Cruising The Yukon River On The Klondike Spirit Paddle Wheeler

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Did you know that you could take a scenic Yukon River cruise on a Paddle Wheeler? All aboard the Klondike Spirit where you can cruise the Yukon River on the only paddle wheeler in operation in the entire Yukon province. For me, I thought paddle wheelers only cruised the Mississippi River yet they were an important part of the Klondike Gold Rush and “worked” the Yukon River transporting men, equipment and supplies up and down the river for many years. Fast forward 100+ years and a paddle wheeler once again works the river that flows through Dawson City. Hop on the Klondike Spirit and join me on a Yukon River sight seeing cruise.

The Klondike Spirit Yukon River Paddle Wheeler

When I arrive in a new to me city the first order of business after checking into my hotel is to book a hop on hop off bus tour. It gives me a history tour of the city plus I get an overview of some of the neighbourhoods that I may want to go back and explore in more detail. In Dawson City, the Klondike Spirit is your bus tour, except you can’t hop off and it is a paddle wheeler, not a boat.

The Klondike Spirit Paddle Wheeler

You buy your tickets at the Triple J Hotel and then head straight back to the water where you board the Klondike Spirit at the cruise time you’ve selected. The start of the cruise begins on the first floor that is enclosed and also has a small bar that serves snacks, pop, coffee and a few choice liqueurs. Can anyone say coffee and Bailey’s?



As we pull away from the dock our host welcomes us on board and begins the brief housekeeping notes. Once fully underway the tour begins with most of us moving up to the second level which has a wrap around deck.

Viewing deck on the Klondike Spirit

On this trip, I got special permission to move up to the top floor deck and hang out with the owner and the Captain. The view is awesome.

The Klondike Spirit Captain

Taking a a moment to take it all in

During the hour long cruise our guide narrates the history of Dawson City, including biographies of some of its more colourful characters. What was really cool was cruising past an area that is known as the Shipwreck Graveyard. Located in West Dawson City it is a collection of old paddle wheelers that have run aground and been left to decompose back into the earth. Only one is easily visible from the Yukon River but there are about 6 in total at the graveyard.

Part of the shipyard graveyard visible from the Yukon River

Up close shot of the ship graveyard

Past the graveyard, we turn around and head back past Dawson City to the junction where the Yukon River is joined by the Klondike River. It is really cool to see the two rivers mix together. Where the Yukon is filled with silt and debris the Klondike is crystal clear. It is easy to see which water comes from where.

Where the Yukon and the Klondike River meet

Back to the dock we go and I have already decided what I am doing next. A couple of us from the cruise journey over to West Dawson and hike the trail to the Shipwreck Graveyard. We take the short ferry that transports cars and foot passengers back and forth over the river. It is 100% free and worth taking just to enjoy the other side.

The ferry between Dawson City and West Dawson

West Dawson

Once on West Dawson soil, it is a 5-minute walk to the entrance to the campground which is the beginning of the trail to the graveyard.

Entrance to West Dawson Campground

Through the camp, we trek making our way to the end of the site where we detour onto the Yukon Riverbank.

Hiking on the banks of the Yukon River

It is only a short distance to the graveyard. Please note that this is a preserved historic site so leave it as you found it.

Leave it as you found it

From here you can walk back into the graveyard and explore to your heart’s content. Good footwear is recommended as this is not a manicured site. The trees and shrubs are reclaiming everything so you need to duck, tuck and step lightly otherwise you’ll fall and twist an ankle.

This paddle wheeler is just falling apart

When you make it in it is worth it though. These boats were huge as witnessed by me standing next to a rusting boiler. The amount of wood needed to fuel these boilers to power the paddle wheelers was enormous.

Standing at an old Boiler in the Shipywreck Graveyard outside Dawson City

You can explore to your heart’s content. For us, it was finally time to return back to Dawson City. We needed to shower, eat and check out the Dawson City Music Festival.

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Disclosure: General

Thanks to Travel Yukon for their support in making this trip possible, along with Aeroplan for providing 25,000 miles that I used to redeem for flights from Toronto to Whitehorse. My views and opinions are 100% my own


About Author

Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.

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