Yukon summer adventure: Notes from Fort Selkirk
A few nights ago, I arrived in Fort Selkirk, a ghost town with an incredible history. I paddled all day in terrible winds and rain to get here. It was a total of 90 kilometres in one day. I was exhausted.
The rain has continued ever since. Robert Campbell, a Hudson’s Bay Company official, set up a trading post here in about 1850 where the Pelly River meets the Yukon River. Two years later, First Nations people burned the post and chased Campbell away. Then in the 1890s, before the Klondike gold rush, another trading post was established here. At one point, Fort Selkirk was considered by the Canadian government as a possible site of the capital city of the Yukon Territories. Now it’s just a ghost town.
During the gold rush, Fort Selkirk became an important trading government and communications post with 200 soldiers from the Yukon field force stationed here to enforce Canada’s sovereignty. Each day the soldiers would load their cannons and fire them across the river at the vertical cliff walls. You can still see several cave-like holes in the cliffs caused by the cannons.
Peregrine falcons now live in those cliffs. I’ve spent some time scanning the cliffs with my binoculars for those falcons. After several minutes of searching, I had just put down my binoculars when a peregrine falcon went rocketing by me about 200 metres away. Wow, what a sight! It was just fantastic!
I’m back on the River, hoping it doesn’t rain. So far on this trip, it has either rained or threatened to rain for 12 of the past 14 days. I’ve paddled so far about 440 kilometres, most of it in wind and rain, surrounded by dark clouds.
I’m an optimist, but I think this is a little ridiculous.
Allen Macartney is completing a solo trip on the Yukon River to retrace the route of prospectors in the days of the Klondike gold rush. Read more of his blog posts here and learn about his Royal Canadian Geographical Society-funded expedition here. This blog post was dictated over a satellite phone.