Dawson City ferry dislodged from sandbar

The George Black Ferry, which connects the main town site to West Dawson and the Top of the World Highway, ran aground on Wednesday morning. It sat midstream for more than 7 hours.

George Black Ferry spent most of Wednesday stranded in the middle of the Yukon River

Dawson City's George Black ferry ran aground on Wednesday. It was stuck nearly 8 hours before a barge came and hauled it free. (Submitted by Ev Pollock)

Dawson City's ferry ground to a halt for more than seven hours on Wednesday — in the middle of the Yukon River.

"The George Black Ferry is stuck on a sandbar, and staff are looking into potential mechanical issues at this point," said Oshea Jephson, a spokesperson for the Yukon government's highways department, early Wednesday afternoon.

The pedestrian and vehicle ferry connects the main town site to West Dawson and the Top of the World Highway. 

Jephson says there were no passengers on board when it ran aground at about 10 a.m. PT, and the ferry's crew was safe and waiting for a barge to come dislodge the vessel.

The barge, run by a local mining company, arrived late in the afternoon and managed to free the ferry just after 5:30 p.m. 

'Most exciting thing'

Paul Robitaille, who works at the Klondike Visitors Association office on the riverfront, said the town was abuzz with excitement as the barge worked to free it from the sandbar.

"For a lot of us, it was the most exciting thing that happened to us today," he said.

"Because of the dike, we kind of lose our connection with the river sometimes and we need action on it to kind of reunite us and connect with the river." 

Jephson said a search and rescue boat was on hand through the afternoon to transport pedestrians across the river.

Once the ferry was back at shore, it was going to be hauled out for inspection. But Robitaille said spectators didn't really stick around to watch that part.

"It's not as exciting as watching a boat pull a bigger boat," he said.

Robitaille says the river is typically lower this time of year, but he couldn't say whether that might have caused the trouble.

Jephson said the government was also trying to determine how it happened. The ferry would be taken out of the water for a mechanical inspection, he said.

"From there, we'll be able to determine what next steps will be taken," he said.

The ferry afloat, but immobile — 'something you don't typically see,' said local resident Paul Robitaille. (Submitted by Ev Pollock)

With files from Claudiane Samson and Mike Rudyk


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