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Mar 05 2011

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Yukon

Yukon is the smallest of Canada’s three federal territories, located in the northwest corner of Canada. It was named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon means “Great River” in Gwich’in. The territory’s capital is Whitehorse.

Interesting facts about Yukon:

  • Yukon is high: At least twenty mountains in the St. Elias Range in southwest Yukon exceed 4,000 meters, and more than a handful exceed 5,000 meters. Towering over them all and surrounded by vast ice fields is Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak at 5,959 m.
  • Yukon is wild: It’s one of North America’s major wilderness attractions: close to 80 per cent remains pristine wilderness. The Yukon has three national parks, six territorial parks and four Canadian Heritage Rivers. Along with three neighboring parks in Alaska and B.C., Kluane National Park forms the world’s largest protected area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Yukon is wet: Extensive lake and river systems crisscross the Yukon. The territory is a significant reservoir of fresh water, and almost two-thirds of the territory is drained by the mighty Yukon River, Canada’s second longest river. Yukon has over 70 canoe able mountain rivers.
  • Yukon is extreme: This is the home of the Yukon Quest, the toughest sled dog race in the world, and its sister event, the Yukon River Quest, the longest annual canoe and kayak race in the world. A tiny place called Snag in southwest Yukon holds the record-low temperature for North America, and central Yukon heats up so much in summer that gardens yield record-size squashes.
  • Yukon is ancient: Known as prehistoric Beringia, much of what is now the Yukon escaped glaciation during the last Ice Age. Beasts like woolly mammoths and scimitar cats once roamed here, and North America’s earliest inhabitants migrated across a land bridge from Siberia. Gold-bearing riverbeds were never scoured and spread by glaciers, leaving rich gold deposits that drew thousands of prospectors to the Klondike.
  • Most of the territory is in the watershed of its namesake, the Yukon River. The southern Yukon is dotted with a large number of large, long and narrow glacier-fed alpine lakes, most of which flow into the Yukon River system.
  • The capital, Whitehorse, is also the largest city, with about two-thirds of the population; the second largest is Dawson City, which was the capital until 1952.
  • Yukon’s historical major industry has been mining (lead, zinc, silver, gold, asbestos and copper).
  • Tourism the second most important industry. The Yukon’s major appeal is its nearly pristine nature. There are many organized outfitters and guides available to hunters and anglers and nature lovers of all sorts.
  • Manufacturing, including furniture, clothing, and handicrafts, follows in importance, along with hydroelectricity.
  • The traditional industries of trapping and fishing have declined. Today, the government sector is by far the biggest employer in the territory, directly employing approximately 5,000 out of a labor force of 12,500.
  • On the long, cold, and clear nights of winter, nature provides the ultimate natural spectacle in the form of aurora borealis.
  • In Yukon, people are far outnumbered by animals, and they like it that way. Yukon is home to 150,000 caribou, 70,000 moose, 22,000 mountain sheep, 7,000 grizzly bears and 254 species of birds.
  • With just 32,000 residents, the Yukon’s very large landscape has a very small population. In fact, the population was higher in 1898 than it is now. Dawson City alone reached a population of over 30,000 during the Klondike Gold Rush.
  • In 1979, the Dempster Highway (an all-weather road that crosses the Arctic Circle) was opened in Yukon.

Time Zone

The Yukon shares the Pacific Time Zone with British Columbia.

CLIMATE

The dry, continental climate results in a wide variety of weather year-round. Humidity is very low, so summers can be hot and dry while our winter coldness is less harsh than in damper climates. Summer temperatures can reach 25º C or more while winter temperatures range from +4º C to as low as -51º C. Above the Arctic Circle (latitude 66o north), the Yukon is known as “the land of the midnight sun” because for three months in summer, sunlight is almost continuous. In winter, however, darkness sets in and the light of day is not seen for a quarter of the year.

Temperatures in the Yukon are usually more extreme than those experienced in the southern provinces of Canada, for example the average temperature in Whitehorse in January is -18.7. The average in July is 14.0, with the lowest ever recorded -52.2, and the highest 34.4. The territorial low was -62.2 and the high was 36.1C. There is usually very light precipitation, averaging only 250 mm annually at Whitehorse, while compared to other Canadian cities.

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