Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites

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Tr’ochëk: Hydrology

Yukon River by Tr’ochëk during high water.

Yukon River by Tr’ochëk during high water.

Flooding of the Klondike River near Tr’ochëk during spring break-up, 8 May 2009. Note that the Yukon River in background is still filled with ice.

Flooding of the Klondike River near Tr’ochëk during spring break-up, 8 May 2009. Note that the Yukon River in background is still filled with ice.

Kylie Van Every photo
River ice taking out the Klondike River footbridge during spring break-up, May 1898.

River ice taking out the Klondike River footbridge during spring break-up, May 1898.

Yukon Archives, Tappan Adney fonds, 81/9, #58.

Being at the confluence of two rivers, Tr’ochëk is shaped by the forces of water and ice. Flooding washes away ground and vegetation and redeposits silts, which changes the topography and soils of the site. During spring breakup, huge chunks of ice gouge the banks, reshaping the sides of the river and, during flood, carving new shapes into the landscape as well. At this point in its course, the Yukon River is heavy with silts. Over time, these have created islands and filled in channels, again changing the shape of Tr’ochëk. Upstream mining activity also contributes to the silting.

The rivers also create a distinct environment for Tr’ochëk. The low-lying parts of the site are lush with undergrowth and trees that like “wet feet” such as willow, cottonwood and alder. Dying plants – including sweepers, or fallen trees that have been undercut by the current – may shelter juvenile fish or the entrance to an otter’s den. Decaying vegetation supplies food to insects. These are then eaten by bigger creatures, which in turn are the food of larger predators such as salmon, pike, eagles and bears.

The richness of life in the river valley has always attracted people. Traditionally, our people spent most of the summer and early fall along the river banks fishing, hunting, gathering edible plants, and trading and visiting with other First Nations. European traders and other newcomers built posts and settlements along the rivers that provided them with transportation, fish and game and, often, richer soils for growing gardens.

To learn more, see the story Yukon River Hydrology (PDF) from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Interpretive Manual.