City seeks new area plan for Schwatka Lake

The City of Whitehorse wants your thoughts on the future of Schwatka Lake. It has been over a decade since the area plan for the popular lake was updated.

The City of Whitehorse wants your thoughts on the future of Schwatka Lake.

It has been over a decade since the area plan for the popular lake was updated, and it’s time to take a fresh look at the uses for the waterway, explained city planner Erica Beasley.

“The planning process is a chance to touch base with current users and find out if these policies are working with them, or if there are opportunities to make improvements,” she said.

The city held a public information session last Thursday that 29 people attended. Many said they want to see upgrades to the dock facilities at the lake, and more access to the western shore, Beasley said.

“We’re looking at improvement to the current policy. We could look at more dock locations, more access to the waterfront. There is the potential of adding more dock sites for recreational dock use, more paddling and sailing,” she said.

Right now, the city is still gathering input from the public about what they want to see at the site, and pretty much any potential use is still on the table.

“We’re just starting the process and getting feedback from the public. It’s really early in the process, so we don’t have any recommendations, or improvements that we want to see. It’s all about what the public wants right now,” she said.

Along with recreational uses, one of the other big factors going into the plan will be possible environmental protection for the lake, especially because it is Whitehorse’s backup water supply and feeds the power generators at the Whitehorse Dam. Protecting those two functions will be very important, Beasley said.

The first draft area plan will be released in January, and the public will have the chance to give more input on it then. In the meantime, residents can visit the City of Whitehorse website to voice their opinions.

While the lake is popular with power boaters, canoeists and swimmers in the summer, it is also one of the only floatplane aerodromes connecting us to southern Canada. Mixing more canoes with buzzing Beavers and Otters trying to land could lead to unhappy consequences, so getting it right is key, Beasley said.

Christoph Altherr flies a floatplane out of Schwatka. He said he’s never been worried about conflicts between boaters and pilots.

“I’m flying there for 15 years or so. I’ve never seen any conflict or anything between the different users,” he said.

His suggestion for updating the area: better docks and more parking.

“I think what we really need are more visitor facilities. Parking is always an issue, and we don’t even have any outhouses. We are in touch with some pilots associations in Alaska and B.C. Whitehorse is pretty much the only stop if they fly up into the interior,” Altherr said.

“It’s embarrassing, frankly. There’s no public dock, not even a pay phone,” he said.

“It’s an important facility for Whitehorse and the Yukon. If you look at the Yukon map, there are so little roads and so much country. So much of that country is accessed by float plane, and it’s also a tourist attraction. They love to come out there and see the planes coming and going,” he said.

Contact Jesse Winter at