By The Canadian Heritage Rivers System
Exhilarating rapids, canyons, soaring mountains, and unequalled opportunities to view big game - all combine to make the Tatshenshini a river of dreams. The river supports an unusually large population of grizzly bears, both in number and size. Other big game includes Dall's sheep, woodland caribou and moose, while peregrine falcons, bald eagles, golden eagles, goshawks soar overhead. The Tatshenshini is an important salmon spawning river, providing food for grizzlies, and for people. The Champagne and Aishinhik peoples traditionally harvested salmon along the Tatshenshini, and at the village of Klukshu, visitors can learn about the importance of salmon to their way of life, how they caught salmon with fish traps and gaffs, and dried them as a winter food staple. Today, the Tatshenshini is considered to be one of the top river trips in the world for rafters and kayakers.
The Tatshenshini River is located in the Coast Moutnains and St. Elias Mountains of southwestern Yukon part of the UNESCO Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek World Heritage Site. Due to this river's outstanding natural heritage, human heritage, and recreational values to Canada, the Tatshenshini was designated to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System in May 2004.
The Tatshenshini River lies in the rugged southwestern corner of the Yukon Territory. It drains the area, cutting through the Coast Mountains to Alaska and the Pacific Ocean. The boundary of the Tatshenshini River includes the drainage basin of the Yukon portion of the river.
The headwaters of the Tatshenshini River and parts of the main upper tributaries such as the Blanchard River, lie in British Columbia. The river flows through the Yukon, then enters British Columbia again, joining the Alsek River before passing into Alaska and emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
The river was also designated for its significant natural features. The river has outstanding scenic qualities, such as dramatic mountain ranges, canyons, rapids, and waterfalls. The Tatshenshini represents the Yukon-Stikine Highlands Mountains eco-region of the Yukon and has other notable features:
- rocks belonging to terrains of the Insular and Coast geological belts and features associated with the Denali fault zone which separates the two belts. The rocks of the Insular and Coast belts record parts of the geological record of the Proterozoic, Paleozoic, and Mesozoic eras;
- vegetation communities that are extremely diverse and support a number of rare plants and animals because of the merging of the coastal interior boreal and alpine biomes;
- representative examples of physiographic features such as complex coastal and interior geologic formations, the Duke River and Denali faults, and river morphology
- wildlife habitat and vegetation communities which complement Kluane National Park's representation of the North Coast Mountains Natural Region and support for wildlife in the adjacent Kluane National Park
- the St. Elias Mountain Range, which has the largest non-polar ice-cap in the world.
- undisturbed alpine and sub-alpine environments;
- outstanding habitat and populations of Pacific salmon species; and
notable concentration of wildlife species such as grizzly bears, Dall sheep, and mountain goats.
The Tatshenshini River was designated for its outstanding historic features and representation of Canadian historical themes (among other things) including:
- native peoples' history and culture;
- trading and travel routes;
- links to coastal exploration and mapping;
- gold rush trails, transportation, and events;
- the social and economic well-being of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations;
- the Klukshu site, a living museum where visitors can see aboriginal-style salmon harvesting and the structures associated with this process and learn about the history and culture of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.
- the old village site of Shawshe (Neskatshin) which is one of the only two locations in the Yukon where nineteenth century coastal style Tlinglit houses are known to have been built;
An undisturbed aboriginal graveyard at the Shawshe which features one of the best collections of pre-highway period aboriginal-style grave markers in the Yukon.
The Tatshenshini is an international adventure tourism destination for rafting and wilderness travel. It provides opportunities for exceptional quality of recreational and lifestyle activities such as:
- rafting, kayaking, and canoeing in a scenic mountain and canyon wilderness setting;
- horseback riding in valleys along old trails and traditional routes and in sub-alpine and alpine setting;
- salmon fishing; and
- wildlife viewing