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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