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Whitehorse takes its name from the rapids near Miles Canyon that existed long before the river was dammed, and apparently resembled the mane of a white horse.

Traces of seasonal fishing camps reveal the area was used by First Nations for several thousand years – and several tribes, whose territories overlapped, passed through. However, it was the discovery of gold in the Klondike in 1896 that changed the region forever. The first prospectors arrived via the Chilkoot Pass, but within a year gold-hungry hordes were arriving by steamship along the Yukon River and camping at Whitehorse.

When copper was found in the hills west of Whitehorse, the boom intensified. A narrow-gauge railway – the White Pass and Yukon Route – was laid from Skagway on the coast to Whitehorse, and by the summer of 1901, was running four trains a day. Air travel arrived in the 1920s, and until 1942 the only way to get to Whitehorse was by river, train or air. However during World War II the US army decided to build a road to transfer troops and provisions between the US and Alaska, and the 2,500-kilometre-long Alaska Highway was completed in record time between March and November 1942!

In 1953 the seat of the capital of the Yukon Territory was moved from Dawson City after the construction of the Klondike Highway. Due to its location in the valley of the same name, Whitehorse has a somewhat milder climate than other communities at a similar latitude, where winter days are short and summer days have 20 hours of daylight.

The city has a population of around 25,000.

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Key info

  • Where: Yukon, Canada

Wildlife trips

This location is featured in the following itineraries:

Grizzly Bears on the Taku River

Enjoy watching and photographing brown bears at close quarters on British Columbia’s remote Taku River, where the grizzlies are habituated and completely relaxed. Led by award winning photographer Nick Garbutt, this tour offers thrilling and exhilarating encounters with these magnificent carnivores.

  • When to go: Jul-Aug
  • Duration inc. flights: 12 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £8,895 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Bears & Orcas Up Close

See pods of orcas and other whales as they glide through the Salish Sea off Vancouver Island, before you fly north to the Yukon. A helicopter trip to a bear camp deep in the forest on the Taku River gives close sightings of grizzly bears going about their business in the wild, and bald eagles on the wing.

  • When to go: Jul-Aug
  • Duration inc. flights: 14 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £8,495 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Canoeing the Yukon River

This active outdoor adventure retraces part of the route of the Klondike Gold Rush, camping on the banks of the river in a vast wilderness surrounded by wildlife and relics of the region's past. One of the North America’s longest rivers, the Yukon is rich in wildlife, with moose, bears and lynx.

  • When to go: Jun-Aug
  • Duration inc. flights: 9 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £2,695 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Yukon’s Ice Bears

Each autumn grizzly bears arrive en masse at Bear Cave Mountain, where thermal springs percolate through the limestone, warming the river so it flows all year. The result is an incredible spectacle as up to 50 brown bears gather to feast on salmon making their way up river.

  • When to go: Sep-Oct
  • Duration inc. flights: 15 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £10,695 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea