All you have to do is walk down Main Street in Whitehorse to find out who the literary greats of the Yukon Territory were. Three authors so profoundly captured the character of the Yukon in their writings that now their likenesses have been captured as busts which line the short downtown street of Canada’s Yukon Territory Capital. Here where Robert Service, Jack London, and Angela Sidney have been remembered, you can find and experience Yukon literature yourself by visiting the bookshops of Whitehorse and finding activities that will let you get a taste of what these authors portray in their writings.
Main Street: The Yukon Territory’s Literary Greats
The biggest and most noticeable feature of Whitehorse’s Main Street is a statue of an oversized desk which dwarfs the bust of the author it memorializes. This is in honor of Robert Service who has been called by some “The Bard of the Yukon”. His poems and ballads tell tales of the people who arrived in the Yukon to prospect for gold during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. Within these often comical tales he describes the Yukon through the eyes of his characters. The Yukon is almost a character in itself, a tough place to survive, but more beautiful than anywhere else in the world.
“Some say it’s a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it
For no land on earth—and I’m one.”
-Excerpt from The Spell of the Yukon by Robert Service
Activities You Can Do Based on Robert Service’s Poems:
Whitehorse is a lot more hospitable to visit today than in 1898, so you won’t have to scramble to survive in order to experience the landscapes Service immortalized in his writings. Just outside of town you can visit Miles Canyon which will provide amazing views and overlook the Yukon River. As long as you’re not scared of walking close to a cliff edge, you can hike in the canyon along the river on a hard-packed trail. Prospectors had to adeptly navigate boats and rafts through the canyon and around rapids to get to the Yukon during the gold rush.
Visit the SS Klondike
In town you can tour the now stationary stern wheeler SS Klondike during the tourist season. Although she no longer floats on the river, it will give you some idea of one way in which people traveled on the Yukon River.
Canoe on the Yukon River
If you want to get on the river, you can rent a canoe and paddle yourself along the Yukon.
Jack London, the second most famous author to set his stories in the Yukon, arrived in Whitehorse via Miles Canyon the year before the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. The sled dogs he encountered during his Yukon experience must have had a profound impression on him, because both his The Call of the Wild and White Fang are stories about dogs and survival in the harsh Yukon during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush.
Activities You Can Do Based on Jack London’s Books:
Stay at Muktuk Adventures & Dogsled
At Muktuk Adventures you can either stay in the lodge or one of their three cabins available for rental. The highlight of your stay, however, will probably be the numerous huskies to pet, play, and dog sled with. The working dogs live in the dog lot while the retired dogs roam free looking for attention.
Angela Sidney, a Tagish Elder, and author of important historical documents of the Yukon’s Tagish community and culture is also remembered via a bust that presides over the Main Street of Whitehorse.
“My stories are my wealth!”
Activities You Can Do Based on Angela Sidney’s Writing:
Whitehorse and the Yukon Territory overall does have more to its history than just the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. There are a few museums in Whitehorse, such as the MacBride Museum of Yukon History and the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center, where you’ll be able to round out your understanding of the area by learning about the original native culture, the industrialization of the Yukon, and even the mammals that roamed in the area back in the ice age.
Where to find books in Whitehorse
Mac’s Fireweed Books
Mac’s Fireweed Books, one of Whitehorse’s independent bookstores, can be found easily on Main Street by the distinctive purple trim around the door and windows. The street level shop has books and gifts enough to distract for hours, but make sure you don’t forget to check out the nearly hidden downstairs. (You’ll find the stairs in a corner near the front of the shop.) Mac’s is also the Yukon topographic map distributor and has more Yukon travel guides than you’ll ever need, so you may want to make this your first stop if you’re planning to travel farther into the Yukon Territory.
Well-Read Books is the Yukon Territory’s only used bookstore. Stepping inside, that distinct book smell greets your nose. Comfortable chairs accent pockets between bookshelves. You’ll find every kind of book here from Yukon history to books that may have come from somebody just traveling through and exchanging books along the way.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Whitehorse also has a Coles bookstore. When the other two shops don’t have what you’re looking for, Coles just might. If you’re not looking for anything specific to read, you might try finding a good book in one of Whitehorse’s five Little Free Libraries. This has the added benefit of getting you out of the downtown shopping center and letting you explore some of the residential neighborhoods of this Yukon town. For a virtual tour of Whitehorse’s Little Free Libraries check out this vlog.
Like this post? Pin it for later!
Have you been to the Yukon? Do you want to go? Are you familiar with Klondike history? Have you read any books that take place in the Yukon? Let’s discuss in the comments below!