A Sternwheeler Ride Through History

The next time you find yourself spinning around the traffic circle at the bottom of Robert Service Way, you may want to try that offshoot that leads to the S.S. Klondike.

You’ll find yourself in a nice little spot. There ar

e picnic tables by the side of the Yukon River where you can enjoy your lunch on a nice summer day. There is a big lawn area where you can throw a Frisbee around or just sit and read a book.

Using the park as your home base, hook up with a friend to walk, jog or bike the Millennium Trail. Access to the trail is right there at the park.

And, of course, there is the S.S. Klondike sternwheeler at the centre of it all, a beautiful reminder of a bygone era and the star attraction of this Parks Canada National Historic Site.

Stepping on board the S.S. Klondike, you are transported back to an earlier time. Walking the decks, peeking into the cabins and checking out workings of the boat such as the boiler and the steam room, you will discover a lot of Yukon history.

Here and there are historic photographs and, indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words. The photos will introduce you to people who worked on the S.S. Klondike, will demonstrate how cords of woo

d were loaded onto the boat and will invite y

ou to join a group of passengers relaxing in the lounge during their journey.

The photos do so much to illustrate the stories and bring them to life, as do the artifacts. There are Hudson Bay blankets, an antique typewriter and a calendar dated September, 1938. There is dinnerware on the tables, clothing and personal items in the cabins and curtains on the windows.

A definite highlight is the stop at the top, the wheelhouse. Looking back toward the paddle at the stern, you begin to realize how large a boat this is. From this height, you can better appreciate the skill required to pilot the boat.

If you crouch down just a bit and look out the window, you see the swift water of the river flowing by and you can imagine the S.S. Klondike is travelling again … despite the fact her last trip was in August, 1955.

On the way back down to street lev

el, you make a stop in front of a large brass bell suspended on the bow which could be used as a signal or warning. There’s always an

eager Cheechako willing to ring the bell and find out just how loud they can make it sound … and only then are they told that according to the unwritten law of the Yukon, they would now be obligated to buy a round for the house.

Yukoners are entitled to special status on the S.S. Klondike. After just one visit you become an “Ambassador” and are eligible for free admission for the rest of the season each time you come back and bring friends or relatives with you.

There is no charge for using the grounds or picnic tables.

For further information, phone the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site at 667-4511 or visit its website at www.pc.gc.ca.

PHOTO: RICK MASSIE [email protected]

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