Monday, September 19, 2016

Gettin' Boned In The Yukon.

      As late as 20,000 years ago, Yukon was a much different place than it is today. Ice-sheets covered much of what is now Europe and North America, with so much water held inland in the form of glaciers, the sea-level had dropped and exposed the shallow bottom of what we now call the Bering Strait, joining Russia and North America and forming the ice free, grassy steppes land known as Beringia. Best described as a windswept Arctic desert, Beringia was a Pleistocene era refuge for the migration of mammals from Asia while they waited out the ice-age.
And what an interesting lot they were.
Woolly mammoth.

Short face bear.
The creepy Jefferson ground sloth.

Giant beaver, stood almost as tall as a human, and often stalked us for food.

A handful of peoples, no more than several thousand possibly, crossed the land bridge from Asia, adapting to the cold, dry climate while the glaciers blocking the way south slowly melted.

   Much of Eastern Beringia, or Yukon as it goes by now, and in particular the Dawson area, was spared the pulverizing and re-distribution effects of glaciation, and the high grassy steppes over thousands of years eroded down to the hills and creeks that you see now, concentrating scattered gold deposits in valley bottoms, or placer deposits. Durable material such as bones and tusks from Beringia times survived in the cold dry climate, slowly tumbling and working their way downhill to the creeks and rivers, then the valley bottoms were thickly covered in a fine organic wind-blown loess, or what miners call 'black muck', then frozen in time.
   Most anyone whom has been involved in the placer-gold industry in this region is well familiar with the array of old bones that sometimes turn up in the mining process. I sluiced for a few seasons on Eureka Ck. in the 1980's, and still remember discovering my first mammoth tusk. 
 It was as exciting for me as finding a big gold-nugget, and hung onto two I found for all these years, which now adorn the interior of the Hotspring Lodge. 
   Over the hill and in the adjacent drainage system to Eureka is the mine on Stowe Ck. operated by Chis St.Jean and Nika Guilbault of the series Yukon Gold. When my partners and I had this area staked in the early 80's, I had test-drilled the upper creek for gold, but had no idea of the other 'riches' that lay frozen below on the level above creek gravel.
Using a water monitor to strip the muck down to the gravel and following the pay deep under the muck bank, this area of the creek has produced many old bones, in fact I was a little surprised at the amount that have come out of this short section of creek-bed they have exposed. 

Sticking right out of the bank.

Chris spied this bone from something or other as we were walking by.

Chris and Nika, with whats left of a bison.

Ribs from....something or other.
Bison horn.
Mammoth leg-bone.
Somebody's leg-bone.

The Perky 1000
This is some kind of inside joke around camp, I didn't ask anyone to elaborate, but you can use your imagination.

Chris showing-off  mammoth tusks found at Stowe Creek.

I made a trip over the hill to Eureka Ck. where Troy has claims at the very spot I found my tusks 35 years ago, and he showed me some treasures he's come up with over there.
Like this antler and skull-cap from a Beringia era caribou.
Always a lucky find, this molar from a woolly mammoth.
He showed me a mammoth tusk he had been refinishing, sanding down through the oxidized layer to expose and polish the ivory beneath. Very cool.

Mammoth vertebrae.

   While walking near the cut-bank on Stowe Creek, Nika bent down and picked up this mammoth vertebrae.
"You should take this." she offered.
I didn't have a pocket big enough and didn't want to be carrying it around while taking pictures.
"Aw, that's alright Nika, thanks anyways." I said stupidly.
"No", she said, "You should have this, from us, ...a Yukon candle-holder!"

Thanks for insisting there Nika, it cleaned-up nice, I packed it home and added it to my collection of memorabilia around here at the old lodge.

 If you ever pass through Whitehorse YT,  have a stop at the Beringia-Yukon Interpretive Center.

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