Erosion threatens historic Fort Selkirk, Yukon

The Yukon government is hiring engineers to figure out how to prevent one of the territory’s most significant historic sites from toppling into the Yukon River.
Between 2012 and 2013, the Yukon River bank at Fort Selkirk receded by about a meter-and a half. The Yukon Government is hiring engineers to examine how to protect the historic site. (Courtesy Bruce Barrett)

One of Yukon’s most significant historic sites is at risk of washing away.

Yukon government officials say the riverbank at Fort Selkirk is eroding. 

In August, the Yukon River was just a few meters from the Anglican school house, Yukon's oldest known log building. (Courtesy Bruce Barrett)
“We’ve been working at that site since the
1980s, and we really have it in a beautiful condition,” says Bruce Barrett, with the Yukon department of tourism and culture. “All the buildings have been stabilized and they're all accessible to people, so I think it's a priceless site.”

Barrett says the erosion problem was discovered in the last decade and it's happening faster than was first thought.

The department is hiring engineers to figure out how to prevent buildings at Fort Selkirk from falling into the Yukon River.

“From my point of view, as someone with a bit of a vested interest in these things, I think it's worth it whatever you have to spend"

The river bank receded by about a metre-and a half between 2012 and 2013.

In August, it was just a few metres from the Anglican school house, Yukon's oldest known log building.

The building was moved as a precaution, but Barrett says that's just a temporary fix.

Fort Selkirk is located at the confluence of the Yukon River and Pelly River.  It is historically significant as a Hudson Bay Company trading post in the 1850s and later as a hub for the Northwest Mounted Police and Anglican missionaries.  But the site was a First Nations meeting place, long before that. 

The town was abandoned in the 1950s as roads made their way North, and sternwheeler traffic declined.