Yukon River Row: From Whitehorse To Dawson City In A Rowboat

The Yukon River Quest is an annual canoe and kayaking endurance race that runs 440 miles (708 km)  from Whitehorse to Dawson City in the Yukon Province of Canada. Over the years the race has evolved into one of the better known endurance paddling events and for good reason. It is a difficult, demanding competition that pulls in paddlers from all over the world.

This year the race took place from June 26-30 with 49 teams completing the course during that period. But the fastest time for completing the course doesn’t appear on the official leader board. That’s because a two man rowing team took to the water a few hours before the official start of the race to see if they could cover the distance faster than the teams in their canoes and kayaks. You see, rowboats aren’t officially allowed in the race and in order to test their speed, the team of Steve Price and Colin Angus had to unofficially enter the competition.

Rowing in a 16-foot long boat designed by Colin himself, the two men set out just after 2 AM on June 26. The hope was to set a new speed record for covering the distance between Whitehorse and Dawson City but that attempt came up just short. The two rowers completed their journey in 50 hours, 50 minutes, which is just shy of the 49 hours, 32 minute record set in 2008 by a six-man canoe. Strong headwinds on the infamous Lake Laberge probably kept them from officially setting a new mark, although they did put up some impressive stats none the less. For instance, Steve and Colin’s time was the fourth fastest ever recorded and the second fastest for a two-person team. It was also the fastest time recorded the past five years and nearly five hours faster than the best time in this year’s official Yukon Quest race. Unlike the teams officially entered into the race, they also finished without any type of support and did so without ever stepping ashore, something that has never been done before either.

Part of the reason that Steve and Colin made this journey down the Yukon River was to show what a good rowboat is capable of. These types of boats can be incredibly efficient out on the water and the two men feel that they are often overlooked as a mode of river transportation. Their efforts were certainly eye-opening at the YRQ where they clearly performed far better than anyone else in the event.

To read a full report of their adventure checkout this blogpost that has more details on what it was like to row the Yukon.

Kraig Becker