The Yukon River broke on Tuesday, May 9th at 5:31pm. I had been back and forth to the river all day watching the progress, but I was hosting an online meeting for our humane society board at 5:30pm so I went home just before it went out. I think this is the second or third time I’ve been on a Zoom call when the river broke! I have a bunch of videos I’ll put together of watching the river move and break up from that day that I’ll post later. Here was the tripod at 4:42pm that day when the ice was building up pressure.

Here’s the Yukon River flowing tonight, with ice piled up along the dyke:

Flooding is a big problem this year. We had a lot of water already in the ground last fall, followed by another high snow year and a late spring thaw. The Klondike River jammed and flooded out Rock Creek, the community just out past the airport. We even got the emergency alert on our phones one day at lunch that they were doing a tactical evacuation of that community. And later that day a residence in the dredge pond subdivison of Dawson was flooded out too.

I had my twice annual check-up scheduled at the gynecologist in Whitehorse on Thursday, so I had to get out on Wednesday to drive down. I knew there was already water over the road, so I left early, at 7am on Wednesday to get through the water while it was hopefully calmer, and luckily it ended up being half frozen still from the cooler night temperature so I was able to drive through the water and ice without issue.

That afternoon the community of Henderson flooded. There are people talking about having chest-deep water in their houses. The Klondike ice jammed in several places leading to quickly soaring water levels. People are displaced, houses flooded, garages washed away, farmland completely under flowing water, and the highway was under water. Several hours after I left for Whitehorse, the highway was closed.

I came back today (Saturday) and there is so much more water fiercely flowing through properties, along the road, culverts have been pulled, and berms have been built partially on the road to keep the water flowing alongside rather than across the highway. The highway was open when I came through, but it is closed again now to repair the berm and the road in various places between Dawson and the Dempster Highway corner. I guess I timed my travels well to get through, but I was prepared with everything I’d need if I had to wait somewhere a few days (food, water, clothes, sleeping bag, fuel). Jeff was busy for a few hours tonight helping people fill sandbags. They’ve been filling sandbags for anyone who needs them for days now. Dawson City is surrounded by cliffs and there are rocks tumbling down on them all, water has carved huge canyons in our gravel streets and everyone is looking out for early signs of landslides. We were all asked tonight to turn off our water bleeders in our house (they keep water flowing all winter to keep the pipes and drains from freezing up) because our waste water plant can’t keep up with all the water.

I was glad the Yukon River went out before I left, since that greatly reduced our risk here in Dawson for flooding. All week the risk and concern for a major ice jam on the Yukon River along town was growing. The flood gate in the dyke was reinforced with dump truck loads of gravel and officials asked people to move their parked cars off of Front Street and for people to stay off the lower dyke, and away from the river all together.

I had a good trip to Whitehorse. It is easy to get into a regular routine of just ordinary life stuff and breaking it up with a trip to the city was well timed. My appointment went well, nothing of any concern. Back in another 6 months! I also got my teeth cleaned while I was in the city. It had been a couple of years due to covid and the difficulty of getting an appointment arranged without making a dedicated trip.

I stopped at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve on my way into Whitehorse on Wednesday. It a lovely spring afternoon – warm but windy. I did the walking tour with my binoculars, looking for spring birds and checking out the animals. It’s a 5+ km walk – perfect after a 6 hour drive to stretch out. Unfortunately I was a few days early for any new babies. A baby bison has been born since I was there.

The huge moose area has a big flooded area every spring that the ducks and seagulls love. And this young moose walked along the fence with me again.

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t spot the lynx or red fox, but I did find the arctic fox’s napping place, tucked along the back of their enclosure halfway up a ledge, tucked inside some rocks.

I did a bit of shopping between my appointments. Bought some new pants. And in a size I haven’t seen in awhile. I’m smaller than I’ve been in 16+ years! I’m by no means “small” but all my changes lately are starting to make a difference. Afterwards I hit the first day of the Fireweed outdoor market! There were many tents and vendors. Lots of dog treats, toys, baking, fresh breads, donuts, seedlings, a bit of early produce, and the food trucks were there!

Our friend Shane picked me up and we ate at the Smoke & Sow barbeque restaurant. I had a brisket burger with cajun fries. It was SO GOOD.

I went to Miles Canyon too with my binoculars to do some birdwatching and hiking, but it started raining as soon as I got out of my truck so I didn’t go far.

I had a nice chat with this bird though for a few minutes.

I stayed in Whitehorse for a second night after my appointments. On Friday I was going to drive home, but since it was already Friday, I didn’t have to rush back to work, so I did something fun – I went camping on the way home! I already had everything packed in case the road was blocked from flooding, so why not!?

Sure the lakes are still frozen, but, no mosquitos!

I was planning on camping at Lake Laberge, because I had never been there. I fly over it all the time and stare at it from the window of the plane, but had never left the highway to check it out, even though it is only 3km off the road. But Shane suggested I’d like the Fox Lake campground better, just a bit further north. I stopped at Lake Laberge for a bit to check it out anyway though! It is still frozen. No one was around but some ducks and gulls.

By the time I got to the Fox Lake campground, the sun came out and it was lovely! Probably about 12°C and windy. I explored the campground a bit before picking out my site. There were a few other campers in the park – so I wasn’t the only one scratching the camping itch. After all, it is just about mid May!

I settled on site 9, away from the other campers, on the north end of the campground, along the lake, but on the less windy side of the campground.

I set up camp and started a fire. Got out my new lawnchair, binoculars, camera, and a charcuterie board I picked up in the city. It was around that time I really started questioning what I was doing – who even was I? No, not because there was still snow on my campsite. But I ate the olives. I don’t eat olives. I ate all by one with curiosity. And it wasn’t the first thing I did that was really odd on this trip.

On Thursday I drank a half cup of coffee.

The first time in my life.

And it was so gross. It tasted liked burnt toffee.

But I was really missing tea and the hotel didn’t have tea bags in the rooms, just coffee bags, and a coffee maker. Tim Horton’s was just 2 blocks away, but I was on the third floor and didn’t want to go pay for tea.

I’ve never drank coffee because Uncle Paul told me as a kid that it would stunt my growth.

If you knew my Uncle Paul, that would strike you funny, as he’s quite tall and drinks a lot of it.

Anyway, back to camping. I watched some birds, listened to podcasts, but the sky got cloudy, it didn’t warm up.

Around 6pm the rain moved in, so I scooped a pail of water out of the edge of the lake and doused my fire. I tucked my lawnchair under the truck and crawled into my bed, snuggling under my -40° sleeping bag to watch the Netflix shows I had downloaded (smart because there was no cell signal here of course).

I watched shows until about 11pm and then went to sleep. I had a decent sleep despite being in the back of my truck, on a foam mattress that just isn’t robust enough to keep my hips off the hard floor, and a sky that stays light all night already.

This morning I woke up around 6:30am. It was 5°C inside the truck and 1°C outside. The sky cleared overnight and the ice reformed on the edge of the lake.

I crawled out of the truck, changed into some fresh clothes, washed up, and had to defog the interior of my windows before I headed out at 7am for home. It looked like it was going to be an amazing day, weather-wise, but by Pelly it was raining, and drizzled all the way home from there.

My wildlife spotting tally for the round trip was:

  • 1 moose
  • 3 black bears
  • 3 rabbits
  • 4 swans
  • several grouse
  • millions of ground squirrels

As I head to bed tonight, another alert was just issued warning that the community of Bear Creek may have its access road washed out tonight. That’s between here and the airport. They’re warning residents they’ll set off a siren overnight if they should leave. What a spring so far!