Whitehorse, Yukon, incorporated as a city in 1950, population 23 276 (2011c), 20 461 (2006c). The City of Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon, is located at kilometre 1476, just off the Alaska Highway, about 105 km north of the BC border. The city lies mainly on the western side of the Yukon River on a 600 m wide river plain backed by a steep scarp with a plateaulike summit 60 m above. The Whitehorse landscape is dominated by Canyon Mountain (locally known as Grey Mountain) to the east, Haeckel Hill to the northwest and Golden Horn Mountain to the south.

Nestled in a protected valley, Whitehorse enjoys a moderate climate for the North, with warm, dry summers. Long hours of summer daylight (almost 20 hours in June) offset a short growing season and dark winters.


Located at the head of navigation on the Yukon River, in 1898 Whitehorse became a temporary stopping point - past 2 major obstacles on the river, Miles Canyon and the Whitehorse Rapids - for prospectors during the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1900 it became a permanent settlement, based on transportation and services, with the completion of the White Pass and Yukon Railway from Skagway, Alaska. The community grew around the point where the railway and river met, on the western bank of the river.


Since 1900 the White Pass and Yukon Route Corporation has helped the city and territory develop by providing services and employment. Apart from its railway, the corporation established the British Yukon Navigation Company, which built riverboats and operated them to Dawson until 1954.

A short-lived copper boom in the Whitehorse copper belt ended in 1920. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the corporation promoted the tourist industry and Whitehorse became an outfitting and takeoff base. In 1935 it established the British Yukon Aviation company to transport mail, freight and passengers from its base in Whitehorse. From an estimated 2000 after the gold rush, Whitehorse's population dropped by 1941 to about 750.

During World War II Whitehorse played a significant role as a key link in the north-south transportation system supporting the war effort. About 30 000 American and Canadian servicemen and civilian workers expanded the facilities of the Northwest Staging Route (a series of airfields across the Northwest), which acted as the air link, built the 2300 km Alaska Highway, and constructed the Canol Pipeline from Norman Wells, NWT, and an oil refinery at Whitehorse.

After the war, the Alaska Highway was opened to civilian traffic and replaced the Yukon River as the dominant transportation route. Whitehorse became the headquarters of the Northwest highway system. In 1953 the territorial capital was moved from Dawson to Whitehorse, adding the government sector to the city's economic base.


About 70% of the Yukon's population resides in Whitehorse. The largest segment of the population is of British origin, followed by people of Aboriginal, German and French ancestry. The city is home to a large population of Aboriginal residents who are members of either the Ta'an Kwach'an or the Kwanlin Dun First Nations, whose traditional territories overlap in the vicinity of Whitehorse.

Whitehorse is the administrative centre of the Yukon. The city hosts the territory's only hospital, the main campus of Yukon College, and offices of 4 levels of government. The majority of federal employees in the Yukon work out of offices in the Elijah Smith building, while most Yukon government employees are housed in the Yukon government Administration building adjacent to Rotary Peace Park. The Council of Yukon First Nations, representing the majority of First Nations and their governments, is located across the Yukon River in a subsection of Riverdale. Whitehorse city council consists of a mayor and 6 councillors elected for 3-year terms.


In the 1950s the federal government initiated a road construction and financial-aid program to stimulate the territory's mining economy. As a result silver production expanded at Mayo, and copper and lead-zinc production started at Faro. By the end of the 1950s an integrated ship-train-truck containerized transportation system was moving ore through Whitehorse to external markets. The shutdown of mines in the Yukon, notably Faro in 1982, had an adverse effect on the city, and the White Pass and Yukon rail operations were ended in that year. However, mining in the Yukon recovered considerably in the mid-1990s.

Improved accessibility also directly affected Whitehorse's economy through the tourism industry. The territory's tourism draws include its "Decade of Anniversaries" celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway, 100 years of RCMP presence, the discovery of gold in the Klondike and other significant events.


Whitehorse's original townsite, surveyed on a conventional grid pattern, evolved into 3 functional zones: commercial and retail located on Main Street and 1st Avenue, residential north and south of Main Street, and the railway and docking facilities between 1st Avenue and the Yukon River. The industrial area, including mining company offices, lies north of the city, while government offices dominate blocks on the edge of the commercial area, located in the city centre.

Whitehorse's colourful past is preserved in the restored riverboat Klondike and the Anglican log church built in 1900. The Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, opened in 1997, displays an even more ancient past, of some 24 000 years ago, and the culture and traditions of Yukon First Nations. A new $50-million facility for Yukon College was completed in 1988. The Arts Centre, opened in 1992, hosts art and cultural events for the entire Yukon.