Capital of Yukon Territory, Canada, on the Yukon River; population (2001 est) 19,100 (Whitehorse has 70% of the population of Yukon). Situated at the junction of the Alaska and Klondike Highways, it is the centre of the region's mining and forestry industries, and an important transport focus, with air links to major Canadian and US cities, and a rail link to Skagway, Alaska. It is also the regional headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Whitehorse was founded by prospectors during the Klondike gold rush 1897–98, when it occupied an important position at the head of navigation on the Yukon. It became a permanent settlement in 1900, and, after incorporation in 1950, replaced Dawson as capital in 1953. Mining is still important locally, for silver, copper, lead and zinc.
History Prospectors travelling downriver to the gold-fields at Dawson, constructed a tramway to avoid the Miles Canyon and White Horse rapids just south of the present city. The population of the shanty town which developed at the end of the diversion swelled to 10,000 but, soon after the arrival of the northern terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Railway from Skagway, the gold rush petered out and Whitehorse became a town of 400 inhabitants. The community recovered when it became one of the main construction camps of the Alaska Highway in 1942. During World War II, a refinery processed crude oil from Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories.
Features The SS Klondike is one of the two surviving ore-carrying paddle-steamers in the Yukon. Built in 1929, it ran aground in 1955, and is now a National Historic Site. Pioneer relics are preserved at the MacBride Museum and neighbouring sites. Other museums include the Yukon Transportation Museum and the Beringia Interpretive Centre. Whitehorse is the seat of Yukon College, founded in 1983. The Yukon International Storytelling Festival has been held here annually since 1988.
The White Horse Rapids from which the city takes its name disappeared under the Schwatka Lake with the damming of the river for hydroelectricity; the torrent used to throw up spouts of white water resembling rearing horses.
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