S.S. Klondike National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan, 2022
S.S. Klondike National Historic Site
National Historic Site of Canada
Management Plan, 2022
Title: S.S. Klondike National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan, 2022
Organization: Parks Canada Agency
Note to readers
The health and safety of visitors, employees and all Canadians are of the utmost importance. Parks Canada is following the advice and guidance of public health experts to limit the spread of COVID-19 while allowing Canadians to experience Canada’s natural and cultural heritage.
Parks Canada acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic may have unforeseeable impacts on the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan. Parks Canada will inform Indigenous peoples, partners, stakeholders and the public of any such impacts through its annual implementation update on the implementation of this plan.
As the steward of national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas in Canada, Parks Canada is committed to protecting and restoring the ecological and commemorative integrity of protected heritage areas from coast to coast to coast.
We are committed to work with, learn from, and share leadership with Indigenous peoples and Elders who have walked the land since time immemorial and who have made possible the creation of so many protected places.
We acknowledge and appreciate the neighbouring communities play in helping Parks Canada to fulfill its mandate, on behalf of Canadians, including many collaborations aimed at protecting ecological integrity and the provision of natural and cultural tourism related services for visitors to S.S. Klondike National Historic Site of Canada.
We are proud to collaborate with Indigenous partners, local and regional residents and stakeholders, visitors past and present, and with interested people and parties from across the country.
Together, we strive to ensure heritage places in Canada are welcoming and include diverse voices and perspectives. We invite all Canadians to these sites to discover nature and connect with the rich and varied history in Canada.
As the key accountability documents for the management of heritage places, management plans are developed through extensive consultation. These plans articulate long-term visions, set strategic management directions and establish objectives for Parks Canada administered places.
I would like to thank everyone involved in the development of this management plan for their contributions and their commitment to the future of this special place. I am pleased to present the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan.
Yukon Field Unit
The S.S.Klondike National Historic Site (NHS) commemorates inland water transportation in the Yukon and is one of Canada’s few remaining steam-powered paddlewheelers that linked the Yukon to the outside world and played a critical role in shaping modern Yukon and Canadian society. The first S.S.Klondike, built in 1929 by the British Yukon Navigation Company (BYN Co.), ran aground in 1936. An almost identical boat was rebuilt from many of its parts, and was launched in 1937. This second S.S.Klondike operated until 1955, becoming obsolete after the highways to Dawson City and Mayo were built. Parks Canada acquired the S.S.Klondike in 1960, and moved it upstream of the Whitehorse shipyards in 1966. The S.S.Klondike was designated as a national historic site in 1967 and was later opened to the public for tours.
The S.S.Klondike is beautifully situated along the shoreline of the Yukon river in downtown Whitehorse and sits within the traditional territories of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Kwanlin Dün First Nation. It is a well-known landmark and one of Whitehorse’s most popular tourist attractions. It lies along the Whitehorse waterfront next to a popular year-round multi-use trail, and is linked by roads and pathways to other sites in the downtown. The symbol of the City of Whitehorse is a sternwheeler, and the S.S.Klondike is highlighted in city and territorial tourism literature, reflecting the historic significance and public appeal of Yukon’s sternwheelers.
This management plan fosters a vision and charts a course for the future of S.S.Klondike NHS, with strategies and objectives aimed at reaching that vision. As such, this plan is the main guide for the management of the S.S.Klondike NHS, and an important accountability document for Canadians as to how the site will be managed.
Three key strategies are identified in the plan to guide the work of managing the site for the foreseeable future:
- Key strategy 1 focuses on the long-term conservation of the S.S.Klondike and its associated cultural resources.
- Key strategy 2 focuses on offering interactive and innovative visitor experiences at the site that strengthen local engagement, immerse youth, attract target audiences and increase revenue.
- Key strategy 3 focuses on involving partners and stakeholders in understanding, promoting and raising awareness of the S.S.Klondike NHS.
Parks Canada manages one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected natural and historic places in the world. The Agency’s mandate is to protect and present these places for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. Future-oriented, strategic management of each national park, national marine conservation area, heritage canal and those national historic sites administered by Parks Canada supports the Agency’s vision:
Canada’s treasured natural and historic places will be a living legacy, connecting hearts and minds to a stronger, deeper understanding of the very essence of Canada.
The Parks Canada Agency Act requires Parks Canada to prepare a management plan for national historic sites administered by the Agency. The S.S.Klondike National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan, once approved by the President & Chief Executive Officer of Parks Canada, ensures Parks Canada’s accountability to Canadians, outlining how historic site management will achieve measurable results in support of the Agency’s mandate.
Many Yukon First Nations, stakeholders and members of the public participated in the preparation of the management plan, helping to shape the future direction of the national historic site. The plan sets clear, strategic direction for the management and operation of S.S.Klondike National Historic Site by articulating a vision, key strategies and objectives. Parks Canada will report annually on progress toward achieving the plan objectives and will review the plan every 10 years or sooner if required.
This plan is not an end in and of itself. Parks Canada will maintain an open dialogue on the implementation of the management plan, to ensure that it remains relevant and meaningful. The plan will serve as the focus for ongoing engagement on the management of S.S.Klondike National Historic Site in years to come.
Significance of S.S.Klondike National Historic Site
The S.S.Klondike NHS commemorates inland water transportation in the Yukon and is one of Canada’s few remaining steam-powered paddlewheelers that linked the Yukon to the outside world and played a critical role in shaping modern Yukon and Canadian society.
The first S.S.Klondike, built in 1929 by the British Yukon Navigation Company (BYN Co.), ran aground in 1936. An almost identical boat was rebuilt from many of its parts, and was launched in 1937. This second S.S.Klondike operated until 1955, becoming obsolete after the highways to Dawson City and Mayo were built. Parks Canada acquired the S.S.Klondike in 1960, and moved it upstream of the Whitehorse shipyards in 1966.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized the history of transportation in the Yukon as being of national historic significance in 1967, and recommended the S.S.Klondike interpret this story. Following extensive restoration of the boat to its 1937 appearance, the S.S.Klondike was later opened to the public.
The S.S.Klondike is furnished with hundreds of authentic artefacts and expert reproductions directly related to the S.S.Klondike or other vessels of the BYN Co.; these objects represent typical materials used and transported aboard the vessels and are important contributors to the values and messages of the S.S.Klondike NHS.
While sternwheelers were the workhorses of the BYN Co. fleet, an integral component of sternwheeler-based transportation was the use of barges to increase freight-hauling capacity. The Atlin barge, which is currently dry docked at the S.S.Klondike NHS, may well be the last surviving riverboat-era barge that was used in the Yukon River watershed. The importance of barges to the transportation system is emphasized by the fact that the S.S.Klondike, which was built large enough to carry the same amount of freight as a smaller boat pushing a barge, herself pushed barges during World War II in support of the construction of the Alcan Military Road, which became the Alaska Highway. Barges were especially important in the Yukon where a short navigation season required that large amounts of freight, most notably silver-lead ore concentrate coming out of the Mayo mining district, be moved in a limited amount of time.
The S.S.Klondike NHS speaks to evolving relationships between people, the Yukon River watershed, and the outside world. The Yukon River and its tributaries have always been among the forces shaping life in the region. The arrival of new transportation methods, including riverboats, impacted people’s lives, their relationships to the river system, and the environment. Riverboats moved goods, people and resources, and contributed to the colonization of the Yukon and the creation of an intensive mining economy. Indigenous children from as far away as Dawson were taken on riverboats to residential school in Carcross. The positive and negative legacies of boats like the S.S.Klondike continue to be felt in the Yukon today.
The S.S.Klondike is a well-known landmark and one of Whitehorse’s most popular tourist attractions. The symbol of the City of Whitehorse is a sternwheeler, and the S.S.Klondike is highlighted in city and territorial tourism literature, reflecting the historic significance and public appeal of Yukon’s sternwheelers.
Map 1: Regional setting of S.S. Klondike National Historic Site — Text version
Map showing Parks Canada locations in Yukon:
- Ivvavik National Park
- Vuntut National Park
- Kluane National Park and Reserve
- Klondike National Historic Sites:
- Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site
- S.S. Keno National Historic Site
- Dredge No. 4 National Historic Site
- S.S. Klondike National Historic Site
- Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site
Other sites listed on the map include:
- Old Crow
- Dawson City
- Beaver Creek
- Haines Junction
S.S. Klondike National Historic Site — Text version
The S.S. Klondike is located in Whitehorse, Yukon, the capital city of 26,000 people situated along the Yukon River. It includes a 1.5-hectare parcel of land which sits between the Yukon River, Lewes Boulevard (2nd Avenue), and Robert Service Way. The site includes the S.S. Klondike, a parking lot, bus parking, a visitor centre, theatre, the Atlin barge and a large open grassy area.
The S.S.Klondike is beautifully situated along the shoreline of the Yukon river in downtown Whitehorse, Yukon (Map 1). It lies along the Whitehorse waterfront next to a popular year-round multi-use trail, and is linked by roads and pathways to other sites in the downtown ( Map 2).
Parks Canada oversees the administration and day-to-day operations of the S.S.Klondike NHS. Seasonal staff provide visitor services and personal interpretation from late May until early September. The grounds and parking lot remain open year round, used regularly by community members and visitors. Up until 2019, visitation had shown an increasing trend and the site welcomed approximately 40,000 visitors in 2019, demonstrating the popularity of this northern iconic site.
Visitors onboard the vessel are charged an admission fee with the option of paying an additional fee for interpretive tours which further bring the history of the boat alive. The site can be rented for a wide range of events, from private weddings to community fundraisers. Parks Canada also actively collaborates on special events with various organizations and entities such as Air North, Yukon Historical and Museums Association, Yukon Heritage Resources Board, MacBride Museum and the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon.
The S.S.Klondike NHS sits within the traditional territories of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Kwanlin Dün First Nation. Both self-governing First Nations signed comprehensive land claim agreements with Canada in 2002 and 2005, respectively. In 2018, Parks Canada signed memoranda of understanding with both First Nation governments with the goal of incorporating Indigenous heritage, history, perspectives and languages to the visitor experience offer at the site. Indigenous people outside of the Whitehorse area also have connections to the site. Riverboats travelled many miles of the Yukon River system, and the industry employed and affected the lives of countless Indigenous people around the Yukon and northern British Columbia.
Key planning considerations and critical management priorities identified for the 10-year planning period include:
Structural rehabilitation of the vessel
Preserving a dry-docked wooden vessel the size of the S.S.Klondike is a long-term challenge. Parks Canada has invested considerable effort over the past seven years to better understand the condition of the vessel and determine potential rehabilitation options. The S.S.Klondike is in very poor condition and in need of major structural and systems rehabilitation.
Adaptation to climate change
The annual air temperature for the region has increased by 1.0 to 2.5 °C since the 1950s and this warming trend is expected to continue. A slight increase in total annual precipitation has been observed in most of the Yukon and the greatest increases are projected to occur in winter and spring. Temperature fluctuations, which range from -40 to +30°C with months of freeze-thaw cycles, and increased humidity will pose challenges to the conservation of the asset. These challenges add to the complexity of determining rehabilitation solutions for the S.S.Klondike.
Management of the historical object collection
The S.S.Klondike collection provides historical context to the stories told and is instrumental to recount the history of the sternwheelers. Conservation of the historical objects that are part of the exhibition display requires ongoing effort and innovative solutions, aggravated by the condition of the vessel and the presence of hazardous materials. While a complete inventory of historical objects was conducted in 2019, an adequate schedule and approach to collection management is needed to ensure their ongoing protection.
Further effort to bring Indigenous heritage, cultures and languages alive at the S.S.Klondike NHS is required. A recent exhibit renewal (done in collaboration with nine different First Nations along the Yukon River) has significantly improved this. The 2018 memoranda of understanding between Parks Canada and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Kwanlin Dün First Nation have the potential to further advance relationships and the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives at the site.
Significant historical research related to the S.S.Klondike was undertaken leading up to and during the designation of the vessel as a national historic site. While past research remains an important resource informing programming, it does not answer some of today’s most pressing questions. New research focused on Indigenous connections and environmental changes related to riverboats will enable new visitor experience offers and inform cultural resource management approaches.
Visitor experience offer
Work is required to develop accessible visitor experience products that fully meet the site’s potential and include multiple perspectives. In particular, Parks Canada would like to expand the site’s visitor offer, particularly focussing on youth and families. Visitor experience products must meet the needs of these target audiences, with a fee structure that better matches local tourism industry pricing, in order to be sustainable.
Regional awareness, support and partnering
While there are strong existing relationships with regional governments, stakeholders and Yukoners, more can be done with partners to enhance the protection and celebration of the S.S.Klondike NHS leading to further shared support. The site is strategically placed to play a more active role along the waterfront. Through collaboration with partners – like the City of Whitehorse, Government of Yukon, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, and Kwanlin Dün First Nation – there are opportunities to be more fully integrated into the broader community and the wider visitor offer.
Development of the management plan
Parks Canada engaged stakeholders, Indigenous partners, and the public in providing input to this management plan. The consultation took place over two phases. In 2019 (Phase 1), Parks Canada shared the vision, issues, and opportunities with key stakeholders and Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta’an Kwäch’än Council. Their feedback was considered in the development of the draft management plan. In 2021 (Phase 2), the draft plan was presented to stakeholders, Indigenous partners and the public. An online stakeholders’ meeting was held, and in-person site visits were conducted. Parks Canada met with Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, Yukon government, City of Whitehorse, Yukon Heritage Resources Board, Yukon Heritage and Museums Association, and the Yukon Transportation Museum. The public was invited to attend a virtual engagement session and fill out an online comment card. The final plan was informed by the values, views and aspirations of these groups.
Parks Canada will maintain an open dialogue on the implementation of this management plan to ensure that it remains relevant and meaningful. The plan will serve as the focus for ongoing engagement on the management of S.S.Klondike National Historic Site for years to come.
The vision presented below expresses the desired state of S.S.Klondike NHS in 15 to 20 years.
The S.S.Klondike National Historic Site is a must-visit tourism experience in the Yukon. The steam-powered sternwheeler sits proudly on the waterfront, making an immediate impression on all who visit downtown Whitehorse. The grounds, bustling with activity, are a vibrant meeting place for the community. Tourism partnerships have blossomed and visitors to Whitehorse are encouraged by locals to come to the site.
Yukoners and visitors alike explore the many layers of riverboat history, with its connections to mining, Indigenous peoples, the broader river system, and the city. It is a place to learn about the positive and negative impacts of this history.
This place, within Ta’an Kwäch’än and Kwanlin Dün Traditional Territories, has had human use for millennia – for family connections, for fishing, for travel and for trade. The site shares the stories of a river transportation system that evolved to meet the needs of the developing mining sector, and brought profound change to Indigenous communities. You hear the stories of Indigenous families that travelled to find work with the boats every spring. You are aware of the hardship of the many people forced to relocate from the waterfront, impacting the social fabric of communities. You stand in the place that was once the old neighbourhood of Whiskey Flats, where cabins, houses and shacks stood during the mid-20th century.
As you approach the iconic sternwheeler, you feel curious and excited to experience this massive multi-storey vessel. Visitors feel welcomed to facilities that strive to be accessible and inclusive for all. With rigorous and modern conservation efforts, the boat is protected from deterioration. Boarding from the gangplank onto the bow, you appreciate the complexity of the ironwork, ropes, spars and winch, the size of the boiler. You hear the sounds of the engine and the paddlewheel. Everywhere you walk, you are surrounded by period objects and furnishings. You learn about shipwrights, master pilots and engineers; deck hands, stewards and passengers; and those who worked ashore at the wood camps and shipyards. As you leave the boat, you feel you have taken your own riverboat journey.
The S.S.Klondike National Historic Site is a place for present and future generations, fostering connections and building a strong sense of place and community.
Three key strategies frame the management direction for the S.S.Klondike NHS for the next ten years. The strategies, and corresponding objectives and targets, focus on achieving the vision for the site through an integrated approach to management. Yearly updates on the implementation of the management plan will be provided to Canadians.
Key strategy 1
On the ways – Understanding and taking care of our site
On the ways
During the riverboat era, boats and barges were taken out of the water before freeze-up each year. They were hauled up greased timbers—called ways—and stored on cribbing. While they were“on the ways,”ships were maintained and repaired for the coming season.
The focus of this key strategy is to define an approach for the conservation of the S.S.Klondike based on a comprehensive understanding of the vessel’s condition and potential options for long-term protection, which is a complex undertaking. The S.S.Klondike is in very poor condition from decades of being dry docked and exposed to a harsh northern, changing climate. Once a comprehensive understanding of the vessel’s condition and options for protection have been defined, Parks Canada will further engage with key partners, stakeholders and the public to develop a long-term strategic asset management plan. This plan will incorporate climate change adaptation and define a level of service for visitor experience. In addition to this long term conservation, Parks Canada must prioritize routine maintenance of the site assets.
Historical research, cultural resource management, contemporary conservation approaches and visitor experience will be considered over the life of this management plan. Effective use of the object collection and new historical research will help tell the story of the S.S.Klondike NHS.
The condition of the S.S.Klondike and Atlin barge improves.
- By 2024, a long-term strategic asset management plan for the vessel is developed based on a comprehensive understanding of the vessel’s condition.
- By 2023, the Atlin barge improves from a poor to good condition rating.
- By 2032, and subject to funding, the S.S.Klondike condition improves from poor to good condition rating from 2019 levels, as a result of the implementation of a well-defined conservation approach.
The management of the S.S.Klondike NHS’s historical object collection improves.
- By 2032, a system to manage the historical object collection is in place and includes regular inventory and assessment and intervention when required.
Public awareness, understanding and involvement related to the protection and commemoration of the S.S.Klondike increases through ongoing engagement with partners, stakeholders and the public.
- By 2032, personal and non-personal communication products (e.g. website, social media, printed materials, traditional media and personal interpretation) focussing on the rehabilitation of the S.S.Klondike increase by 15% from 2019 levels.
Parks Canada’s knowledge of the history related to the site increases through new historical research that fills gaps, informs site management and is completed in partnership with First Nations and in consultation with stakeholders.
- By 2027, new historical research is completed and is informing new interpretive and outreach programming and communications.
Key strategy 2
All aboard! – A tourism experience for all
The focus of this key strategy is to provide interactive and innovative experiences that strengthen local engagement, attract target audiences and increase revenues. This will be done by examining all aspects of visitor experience: target markets identification, marketing, promotion, product development and delivery, visitor satisfaction, accessibility and inclusion. Event planning will be streamlined to encourage local use of the site. There will be a greater awareness of and appreciation for the S.S.Klondike NHS and a sense of pride amongst local residents.
Visitation increases within capacity limits, and revenue continues to support services.
- By the next management plan, visitation at the S.S.Klondike NHS increases by 10% from 2019 levels.
- By 2027, the number of youth (i.e. seventeen years old and under) participating in programming increases by 5% from 2019 levels.
- By 2032, revenue increases through visitation, programming, events and merchandise sales, by 10% from 2019 levels.
New and existing experiences engage visitors in the history of riverboats in dynamic, interactive and innovative ways.
- Visitor enjoyment and satisfaction indicators remain high.
- Exhibits and interpretative content reflect multiple historical perspectives and are refreshed every five years.
- By 2027, the accessibility of visitor experience products has improved.
More community members feel connected, engaged and proud of the S.S.Klondike NHS.
- By 2027, local visitation to the S.S.Klondike NHS increases from 2019 levels.
Key strategy 3
All hands on deck – Working together
The focus of this strategy is to involve partners and stakeholders in understanding, protecting and celebrating the site. Collaborative efforts lead to more opportunities to explore and discover the site and enhance decision making. Community needs and the site’s role within the waterfront are considered in planning for infrastructure upgrades. Formal partnerships with the two local First Nation governments continue. Parks Canada respects, supports and works to implement the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Kwanlin Dün First Nation Final Agreements and identifies and collaborates on opportunities that achieve mutual objectives. Yukon First Nations citizens are welcomed and engaged in a way that acknowledges their historical and continued connection to the site, with Indigenous perspectives incorporated into the visitor offer.
Awareness, understanding and respect for Indigenous histories, traditional knowledge and contemporary ties to the Yukon River and the site improves.
- By 2027, the number of Indigenous stories, perspectives and use of language in interpretive programs and products related to the S.S.Klondike NHS increases from the 2019 service offer.
- Inclusion of Indigenous stories in film, media and outreach increases from 2019 levels.
Awareness of the site is enhanced through marketing, partnerships and public outreach activities.
- By 2032, virtual reach has increased through website, social media, videos and emerging technology by 10% from 2019 levels.
- By 2032, the number of youth participating in outreach programs increases by 10% from 2019 levels.
Relationships with regional governments and partners are strengthened, integrating the S.S.Klondike NHS into the broader community and wider visitor offer in Whitehorse.
- The number of relationships and cross-promotional initiatives in the region increase by 10% in the next 10 years.
Summary of strategic environmental assessment
The purpose of a strategic environmental assessment is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals, to support environmentally-sound decision making. In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2010), a strategic environmental assessment was conducted on the S.S.Klondike NHS management plan.
Many positive residual effects will occur as a result of the implementation of the plan, for example: the renewal of partnerships with Yukon First Nations; protecting priority cultural resources; and improving engagement, awareness and appreciation for the site among Indigenous partners, residents and tourists. A revitalized visitor experience will result in greater awareness and appreciation for the S.S.Klondike NHS and a sense of pride amongst local residents and will support the Parks Canada mandate. The plan supports the federal sustainable development strategies of connecting Canadians with nature.
The strategies and objectives identified in the management plan that could potentially result in negative environmental effects are related to operations, such as earthworks or disposal of waste wood, required for structural rehabilitation of the vessel. However, these effects can be minimized by following existing guidelines, including the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, and implementing a sediment and erosion control plan and conducting project-level impact assessments, if required. Operations at the site are required to mitigate impacts on climate according to Greening Government requirements in support of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
Public and Indigenous engagement was conducted on the plan from June to August 2021. Public concerns raised were incorporated into the plan as appropriate.
There are no important negative environmental effects anticipated from the implementation of the management plan. Individual projects at the site will be evaluated separately under the Impact Assessment Act, or successor legislation, as necessary.
For more information about the management plan or about S.S. Klondike National Historic Site of Canada:
S.S. Klondike National Historic Site
10 Robert Service Way
Whitehorse YT Y1A 2B5
Phone: 1-867-667-4511 (Summer)
Phone: 1-867-667-3910 (Winter)
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the President & Chief Executive Officer of Parks Canada, 2022.
Top from left to right: Coghlan Collection, 201052#8, Parks Canada/Frank I. Coghlan; Parks Canada; Parks Canada/P. Gowdie
Bottom: Parks Canada/P. Gowdie
Cette publication est aussi disponible en français :
Plan directeur du lieu historique national du Canada S.S. Klondike, 2022
- Paper: R64-105/92-2022E
- PDF: R64-105/92-2022E-PDF
- Date modified :