Aishihik River Bridge
Millions of people have read “The Ballad of Sam McGee,” that famous poem of the Klondike Gold Rush written by Robert W. Service (sometimes called “the Bard of the Yukon”). However, most do not know that the real McGee (who outlived his fictional self) had strong connections to part of the Alaska Highway’s Yukon route.
McGee and his partner, Gilbert Skelly, were road builders as well as prospectors. In 1903, they built a wagon road between Whitehorse and Kluane Lake. As part of the road building, they erected a simple wooden bridge over what was then known as Canyon Creek (today, the Aishihik River). The little wooden bridge withstood the ravages of nature and increasing traffic over the next 40 years.
The bridge was rebuilt in 1923 by the Jacquot brothers when they upgraded the road. In the 1940s, the crossing was incorporated into the Alaska Highway by the US Public Roads Administration (PRA) surveying crew. However, the US PRA decided to build a more permanent steel bridge nearby that could support heavier loads, leaving the original timber bridge in place. (This steel bridge was replaced in 1968 by the Department of Public Works Canada.)
The crossing at Canyon Creek itself became a convenient stopping place. By 1904, a roadhouse and store were built there to serve travellers on their way to the Kluane goldfields. A little community grew up near the roadhouse, which today has become the town of Canyon Creek, part of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations’ territory.
The Aishihik River/Canyon Creek Bridge was rebuilt in 1987 and refurbished in 2005 by the Yukon government. This popular tourist attraction retains a lot of original components from 1903.