The Forty Mile, Fort Cudahy and Fort Constantine Historic Site is located about a two-hour drive north of Dawson City, Yukon. I visited the Forty Mile townsite on June 21, 2020. The other two areas are across the Fortymile River.
I have a fascination with ghost towns. This was one of the best preserved sites I’ve visited. People do use the area for recreation, and there are staff accommodations, so it’s a “ghost town” with an asterisk.
It’s located at the confluence of the Yukon and Fortymile rivers.
The video near the top of this post is fairly comprehensive. It includes shots of the panels detailing the history of the structures, and it should give you a solid visual understanding of the site.
It took me about 42 minutes to drive from the Top of the World Highway (AKA Yukon Highway 9) to a turnoff. Once I made that right turn, it was about a seven-minute drive to the parking area. A few people canoed to the site and were being picked up in a van as I arrived.
A trail about a kilometre-long north connects to the site. It was muddy in parts but easy to walk.
I didn’t go near the staff accommodations, and, who knows, maybe there were some people creeping around the forest, but it felt like I was the only one around for dozens of kilometres.
The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Yukon governments co-own the site.
According to a panel near the parking lot, the Fortymile River is called “Ch’ëdä Dëk” in the Hän language. Ancestors of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have used the area for at least 2,000 years.
It was Yukon’s first town, and 160 men lived there in 1887. Its population peaked at more than 700 before the last permanent resident died in 1958.
More about its history can be viewed in a PDF document on the Yukon government’s website.
People can camp near the mouth of the Fortymile River or near the parking lot, and drinking water should be boiled before consumed, according to the panel.
The Swanson’s General Store building is, according to a sign on the door I only noticed after walking out, “for emergency use only.”
There’s also apparently a logbook for visitors to sign; I couldn’t find it.
Initially, I was more interested in exploring Clinton Creek, another (mostly) abandoned community, which is relatively close by.
Although there was little remaining to see other than the bridge (a sign warns against entering the Clinton Creek Mine, by the way), I still found it interesting to just stand there for a while and think about the hundreds of people who used to live there.
Also, I came across a couple that built their own floating home. It made for a neat mini-doc.
Ultimately, the remains of Forty Mile, Yukon, offered a lot more to see. I would budget at least an hour to explore the site.
Visiting Forty Mile was one of my most memorable experiences in Yukon. With so many of the buildings still standing, it’s relatively easy to imagine what life was like there all those years back.