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
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
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.
For reservations or information on other kayaking excursions:
For information about the rail tour only:
For Skagway info: