Outhouses: Highway Drop-offs

Maybe you picked up a morning coffee to get you through that long, early drive. Maybe you were rushing out of the house to get your hours behind the wheel over with as soon as possible. Or maybe you woke up with an upset stomach and decided to still make the 45-minute trip into town, to go to work, against your better judgment. Whatever it is that happened to you, there’s a good chance it resulted in you meeting with one of the Yukon’s most-overlooked unsung heroes—the highway toilets, outhouses.

We’ve all used them in a moment of need; they’ve truly saved us all in a real pinch. They’ve always been there for us, saving us from having to do our business in the woods and miserably attempting to clean up afterwards with a leaf, yet they never get the appreciation they deserve. Who sings the praises of the highway outhouses? Who even talks about them? We reached out to the Yukon’s Department of Highways and Public Works, to find out what we could regarding the cost, maintenance and more of these road-trip pit stops, and were given quite a massive load of information.

“There are a number of rest-stop pullouts, along Yukon highways, that provide travelers with bathrooms, garbage disposal and interpretive messaging on Yukon history and environment,” Krysten Johnson, MPR (a communications and public relations analyst for Highways and Public Works) told What’s Up Yukon. “There are 58 concrete outhouses installed at these rest stops.”

Johnson went on to say that the Government of Yukon regularly makes necessary repairs, to ensure that highway rest stops can remain open, safe and sanitary for the traveling public.

The rest stops, within the highway corridor, are maintained and inspected, often, to ensure they are clean and well-stocked with necessary supplies, according to Johnson.

“We also maintain a rest-stop schedule, to ensure the travelers’ needs are being met throughout winter,” she said.

On average, the Government of Yukon spends approximately $900k, each year, on the maintenance of these rest stops. The wooden toilet facilities typically have lifespans of around 15 years, while the concrete ones can last twice as long, for a 30-year lifespan, on average.

“One issue we have been seeing at our rest stops is the overuse of our garbage cans, which has been attracting bears,” Johnson said. “Sometimes people even dump their garbage in the outhouses themselves! It’s important that all Yukoners remember to be WildWise and do their part to keep our rest stops clean.”

A fun fact, Johnson said, that people might not know (about the highway toilet-facility rest stops) is that they are a favourite food of porcupines.

“These prickly critters like to peel and eat the plywood that makes up the outer shell of our wooden outhouses,” said Johnson. “We’ve had to reinforce the bottom few feet with sheet metal, to help prevent this from happening. Otherwise, the outhouses become a bit too breezy for some!”

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