.

You can book a boat excursion from Whitehorse to Fort Selkirk with Up North Adventures. The Yukon River has one deep channel suitable for power boats. It ranges from four-to-22 feet deep.

Fort Selkirk buildings
Fort Selkirk buildings
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

During our day trip, fireweed (Yukon's official flower) splashed patches of brilliant magenta along the riverbanks.

How long is the trip? The exact time depends on water levels, but a round trip averages six hours, with about two-to-three hours for exploring the 40 buildings remaining at the kilometer-long site.

Peering through Tommy McGinty's cabin window
Peering through Tommy McGinty's cabin window
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Self-guided tour

Our boat captain waited as we explored Fort Selkirk on our own, using a free map and walking tour downloaded from the Yukon Government's Department of Tourism & Culture website.

The archeological site was eerily quiet as we explored the deserted historic buildings. Rustling aspens and buzzing bumblebees, flitting between yellow daisies, were the only sounds.

Well-preserved artifacts

We felt like we were trespassing as peered into the window of the sod-roofed cabin built in 1939 by Selkirk First Nation Elder, Tommy McGinty. Inside the Devore Cabin, we saw a wooden table with a broken ceramic plate, a wicker chair, a bed spring and a trap door in the floor.

Interior of Baum Cabin
Interior of Baum Cabin
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Aluminum pie plates and a tin can rested on a wooden table in the Coward Cabin. In the garage behind it, we discovered more items from the 1920s — a wooden-spoked, rubber-covered wagon wheel, rolls of wire fencing, glass beer bottles, a wooden sleigh and rotary saw blades.

Inside the plank-floored Baum Cabin (built 1915-1925), we spotted an old Singer sewing machine, a tin of Noxzema Cream, several glass bottles, a wooden table and chairs. A Chinese tea chest, made from camphor wood covered in painted leather, was moved to the Interpretive Center inside the Charlie Stone House.

Interpretive Center

Displays of black-and-white prints in the Interpretive Center depict residents playing badminton and going for a ride on a wheeled wagon pulled by sled dogs. The community had about 200 sled dogs that provided a monthly mail service from Minto, 40 kilometers south of Fort Selkirk.

Abandoned wooden outhouse
Abandoned wooden outhouse
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Artifacts painted a picture of life in Fort Selkirk — an old washing machine, tins of butter, tubes of Listerine toothpaste, a fish spear, old spectacles, a woman's dress and leggings and a birchbark baby carrier with a moose skin cover.

A wooden picket fence encircled St. Andrew's Anglican Church and its log steeple. We examined the hand-squared and dovetailed logs used in 1893 to build The Rectory to house the ministers. We made an amusing discovery — a wooden outhouse.

Another building displayed a "Beware of Bears" sign. Beside the R.C.M.P. Detachment cabin, a timeworn gate framed a postcard view of the Yukon River.

Our most poignant discovery was the Selkirk First Nation Cemetery, with more than 100 graves dating back to the late nineteenth century when Christian missionaries banned traditional burial and cremation.

Numbers identified each of the blue, yellow and red grave houses with triangular and flat roofs. Some were baby-sized. Others were decorated with painted designs and carved totems. Few had markers. Those that did indicated that the occupants died young.

Selkirk First Nation Cemetery
Selkirk First Nation Cemetery
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Today, it's a sacred place, where wild roses grow and Selkirk First Nation people come to remember their ancestors.

Getting to Fort Selkirk from Minto Landing

Fort Selkirk is about a one-hour boat trip northwest of Minto Landing. You can make prior arrangements with Up North Adventures to send a boat and captain from Whitehorse to meet you there. Up North Adventures can provide lunch or you can pack your own.

Boat trips to Fort Selkirk are only available in summer because the Yukon River is frozen between mid-December and mid-May.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Tourism Yukon

Up North Adventures

More things to see & do in the Yukon:

Yukon Tours by Train, Car, Canoe and Plane

What to See and Do in the Yukon

Dawson City, Yukon - What to Do, Eat and Drink