North Klondike Highway Wildlife Viewing
The North Klondike Highway
- Shallow Bay, Lake Laberge km 209 (mi. 130)
Land access to Shallow Bay is somewhat difficult. You will find a trail just north of the Shallow Bay road, on the east side of the Klondike Highway.
In April and May, this is one of the best sites for waterfowl viewing. Tundra and Trumpeter swans stage here by the thousands in spring and fall. It is also a hot spot for migrating shorebirds and songbirds. Watch for birds of prey like Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers that hunt in the open fields surrounding the bay.
- Lake Laberge Campground km 224.6 (mi. 139)
The campground is located on a signed side road 2.9 km (1.7 mi.) east of the highway on the shores of Lake Laberge. Made famous by the Robert
Service poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” this is the only place in Yukon where Double-crested Cormorants can be reliably seen. Loons and other open water birds are common. This is one of the fisrt places in the Whitehorse area to see the prairie crocus bloom in spring (mid-April).
- Fox Lake km 239 (mi. 148)
Waterfowl stop here on their spring migration. You can put a canoe in at the south end of the lake for a day of adventuring in the sheltered bay. Muskrats come to feed on the abundant aquatic vegetation and many muskrat push-ups can be seen dotting the frozen surface of the lake in winter and spring. You may be scolded by a Lesser Yellowlegs if you venture too close to its nest or its offspring.
- Fox Lake Burn km 271.9 (mi. 167)
Follow the 200 m (650 ft.) interpreted trail to the overlook and experience the importance of fire to the boreal forest ecosystem.
- Elk and bear viewing km 273-340 (mi. 171-212)
About 50 elk — a protected species in the Yukon — live in this area. The best time to see them is in winter and spring, when there are no leaves on the trees. Listen for elk bugling in late summer and autumn. Drive slowly and look on the exposed south-facing slopes for their distinctive cream-coloured rumps. Grizzly bears are also commonly seen here in spring and summer, feeding on the roadside vegetation and, sometimes, on the elk.
- Nordenskiold River km 320 (mi. 199)
The picturesque wetlands seen from here to Carmacks on the west side of the highway are part of the Nordenskiold River system. Waterfowl stage here during spring and fall migrations and nest in the more isolated areas of the river. Watch for breeding Trumpeter Swans, Greenwinged Teal, Lesser Scaup and Ruddy ducks. Beaver, muskrat and moose feast on the lush vegetation while mink and red fox hunt along the edges of the wetland. Listen for Soras and Red-winged Blackbirds singing in the sedges. These species are locally common in the Yukon, usually indicating very productive wetlands. This is a Special Management Area under the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Final Land Claim Agreement and has been proposed as a Habitat Protection Area due to its rich biodiversity.
- Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site km 380 (mi. 237)
Five Finger Rapids was a dangerous place on the river during the Klondike gold rush and river travel eras. There is a large pullout on the west side of the highway. A staircase, perhaps the Yukon’s longest, leads down to the rapids. It takes 45 minutes (return) to walk the 850 m (0.5 mi.) trail that ends at a large viewing platform. The south-facing slope is a perfect habitat for prairie crocus, kinnikinnick, common juniper and sage, and is home to White-crowned and American Tree sparrows. This is the edge of Beringia (the area that remained ice free when the North American continent was joined to Asia) and so open slopes like these contain many unique species of plants and insects. Interpretive panels discuss historic and natural themes.
- Tatchun/Frenchman Road km 383.4 (mi. 240)
A gravel road leads you to campgrounds at Tatchun Lake at km 8.4 (mi. 5.2), Nunatuk at km 33.3 (mi. 20.7) and Frenchman Lake at km 41.7 (mi. 25.9). All three campgrounds are on beautiful, clear lakes that offer great opportunities for pleasant canoe outings. The road is 46.2 km (28 mi.) long and offers some of the best chances to view mule deer. The road joins the Robert Campbell Highway about 41 km (25 mi.) from the Klondike Highway intersection.
- Lhútsäw Wetlands km 442 (mi. 276)
Lhútsäw Wetlands, also known as Von Wilczek Lakes and locally known as Jackfish Lake, is an important wetland complex for duck staging, nesting and moulting. It has been identified as a Special Management Area under the Selki