Railing and Rowing

New railroad and kayak combo is a hit

By: Beverly Burmeier

One of the most popular tours in Alaska, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, has provided informative trips through tunnels, over trestles and beside waterfalls since 1898. Now another company, Klondike Water Adventures, has teamed up to add kayaking to this daylong excursion.

Skagway is a great starting point to experience the history of gold rush days and spectacular scenery. Combining a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Scenic Railway with kayaking on a glacier lake provides the best of both adventures. (Passengers should bring their passport when boarding the train because the trip ventures into Canada.)

Our journey began as we settled into the vintage seats of the restored coaches on the narrow-gauge railway. The train picked up speed and headed through the Skagway River Valley, dotted by willows and birches, until it reached the tree line at nearly 3,000 feet. Tim, the narrator, gave a running commentary on gold rush activities in the Yukon territory during the late 1890s.

Traveling on an unseasonably warm June day, we passed the Gold Rush Cemetery and Dead Horse Gulch. At mile 14, we began a steep incline, rising to 1,800 feet, and then the train arrived at pristine Bernard Lake, located at the edge of historic Fraser, in British Columbia.

After disembarking, our kayaking adventure began. We were met by Don Hellstern, owner of Klondike Water Adventures, and his son Chris. Four guides gave expert instruction and a safety briefing to our group of seven. (All required gear is provided, but dress warmly and bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a waterproof camera.) We slid onto our seats and paddled into the glacier-carved lake, gliding across the cold, clear water.

From our stable, two-person kayaks, we marveled at vistas of snow-capped mountain peaks rising all around the lake. Following our guides, we paddled to several coves where we stopped to admire alpine plant life and breathe crisp mountain air. Occasional small rapids kept us alert. Resting our paddles, we had time to reflect on the serene setting.

After about an hour of paddling and floating, we returned to shore and enjoyed a complimentary snack before returning to Skagway via bus along the Klondike Highway.


The combination scenic railway and kayak tour offered by Klondike Water Adventures can be booked from cruise ships or by calling or e-mailing the company.
E-mail: kwakayak@flash.net
For reservations or information on other kayaking excursions:

For information about the rail tour only:


For Skagway info: