Alaska Highway to Teslin

Teslin, Yukon is a small community of approximately 450 people, located at mile 804 of the Alaska Highway! It is bordered on one side by Teslin Lake, 78 miles long, 2 miles wide and 700 feet deep! (home to 11 species of fish!) On the other side is Nisutlin Bay.

Teslin boomed briefly during the gold rush as a stop over place on the way to the Klondike, gaining permanent residents, and a Hudson Bay Co Trading post was established. By 1903 the post had closed and the Nisutlin Trading Post was established. Teslin continued to grow with the arrival of the RCMP. It is now a prosperous community with an airport, museums, R.C.M P Detachment, school, community center, health unit, post office, motels, RV park, restaurants, and a general store. We were very impressed with just how much infrastructure is in all the small Yukon towns we stayed in.

We crossed over this beautiful bridge on our way into town.

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Teslin has so much of their history preserved in their old buildings and museums. They have a walking tour brochure available. We found it easier to drive it as the buildings were quite spread out all over town!

The Nisutlin Trading Post is still a main hub of town.

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The Anglican Mission Church was the first Church in Teslin and may be the oldest building in the village, built in 1908. In 1923 it fell into disrepair and was pulled down and rebuilt using the same logs, with new material for the roof. During the 1940’s and 50’s it was de-consecrated and rented as a private residence, the bell tower and chapel were removed. In 1956 the congregation began using it as a parish hall.

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During the construction of the Alaska Highway in the 1940’s, the first resident minister in Teslin, Rev Robert Ward, supervised the building of a new church beside the old one. It was later enlarged and remodelled in 1955-56.

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We visited the Tlingit Heritage center in Teslin. It houses the great hall and government for the Teslin Tlingit People.  Outside they have a totem for each of the clans of the people.

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One thing that fascinated us was learning how they ready the moose hides for their clothing and shoes. All the flesh and fat is scraped from inside and the hair is removed, and the hide is thoroughly washed. Then it is soaked in a solution of rotted moose or caribou brains (yuk!!) and water!!

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After, it was wrung dry and laced onto a horizontal frame where it was scraped or ‘tanned’ with a stone or metal blade attached to a pole, to make it evenly think and supple. The soaking/scraping process is repeated several times. Once dried it was ready to use. A tanned hide was light coloured. When smoked over a fire of rotten wood and pine cones it became a rich golden colour. Different woods and cones were used to get different variations of colour.

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We camped at the Yukon Motel and Lakeshore RV Park, right on the lake! One thing we were a bit worried about in making the trip was the long days of daylight! Luckily we were not bothered by it, we could close up the RV enough to have darkness for sleep! The hard part was getting used to sunsets and 10:45pm!!

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We really enjoyed our brief stop over in Teslin but it was time to move on towards Whitehorse!

If you have traveled to Alaska and the Yukon you are aware of the Milepost book, the Bible of Alaska travel!! In it is mentioned the different road houses and stops that have ‘World Famous Cinnamon Buns’!!! Well with that being said, the challenge was on!! Stop one was Johnson’s Crossing. Looking pretty good, right?!!

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Another stop for us, near Johnson’s Crossing, was the monument of the South Canol Road. There are several WW ll vehicles from the Canol project on display.

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I found the history of the ‘Canol Project’ very interesting. Here is a brief account: Canol is short for Canadian Oil. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Americans were concerned there would be an attack in Alaska. To counter that threat the US government upgraded the airfields of the Northwest Staging Route and built the Alaska Highway to transport men and equipment to the Alaska bases.

Enormous amounts of gas and oil were required. This would normally have been moved by ship but they felt this was unsafe. The Canol Project was born.

Oil came from Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories all the way to a refinery built in Whitehorse! Carried inside a 4 inch pipeline! 600 miles of road, telephone lines, several air strips, and 10 pumping stations were built! Oil was pumped, with auxilliary lines between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska; Carcross to Watson Lake in the Yukon and Whitehorse to Skagway Alaska. 200,000 tons of material used and 50,000 people were employed, with the final price being 134 MILLION!!

The project was shut down in 1944, less than a year after the refinery was opened! Robert P Patterson, United States Undersecretay of War, summarized the project by saying ” I suppose that we must bow to the verdict that the project was useless and a waste of public funds”!!!!….at least they got the Alaska Highway out of it!

Next stop along the road was the Marsh Lake Dam rest area with the beautiful Yukon River Bridge.

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The next stop will be Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon!

Until next time…….

 

 

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