Celebrated dredge soon to be shuttered

A pall of controversy hung over the otherwise joyful celebrations as Dredge Number 4 National Historic Site received recognition as a significant historical engineering work this past weekend near Dawson City. A special event was held on Saturday at the site of the dredge, which is the major visitor attraction on Bonanza Creek

Bonanza Creek

A pall of controversy hung over the otherwise joyful celebrations as Dredge Number 4 National Historic Site received recognition as a significant historical engineering work this past weekend near Dawson City.

A special event was held on Saturday at the site of the dredge, which is the major visitor attraction on Bonanza Creek. The weather cooperated and the sun shone down through parting clouds as visitors and guests panned for gold and ate hot dogs and cupcakes. People explored the interior of the largest wooden-hulled, bucket-line dredge that ever operated in North America.

The work of replacing rotten port-bow timbers was underway during the day, and the air was permeated with the sweet smell of pine tar and linseed oil being applied by workers to preserve the replacement beams. Members of the restoration team were on hand to answer queries about the work, and Parks Canada interpreters were stationed throughout the vessel to answer the questions of the eager visitors crowding on board for a glimpse of the future no-mans-land.

At 2 p.m., a crowd of more than 150 people was called to attention as David Rohatensky, the superintendent for national historic sites in the Dawson City district, explained the purpose of the gathering.

The dredge and its associated works, including an extensive power distribution system and industrial support facilities called the Yukon Ditch, has been recognized by the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers as a significant national engineering work. Other works in the Yukon recognized by the society include the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad (2004), and the Alaska Highway (1996).

After brief introductory remarks, Rohatensky turned the floor over to Pat Habiluk, the engineer whose association with the dredge spans a quarter century and includes the moving of the dredge to its current location in 1991 and 1992. Habiluk spoke on behalf of Ken Johnson, the civil engineer who nominated the dredge for recognition and championed its plaquing. Johnson was unable to attend the ceremony.

After Habiluk’s brief comments about the significance of the dredge and a thank-you to Parks Canada, Rohatensky called upon Habiluk, Klondike MLA Sandy Silver, and Parks Canada employees Carrie Docken and Hugh Copland to unveil the plaque.

After the unveiling, a member of the audience, who identified himself as a resident of Whitehorse, drew the attention of the audience to the irony of honouring the dredge in this way when the plan is to padlock the structure at the end of the season.

Silver responded stating that a petition would soon be in circulation regarding this issue.

The decision of the federal government to slash operations of Parks Canada by nearly one-third means that the dredge will no longer be open to the public for interpreted tours after the end of the season. The cuts include the entire curatorial staff who have been responsible for the documentation and care of thousands of artifacts. These artifacts were removed from the dredge for safekeeping after more than five metres of silt were removed from the dredge hull in 1991.

The cuts raise serious questions about the commemoration of the dredge during 2013, which will be the centennial of its construction. The building of the dredge by Joe Boyle’s Canadian Klondyke Mining Company was completed in 1913, after which it mined its way up the Klondike valley to the mouth of Hunker Creek. In 1941, the dredge was rebuilt on Bonanza Creek, and continued to operate until it shut down permanently in 1959.

The relocation of the 3,000-tonne dredge onto its current foundation by Canadian Construction Engineering Unit Number 1 of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1991 and 1992 marked the beginning of current restoration activities that were evident even during the Saturday event.

Various foreign visitors attending the celebration expressed their disappointment with the closure before hustling off to see the inner workings before the doors are locked for good.

The cuts and following closures have elicited a storm of protest. Most recently, the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon has contested a statement made by Yukon MP Ryan Leef that downplays the impact of the cuts and closures on the industry. TIAY disagrees, stating instead that there will be major consequences for tourism operators.

Despite the gloomy forecast, Mother Nature blessed the site with decent weather that afternoon and curious visitors exploring the nooks and crannies had a fine time.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speak at a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. On Nov. 24, Silver and Hanley announced masks will be mandatory in public places as of Dec. 1, and encouraged Yukoners to begin wearing masks immediately. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read