Low water in Yukon reveals historical artifacts

Take a walk along the Yukon River in Whitehorse these days, and you might spot things you rarely see — historical objects and structures that are typically well hidden under water or ice.

“Like, there’s a log cradle here, or a crib, that was used to support sternwheelers when they were hauled out of the river in the winter,” said Yukon government archeologist Ty Heffner, as he walked along the riverbank.

Water in the Yukon River system is very low this spring. Vast gravel bars flank the stream in many areas, and Heffner says lots of artifacts can now be seen in the mud and rocks.

That might include anything from old rusty nails and wooden logs and planks, to iron fixtures.

“If you think about all the activity that happened here, there were sternwheelers that were built here, there were sternwheelers that burned here. There were warehouses and wharves and all kinds of activity — and the historical evidence here just relates to that,” Heffner said.

“People can come down here and have a look at these items, and it just provides that tangible link to the past.”

Heffner cautions against pocketing anything, though — doing so could be an offence under Yukon’s Historic Resources Act. He says it’s OK to pick something up to have a look, but historic objects should always go back where they were.

“People, you know, might not really think about that or realize that these are protected heritage resources and that they should not take it away,” Heffner said.

“These pieces of our heritage are best left where where they currently are.”

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