Across the river from Dawson City is a graveyard for steamship paddle wheelers.
The Klondike was serviced by various steamship operators, but by 1914 they had pretty well been amalgamated by the White Pass Company ( the same company that ran the railway) for a near total monopoly on public transport. At its zenith, the White Pass had 88 boats, and served over two thousand miles of lakes and rivers.
It’s monopoly was broken by the advent of the Alaska Highway and then that part of the business was completely collapsed by the construction of river bridges that the giant paddle wheelers couldn’t pass under.
To get to the graveyard, you have to catch a free public car ferry to the other side of the Yukon River. Drive about 50 feet up the road, and turn right into the Yukon River Campground. The park rangers manning the gates will give you detailed instructions – essentially drive to the end of the campground, then walk downstream along the Yukon River for a short distance.
The paddle wheelers are unmistakable.
What grand old ladies they are!
You can see that they were put into dry dock storage, several boats lined up into the forest. In their heyday they must have been magnificent.
The White Pass company was unable to sell their paddle wheelers because of their enormous size. The giant wheels and screws and various other hardware that made up the paddle wheelers guts were constructed down south, then conveyed into the Yukon by rail and water, then pieces which were then soldered together. They could never be taken apart again.
There has been no effort to preserve these grand old paddle wheelers, so they have completely collapsed. What does stand out is the size of the steamers and the paddle wheels themselves. They are a couple of stories high.
You can walk around the grounded steamships. The size of the boats are completely astonishing. It is unbelievable that ships of this size could actually navigate the river. You can see the grandeur of the bridge and breadth of the decks.
As you walk up the river’s edge toward the graveyard, you can see that some enterprising local has ‘recommissioned’ the odd bit of metal for his own purposes. I suspect that it isn’t legal, but it doesn’t seem to be a secret either.