85 Interesting Facts About the Yukon Territory

Northern Lights and other fun facts about Yukon, Canada

In this article, you’ll find out many interesting facts about the Yukon, the Land of the Midnight Sun.

The Yukon, one of Canada’s three territories, is known for its enormous mountains and glaciers, as well as its Klondike Gold Rush history.

Yukon Territory At-a-Glance

Location: Westernmost and smallest of Canada’s territories.
Population: Approximately 45,148 as of 2023.
Capital City: Whitehorse, also the largest city.
Area: 482,443 km².
Official Languages: English and French.
Predominant Religion: Not specified, reflecting a diverse spiritual landscape.
Climate: Subarctic, with long, cold winters and brief, warm summers; coastal areas have a tundra climate.
(Source: Wikipedia)

General Facts About the Yukon

1. The Yukon is the westernmost of Canada’s three territories (the other two are Northwest Territories and Nunavut). These are large northern areas that were historically governed by the federal government, but recently are gaining more province-like powers.

2. It sits in the northwestern corner of the country.

3. The Yukon borders Alaska to the west, Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean to the north, Northwest Territories to the east, and Alaska and British Columbia to the south.

4. At 482,443 km2 (186,272 mi2), the Yukon is the smallest territory of Canada, but it is larger than 4 of Canada’s 10 provinces (Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador).

5. The Yukon is about twice as large as the United Kingdom, or similar in size to Turkmenistan.

6. The Yukon is home to 43,100 people, the second smallest amount of any territory or province in Canada. Only Nunavut has fewer people.

7. The Yukon has the highest population density of the three territories (0.09 people per km2), as it is quite a bit smaller than the other two.

Northern lights in the sky above Whitehorse, Yukon
Northern lights over Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon

8. 23% of people in the Yukon are indigenous, more than any province, but the lowest of the three territories. These include 14 First Nations spanning 8 language groups. They play an important role in managing the territory.

9. Eleven of those fourteen First Nations have settled land claims, making them self-governing.

10. The capital of the Yukon is Whitehorse. With a population of 28,200, it is the largest city in all of the territories. 65% of Yukon’s population lives in Whitehorse.

11. Besides Whitehorse, there are no other cities in the Yukon.

12. The largest town in the Yukon is Dawson City, which is mainly known for its gold rush history. Despite the name, it had been downgraded from city to town status. There are only 6 other towns in Yukon.

13. 98% of the land in the Yukon is “unorganized”, which means it has no official municipal or local government, also known as crown land.

A row of colourfully painted old houses in Dawson City Yukon
Colorful gold rush-era houses in Dawson City

14. The territory’s name was officially changed from “Yukon Territory” to simply “Yukon” in 2002, then “The Yukon” in 2021. Canadians from other parts of the country usually call it “Yukon,” but most locals who live in the territory have always called it “The Yukon.”

15. Yukon’s postal abbreviation is YT.

16. Yukon is named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon is a shortened version of chųų gąįį han in the Gwichʼin indigenous language. It means “white water river”.

17. Yukon is nicknamed “The Land of the Midnight Sun” (because the sun doesn’t set at the height of summer in places north of the Arctic Circle), while common tourism slogans include “Larger than Life” (referring to its huge mountains, glaciers, etc) and “Canada’s True North.”  

18. Most Yukon license plates say “The Klondike.”

19. People from Yukon are called Yukoners.

The Yukon flag
The flag of Yukon

20. The flag of Yukon has green on the left for forests, white in the middle for snow, and blue on the right for rivers and lakes. At the centre is the provincial coat of arms atop a wreath of fireweed, with a Malamute sled dog on top. The person who designed it in 1967 won $100 in prize money.

21. The raven, which looks like a large crow, is the official bird of Yukon.

Interesting Facts About Yukon

22. 50% of Yukoners consider themselves non-religious, the highest of any province or territory in Canada (neighbouring Alaska also has the highest figure in the US).

23. The Yukon is triangular in shape (fun fact: the same can be said about both Newfoundland Island and Labrador).

A snowy mountain in Old Crow, Yukon
Crow Mountain in Old Crow, Arctic region of Yukon

24. Most of the Yukon is subarctic plateau interspersed with mountains. Only the far north is true Arctic, lying north of the Arctic Circle.

25. Old Crow is the only Yukon community north of the Arctic Circle. Inhabited by Gwich’in First Nations, it is the only non-Inuit community north of the Arctic Circle in Canada.

26. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Canada was −63.0°C (−81°F) in Snag, Yukon, on February 3, 1947. It was colder than the average temperature of Mars. People there on that day said that breath steam instantly froze, breaking ice sounded like breaking glass, and voices could be heard from 4 km away.

27. Yukon’s highest recorded temperature was 36.5°C (98°F) in 2004. That’s a difference of 99.5 degrees Celsius (or 179 degrees Fahrenheit) between the lowest and highest temperatures. Only Nunavut has a lower high-temperature record.

Mount Logan, Yukon viewed from afar
Mount Logan, the tallest mountain in Canada

28. Yukon has three national parks: Kluane, Vuntut, and Ivvavik national parks.

29. Kluane National Park is by far the most visited national park in the three territories of Canada. It is home to Mount Logan, the tallest mountain in Canada, at 5959 m (19,551 ft). It is the 2nd tallest mountain in North America after Denali in Alaska.

30. Kluane also encompasses Lowell Glacier, the world’s largest non-polar icefield. Outside of the national park but nearby, Kluane Lake is the largest lake in Yukon, and there’s a Klune First Nation.

31. Kluane/Wrangell–St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek is a UNESCO World Heritage Site encompassing mountains in the Yukon, British Columbia, and Alaska. It is named after the four national parks that it includes.

An aerial view of a huge glacier in Kluane, Yukon
Enormous glacier in Kluane National Park

32. Vuntut and Ivvavik national parks, which are in the northwestern corner of the Yukon adjacent to the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve in Alaska, only receive about 200 visitors in total per year.

33. Vuntut, Ivvavik and Herschel Island are also on the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tentative List, as are Tr’ondëk-Klondike and the Yukon Ice Patches.

34. At 3,185 km (1,979 mi) in length, the Yukon River is the second longest in Canada (after the Mackenzie River in NWT). It starts in British Columbia before flowing through southwestern Yukon, but its longest portion is in Alaska. Most of the Yukon is the river’s drainage basin.

35. The most popular hot spring in the Yukon is Takhini Hot Spring 30 km from Whitehorse. Once used by Ta’an Kwach’an First Nations, the modern pools were built for US Army crews who built the Alaska Highway. In 2022, the hot spring is going to be reopened as the fully renovated Eclipse Nordic Spa.

An old river ship, the SS Klondike, in Whitehorse, Yukon
The SS Klondike National Historic Site in Whitehorse

36. The SS Klondike, a historic stern-wheeler river ship dating to 1937, is parked permanently on the Yukon River in Whitehorse. It is a National Historic Site.

37. The territory’s two main highways, Alaska Highway and Klondike Highway, meet in the capital, Whitehorse.

38. 958 kilometers of the 2224-km Alaska Highway is located in the Yukon, which is more than in Alaska itself. The highway was built in WWII so that Alaska could be reached from the US by car. It starts in British Columbia near the Alberta border and traverses most of southern Yukon.

39. At Sign Post Forest on the Alaska Highway, more than 80,000 place name signs “borrowed” from all over the world are found. The first one ever placed there said “Danville, Illinois.”

A huge collection of street signs at Sign Post Forest in Yukon
Sign Post Forest on the Alaska Highway in Yukon

40. The Dempster Highway, which runs from Dawson City in Yukon to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in NWT, is the only highway in Canada that runs all the way to the Arctic Ocean. The highway is built on elevated gravel to insulate it from the permafrost below.

41. The Yukon has no access to the Pacific Ocean. This is because Alaska gained the Alaska Panhandle region along the coast following the Alaska boundary dispute, which lasted from 1812 to 1903.

42. The Haines Highway (Yukon 3 or Alaska 7) connects Haines Junction west of Whitehorse to Haines, Alaska on the coast, via a thin strip of British Columbia. It is part of the longer Klondike Highway.

The gravel Dempster Highway in Yukon
The Dempster Highway runs all the way to the Arctic Ocean.

43. From 1964 to 2006, the most popular annual fair in Edmonton, Alberta was called Klondike Days, named after and themed upon Yukon’s Klondike Gold Rush. Edmonton had been a stopping point for gold prospectors on the way north, as it is on the way to the start of the Alaska Highway. It is now called “K-Days.”

44. Dawson City is considered one of the most atmospheric historical towns in Canada, with its dirt roads, colorfully repainted gold rush-era shops, and Old West vibe. Before the gold rush, it had been a First Nations camp.

45. The Top-of-the-World Highway is a highly scenic, gravel, summer-only highway that connects Dawson City to Alaska 127 km (79 mi) away.

46. The Yukon Quest is a 1600 km (1000-mile) dog sled race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska. The fastest finisher on record Allen Moore with his dog Quito in 2014, finishing in 8 days 14 hours and 21 minutes.

47. The Yukon River Quest is one of the world’s most famous canoe and kayak races, traveling 742 km (461 mi) from Whitehorse to Dawson City on the Yukon River.

Some teams of dog sledders racing through snow with a mountain and darkening sky in the background
Dog sledders on the Yukon Quest race

48. Indigenous-focused festivals in the Yukon include Adäka Cultural Festival and the Yukon International Storytelling Festival (no longer running). There’s also a whole festival related to sourdough and Yukon’s culture and history.

49. Yukon Jack is the name both of an aboriginal Marvel character and a Canadian honey-flavored Whiskey.

50. The Yukon is one of the best places in Canada and the world to see aurora borealis (Northern Lights).

51. There are around 6000 grizzly bears in the Yukon, several times more black bears, and a small number of polar bears in the far north, mostly on Herschel Island.

52. The Yukon’s most important industry is mining, including gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, and asbestos. The second most important is tourism, especially related to outdoor activities and gold rush history.

An old mine shaft leading down to a lake in Yukon
Abandoned mine in Yukon

53. The now abandoned Faro Mine was once the world’s largest open zinc and lead mine.

54. Nearly 1/3rd of the labor force in the Yukon is employed by the government.

55. Jack London’s most famous books, Call of the Wild and White Fang, are set in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. London had gone to the Yukon in 1897, at age 21, as a part of the gold rush. White Fang has been made into a film (1991) and animated film (2018).

56. In 1996, Whitehorse named a street after Jack London, but locals protested due to London’s alleged racism, so the name was removed. There’s also a Jack London Museum in Dawson City.

57. The poet Robert W. Service was also inspired by the gold rush and has been called “the bard (poet) of the Yukon.” The cabin in which he lived in Dawson City is a historic site.

The old wooden cabin of the poet Robert W Service in Yukon
Robert W. Service House in Dawson City

58. Yukon Brewing’s “Yukon Gold” beer is the top-selling beer in the Yukon.

59. Yukon gold potatoes are named after Yukon’s gold rush, since they are yellow in colour. They were developed in Ontario in the 1960s and first marketed in the 1980s.

60. Artists Jim Robb and Ted Harrison are known for their Yukon-themed paintings.

61. The Yukon Trail was an educational video game made in 1994, inspired by the immensely popular Oregon Trail game (learn more with these facts about Oregon).

Historical Yukon Facts

62. Some of the earliest possible evidence of human inhabitation in North America has been found around Old Crow, Yukon, dating to 25 to 40,000 years ago.

63. Parts of central and northern Yukon were part of the Bering Land Bridge, by which people walked from Asia to North America and populated to the Americas. It used to be home to mammoths, sloths, lions, yaks, and giant beavers.

An aerial view of mountains and a long lake in Yukon
Rugged landscape in Yukon

64. In 800 CE, Mount Churchill in Alaska erupted, covering most of Yukon in ash. Ash from the eruption can still be seen on the Dempster Highway in Yukon, and First Nations in Alaska still have stories pertaining to the event. The event likely forced some First Nations to travel south to the southwestern US.

65. Around 8000 indigenous people lived in Yukon at the time of European contact, mostly Athabaskan tribes.

66. In the 1800s, Russian explorers traded with First Nations on the coast of Alaska, and these trade networks extended into the Yukon.

67. Around the same time, Europeans also approached Yukon from the west, establishing fur trading posts and routes into the area.

68. In early 1840s, Hudson’s Bay explorer Robert Campbell was the first European to reach the Yukon.

69. In 1845, John Bell traveled as far as the junction of the Porcupine and Yukon rivers in what was Russian Alaska at the time (and in Alaska today), a site which would later become Fort Yukon.  

Bonanza Creek in Yukon, with an old wood cabin beside it
Bonanza Creek, where gold was first discovered

70. In 1870, what is now Yukon became a part of the immense Northwest Territories after Canada acquired the area from England.

71. In 1895, Yukon became an official district of the Northwest Territories.

72. In 1896, a group led by Skookum Jim Mason of the Tagish First Nation discovered a gold nugget at Bonanza Creek near Dawson City. The word “bonanza” means a situation in which one suddenly becomes rich, also associated with the silver rush in Nevada. Bonanza Creek is now the location of two national historic sites: Discovery Claim and Dredge No. 4.

73. The discovery of gold prompted a wave of prospectors, called the Klondike Gold Rush. In total, 40,000 hopefuls came from around the world, and towns such as Dawson City and others grew overnight.  

74. With all the sudden development and wealth related to the gold rush, the Yukon Territory was separated from the Northwest Territories in 1898, becoming its own territory, with Dawson City as its capital.

Old wooden buildings in Dawson City that are leaning over
Original gold rush buildings in Dawson City

75. By 1901, the gold rush subsided, the prospectors left, and Yukon would not reach the same population again until 1991. By 1921, there were only 4157 people in the Yukon.

76. As gold supply dwindled, prospectors searched further afield for silver, and found it in 1920 at Keno Hill.

77. After construction of the Alaska Highway was completed in 1942, development in the region grew.

78. With roads and railway lines now connected to Whitehorse, the capital was moved there from Dawson City in 1953.

79. In the 1950s and 60s, the increase in highways resulted in the decline in the use of riverboats.

An old railway line and train station in Whitehorse, Yukon
Old trolley track in Whitehorse

80. The White Pass and Yukon Railway Route from Skagway, Alaska on the coast to Whitehorse stopped running for commercial purposes, but now runs as a scenic trip for tourists.

81. In 1973, a delegation of Yukon First Nations chiefs handed the “Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow” document to the federal government, which paved the way for negotiations on self-government in the Yukon and beyond.

82. In 1990, the Umbrella Final Agreement settled numerous land claims with First Nations in Yukon.

83. In 2003, the Yukon Act was amended so that the Yukon became the first territory to take full control of its land and resources.  

Aerial view of Yukon River near Whitehorse
The Yukon River flows past residences around Whitehorse

84. In 2022, Yukon admitted a recorded breaking 431,000 refugees, and aims to reach 500,000 per year by 2025.

85. In 2023, Yukon will become the first place in Canada to announce its own green business recognition awards.

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