Curious what could possibly live and grow this far north!? You will be surprised by the diversity of plant and animal species making their home in the Yukon. Here are a few tips below to help you get acquainted with and see where to find just a few of the plants and animals found around Dawson City.
Cross the river on the George Black Ferry and head past the West Dawson lookout to find Orchid Acres. During the month of June you’ll find patches of Spotted Lady Slipper Orchids nestled along this 2km easy trail; the only place in the Yukon to see these flowers in such abundance. Wind through the twisted aspens and find yourself at 2 different lookout points with gorgeous views of both the Yukon and Klondike Rivers.
This is a moderate trail ending at a lookout over the confluence and down the Klondike River. Named for the crocus flower- which is the first flower to bloom in Dawson City each year around the end of April; also be on the lookout for lowbush cranberries, arctic bluebells and wintergreen. Don’t forget to admire the multiple different types trees- spruce, aspen, birch and willow just to name a few.
Various types of mushrooms can be found throughout Dawson’s many trails and foliage. Some of our favourites include the Fly Amanita with its bright red/orange caps and white growth spots (think the mushrooms from Alice in Wonderland- careful, they’re poisonous) and the Lycoperdon Perlatum or the common puffball which grows in clusters with a relatively smooth surface and when stepped on releases a puff of spores. Keep an eye out for the edible Morel mushroom which only grows the following summer after a forest fire. Look out for morel mushrooms featured on the menus of some our local restaurants during the summer season!
You will not be able to miss the bold purple coloured florals as you drive along the highways from July-September. Called fireweed; it was chosen as Yukon’s official flower due to its abundance across the territory. Fireweed takes its name as it is one of the first plants to bloom after a forest fire and can be found all throughout the Yukon.
Although the growing season in the north is short, with the long hours of sunlight we can still produce lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Take a tour of the TH farm, located just 15 minutes out of town, or check out the local community garden. Both the farm and local garden produce an array of veggies and fruit including potatoes, carrots, lettuces, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, and berries
Every Saturday May-September starting at 11am you can find the local farmers market at Waterfront Park. Here you will find local farmers selling their produce as well as products using locally sourced ingredients such as fireweed jelly, wild rose jelly, locally made honey, birch syrup and more!
If you are in town on Discovery Days weekend be sure to check out the Horticultural Exhibition where there are over 40 categories judging various vegetables, legumes, flowers and even extending out to furs, grains, baked goods and entrees!
If you are visiting during the first couple weeks of September you will be lucky enough to witness the striking fall colours- but be careful, they are only here for a very short time! Vibrant red, golden yellow and bold orange leaves all paint the landscape surrounding Dawson. Take a drive up the Dempster to Tombstone Territorial Park or over the Top of the World highway to really take in the epic beauty of this very brief season- you won’t regret it.
One of the best chances to view wildlife is actually driving along the highways in and around Dawson. Grizzlies, moose, caribou, foxes, squirrels and lynx can all be spotted (if you’re lucky!) along the North Klondike Highway on your drive up from Whitehorse. Turn up the Dempster Highway and into Tombstone Territorial Park where you will find the Blackstone Uplands, home of multiple arctic species of birds. Red throated loons, willow ptarmigan, golden eagles and short eared owls are just some of the feathered creatures that can be found in this rich landscape.
If you are staying within city limits you will be sure to spot the ubiquitous raven, often found hanging out around any of our local restaurants and scavenging for food. While walking our trails you may run into harmless wildlife such as birds and squirrels, but be aware of bears and make sure you head out prepared with bear bangers and/or bear spray.
If you are planning on heading out on the rivers or lakes you will increase your chances of spotting a beaver family swimming with logs to build their dams. If you plan on fishing look out for arctic grayling, northern pike, lake trout and Chinook salmon, depending on the time of year.
It doesn’t matter if you find yourself exploring on foot or by vehicle you will be surrounded by vast wilderness brimming with many varieties of flowers, foliage, mushrooms and animals. For a more comprehensive list of the flowers and animals around Dawson and the Yukon check out these useful guidebooks: