The 60th Parallel – Where the North Begins
"[Circa 1942] it was known that the Alaska Highway crossed the nortern boundary of British Columbia at several points, but the exact location of the crossings was not known as the boundary had never been surveyed."
Norman Nicholson, The Boundaries of the Canadian Confederation
The boundaries within Canada underwent many changes before becoming a country formed of ten provinces and three territories. in 1862, the northern border of British Columbia (B.C.) was established at 62ºN. This location was chosen because it included the basin of the Stikline River, where gold had recently been found. One year later, in 1863, the boundary of the colony was moved south to 60ºN. British Columbia became a province in 1871 and 60ºN was its northern border.
The decision to move the boundary south by two degrees may have been influenced by the fact that 60ºN is the closest line of latitude to the start of Yukon's western boundary with Alaska, along the 141st meridian. As well, by 1863, gold mining on the Stikine River was almost over.
Indigenous people lived here long before modern boundaries were established. The Kaska Dena travelled, traded, hunted and trapped throughout a traditional territory that extends across what is now southeast Yukon, northwestern B.C. and southern Northwest Territories.
Creation of Yukon
Until 1898, Yukon Territory was called the District of Yukon and was part of the North-west Territories (an enormous area of land that has been acquired by Canada from Great Britain in 1870. The North-West Territories included present-day Yukon, Alberta and Saskatchewan as well as parts of Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador.)
The Yukon Territory was created on June 13, 1898, with the 60th parallel as its southern border. Much of the boundary between B.C. and the newly formed Yukon Territory was surveyed and marked during the years 1899-1901 and again in 1907-08.
At that time, the Canadian government did not consider it necessary to survey the 65 miles (105 kilometres) of permanently snow-covered mountains from the Tatshenshini River westward to the Alaska Border.