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"The forests in southeast Yukon are more lush than the rest of the territory
thanks to more snow and rain. Wye Lake is one of the few places in Yukon where
you can see White Spruce, Black Spruce, and Lodgepole Pine together . . .
When the trail was built, small bridges and boardwalks were needed to take
people through marshy areas and prevent damage to the wetland . . .
This tiny marsh is home to a remarkable number of rare plants and animals."
~ information from two of the interpretive panels at Wye Lake
One of the things that made our unexpected delay in the town of Watson Lake more comfortable was nearby Wye Lake, which was developed into a city park in 1989. It is easy to access and a wonderful resource for residents and visitors.

I got into a habit of taking Cody for walks on the nice single track dirt and boardwalk trail around the lake each morning. Some days we'd go back again in the afternoon or evening. Out and back from our campsite was about a three-mile roundtrip hike.

Cody enjoyed swimming in the lake and sniffing all kinds of new scents:

I enjoyed the serenity; I usually saw only a handful of people on the two-mile trail each time I was there. Nothing calms my mind and body like a brisk hike in a scenic location.

This one offered a pretty blue lake, interesting plants, and an abundance of wildlife:

One side of the lake is primarily wetlands and a large grassy area with picnic tables and a gazebo. 

The marsh is great habitat for many species of birds and insects. One of the interpretive signs says that 17 kinds of damselfly and dragonfly live at Wye Lake. It is also the only place in the Yukon for the Wavy Waternymph, a delicacy for many ducks. 

Wye Lake is on two of the major flyways for waterfowl migrating between their summer nesting grounds in the north and wintering grounds in the south:

Boreal habitats are critical for many species of birds. Open water helps mark the route and provides food for their epic journey in both directions. (Talk about ultra-distant athletes!)

Boardwalks and wooden bridges over wet areas on the loop trail at Wye Lake help protect the habitat and make walking around the lake more pleasant, especially after all the rain this area has received in recent days:



Above and below:  two views from one of the observation decks in the marsh area

Three quarters of the loop trail meanders through boreal forest, the term used to describe far northern subarctic woods dominated by cone-bearing evergreens such as fir, spruce, and pines, as well as deciduous aspen and birch trees.

Most of the boreal forests I've seen in northern New England and the U.S. Rockies are also characterized by a lot of soft moss underfoot and colorful lichens growing just about anywhere they want to grow:


My favorite part of the trail was through the aspens and paper bark birch trees right at the edge of the  lake:


Paper bark birch (L) and lichens growing on aspen (R)

That part of the trail is where I also had some of the best views of the water:

A solitary duck floats on the lake.

Lily pads (foreground) and a colorful rental facility in the park

Here are some more scenes from the forested part of the trail:




The Wye Lake trail has a couple dozen interpretive signs describing the flora and fauna found in this boreal habitat.

I'm familiar with most of the trees and flowers, such as birch, but found the additional information about traditional uses by First Nation** peoples to be interesting:

** First Nation is the designation for tribal people whose ancestors lived in Canada before European explorers and settlers arrived. According to this website there are 14 First Nations in the Territory, comprising about one quarter of Yukon's total population.

Some of the plants in the Yukon are new to me, like Crowberry:

Most berries this far north should be ready for bears, birds, and humans to eat in July and August.

The soft, bright green plants in the picture below are also new to me. They are very dense in some areas around the lake, looking like a lush carpet under the trees

As best as I can determine, that's Common Horsetail, a member of the fern family. If I'm wrong, please let me know what it is.


When I initially noted the First and Second Wye Lakes on the map of the town of Watson Lake in Milepost I figured they were named after someone named Wye.

Nope. One of the interpretive signs has the story:

The Alaska Hwy. was originally built near the airport, which is six miles away from this town site of Watson Lake. The Y-shaped junction of the access road was called the Watson Lake "Y" and this nearby lake became known as Wye Lake.

Gazebo at Wye Lake Park

Ironically, the lake named Watson Lake is up near the airport.

If you're ever traveling through the Yukon on the Alaska Hwy. take time to stop in the little town of Watson Lake long enough to enjoy this city park containing the First Wye Lake.

It's a lovely place to have lunch and/or take a 45-minute stroll to unwind before continuing north or south on your journey.  

Next entry:  continuing west and north on our journey -- Watson Lake to Kluane Lake

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil