After getting so close to the abandoned townsite of Forty Mile last weekend, we just couldn’t wait until next summer to make it all the way.
We geared up with bear spray, lunch, camera, binoculars, and sunglasses and headed out across the Yukon River and up the Top of the World Highway again.
Forty Mile was the Yukon’s first community. It is located where the Fort Mile River empties in the Yukon River. It is named for being 40 miles down river of Fort Reliance, which was an old trading post on the Yukon River.
First Nation people used the site for hunting and fishing for years. Prospectors and miners moved to the area in 1886, ten years before the start of the Klondike gold rush.
Forty Mile once had 6 saloons, a theatre, an opera house, and even two restaurants! The town had about 500 residents but emptied almost overnight when word came down the river of the Klondike gold strike. Some people came back to the town, but its hay days were long over. The last resident passed away in 1958.
The only reason we could get to Forty Mile without a boat, is thanks to the Hän Fisheries, who put a road to the Yukon River in the 1970s so they could access their fish camps.
We parked at the Yukon River, and hiked a kilometre or so down the river on an ATV trail.
Grave along the hike
The first building you see when you approach the old town site is the St James Anglican Church. It was constructed in 1895.
St James Anglican Church
The church was used continuously until 1935. It was used just occasionally since.
Thanks to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Yukon Government, some of the few remaining buildings have been repaired to keep them standing.
Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP) Station
The General Store is still standing. It was built around 1900 from logs recycled from an earlier building.
Swanson’s General Store
Warehouse and Machine Shop
Inside the old warehouse
It was the most beautiful fall day. The leaves are just at their peak and were falling like rain.
Have you ever seen a more beautiful site? If you make it to Forty Mile, hiking, or by river, you can camp here in the old town, where the Forty Mile river meets the Yukon.
Old fence at the Swanson farm
We walked all the way through the town along the river, and then hiked behind the main street to see the old farming area and on to the old cemetery.
The brush has been cleared out of the cemetery, but you can’t read many of the graves anymore.
We turned around and walked back through the town again.
Muskrat and couple ducks
Metal Working shop
Old roadhouse, now occasional staff accomodations
Forty Mile’s Telegraph Station
By September 1901, Forty Mile had an operating telegraph line and were connected to the outside world. In 1931 the telegraph line between Dawson City and the boundary with Alaska was abandoned and the community relied on radio instead. The telegraph building was builtin 1893.
Moss used for chinking between the logs
We weren’t alone in Forty Mile. A man was working on building 2 new log cabins on the trail as you approached the town site. We had a great chat with him. His name was Earl and he lives nearby with his wife and dogs at the old town site for the old Clinton Creek Asbestos mine. He’s building the new cabins at Forty Mile for the government as a bunk house and a cook shack, so people will stop using the old buildings in the town site. There is a real fear of fire and vandalism here, naturally, with no year round caretaker on site, and so many of the old buildings have already been lost to fire over the last century.
Earl’s dogs taking a snooze while we chatting along the trail
Here is the .pdf version of the information guide we used while visiting Forty Mile: http://www.tc.gov.yk.ca/publications/Forty_Mile_Cheda_Dek_2011.pdf