The Yukon is Canada’s most north-western possession. As a semi-autonomous territory it is partly administered directly from Ottawa (unlike provinces which have their own governments) and partly from its own legislature. Founded in 1898 as a separate entity from the Hudson Bay Company’s Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory was given quasi-provincehood in 2002 following a Royal Decree in the federal Parliament of Canada.
The Yukon borders British Columbia in the south, the Northwest Territories in the east and Alaska in the west. It is mostly mountainous in the west but the north and east open up to brilliant tundra, which is home to thousands of species of rare plants, animals and birds that are only found in the Yukon’s unique environment. The Yukon’s total population is just over 30,000 inhabitants, meaning that the stunning nature of this land has remained virtually untouched by human development.
The Yukon is most famous for the Kondike Gold Rush between 1896 and 1899, when more than 100,000 prospectors from Canada and America flocked to the Klondike River to pan for gold. The resulting influx of people looking to get rich founded several settlements which became towns and cities, like Dawson City and Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon. The hordes of prospectors also caused severe strain on the Klondike River’s ecosystem, which is still recovering today more than a hundred years later.
One interesting fact about the Yukon is that it is Canada’s only officially trilingual region. French, English and Inuit languages are all recognized and practised by governments and courts in the Yukon.
While the Yukon is beautiful, very short summers and extremely harsh winters are what keep most people further south. Average temperatures in the winter in Whitehorse hover around -30 C with a record of -58 C set in 1947. This makes Yukon a beautiful but extremely cold place to visit. Nevertheless, more and more visitors are flocking to Yukon as arctic tourism booms. The poles represent some of the last places left untouched, and tourists are finding that exploring Canada’s arctic is just as exotic as safariis in Africa once were, but within the safe confines of the stable and democratic Canadian system. Tourism has become Yukon’s number one industry, and the future looks bright for one of Canada’s most stunning gems.