↑ Return to Abandoned Bases

Print this Page

YUKON


Canadian Forces Station Whitehorse:

Originally opened by the Department of Transport, the airfield was taken over to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 as part of the Northwest Staging Route.

Designated as RCAF Station Whitehorse, the station had detachments at Teslin, Aishihik, and Snag and in 1946, at Watson Lake.

After World War II, RCAF Station Whitehorse remained open primarily as a refueling station for on the Alaska route.

The Federal Department of Transport took over the operation of the airport, but the RCAF remained in Whitehorse.

With the closure of RCAF Station Prince Rupert in 1948, the radio section was transferred to Whitehorse, where it stood-up as No. 5 Radio Unit on a property south-west of the airport, near the intersection of Hamilton Boulevard and South Access Road. The station became part of the Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio System in 1966.

Also in 1966, the station was renamed Canadian Forces Station Whitehorse.  This would be short lived however, as CFS Whitehorse closed on 1 July 1968.

The airport reverted to being solely a civilian airport, now known as the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.

In January 1999, Hangar C at the Whitehorse Airport, the last of the World War II hangars built by the U.S. Army Air Force was destroyed by fire.

The former radio site is now a residential community.  The former PMQs are the Lobird Trailer Court and the former Operations Building is now Radar Apartments.  The Guardroom / Administration buildings also remains.  Lobird Road runs through the middle of the community.

An old Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-3 sits on a pedestal in the parking lot outside the Yukon Transportation museum building as a weather vane.

Source Material:  The Secret History of the Radar Building by Vivian Belik, information provided by Chief Perry Officer 2nd Class (Ret’d) Chris Carnall (2015), http://www.alaskahighwayarchives.ca/en/chap1/index.php.



Royal Canadian Air Force Detachment Snag:

Opened in 1942 as a Detachment of RCAF Station Whitehorse near Snag.

Closed May 1968.


Royal Canadian Air Force Detachment Teslin:

Opened in 1942 as a Detachment of RCAF Station Whitehorse near Teslin.

Closed May 1968.

The aerodrome now operates at the Teslin Airport.  It has a 5000 foot gravel runway.


Royal Canadian Air Force Detachment Aishihik:

Opened in 1942 as a Detachment of RCAF Station Whitehorse near Aishihik.

The Detachment closed in 1968 and the airfield was abandoned, leading to the depopulation of Aishihik itself.

Aishikik is mostly uninhabited now, except for a small number of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations people, who continue to use it for traditional purposes such as meetings. Many of their people moved to Haines Junction, Yukon, where they have more services.

The outline of the crumbling runway is still visible.


Royal Canadian Air Force Station Watson Lake:

Originally opened in the the 30s as a civilian airport, the Watson Lake Airport was taken over by the RCAF in 1941 as part of the Northwest Staging Route. An operations building was built and the runways were paved.

After Pearl Harbour the Watson Lake strip became critically important the U.S. Army Air Force established a large base there, considerably bigger than the Canadians, but they shut down and left after VJ day.

Watson Lake remained an RCAF aerodrome after WWII, serving as an Winter Experimental Establishment, with Canadian Pacific Airlines prividing civilian aviation services. Seven PMQs were constructed for families living at the aerodrome, along with the wartime facilities already present: a curling rink, a theatre, a hobbyshop, messes, barracks and a large sports field.

The Town of Watson Lake sprung up in the post-war years, one of the few towns in Canada built because of the airport, instead of the other way round.

RCAF Station Watson Lake had a brief post-war life, closing in April 1957.  By 1961, the barracks, the PMQs and storage buildings had been removed. The sports fields were re-developed for housing.

Three airmen died while serving at Watson Lake:  Lieutenant (N) Gerald Quarton, RCN, died when his Hawker Sea Fury crashed in 1948; Leading Aircraftman Ernest McWilliams, RCAF, died when an Avro Lincoln Bomber crashed into Watson Lake in 1948; and Flying Officer Walter Mollon, RCAF, died in a Hawker Sea Fury crash in 1951.

Scheduled passenger service was offered by Canadian Pacific Air Lines with Boeing 737 jetliners in the mid 1970s.

Passenger service was also provided in the mid 1990s by several regional and commuter airlines such as Central Mountain Air flying Beechcraft twin turboprop aircraft and Alkan Air operating Piper Navajo aircraft. Currently, the airport does not have any scheduled passenger airline service.

Several of the old buildings remain, but not all in their original locations.  The former RCAF hangar and the WWII-era terminal building both remain in their original locations at the airport.  Two of the old log barracks were moved to the east side of the town, along the Alaska Highway, with one of them now operating as a motel, the Air Force Lodge.  The former base chapel is now the Getaway Motor Inn, also along the Alaska Highway, in the middle of town.

Other reminders of the military past of the airport includes a memorial cairn, dedicated to the service personnel who were a part of the Northwest Staging Route and the Winter Experimental Establishment between 1941 and 1957.  The propeller affixed to the cairn is from the Avro Lincoln that killed LAC McWilliams in 1948.

Sources: http://www.tc.gov.yk.ca/pdf/L2_WatsonLake_WalkingTours_36419_FinalWeb.pdf, http://www.watsonlake.ca/about-watson-lake/historical-photo-gallery, https://ouralaskahighway.com/?portfolio_item=watson-lake-air-terminal-building.


Royal Canadian Air Force Detachment Grande Prairie:

Originally opened by the US Army Air Force in 1942. The aerodrome was taken over by the RCAF in 1945, but remained a joint U.S – Canadian station until 1949.  The aerodrome was taken over by the Department of Transport in 1951.  Nothing remains from the RCAF days.

Source material:  Information supplied by Alvin Maieer, Manager of marketing and Business Development (2011).



Camp Takhini:

Established in 1946 just north of the airport in Whitehorse as a base of operations for the Canadian Army, who took over operation and maintenance of the Alaska Highway System.The Army took over several temporary houses, known as “Cemestos” that were built by Standard Oil in 1944 for their Canol Project refinery, for the use of camp personnel.

From the late 40s until the early 50s, several new buildings were constructed, including a headquarters building, barracks, a power plant, mess hall, a Canex store, a school and PMQs.

Following military tradition, the streets in Camp Takhini were named after famous battles, in this case WWII battles such as Antwerp, Cassino, Ortona, Nijmegan, Falaise, Normandy, Dieppe, and Vimy.

In 1955, the barracks located at  what is now 200 Range Road was converted into administrative offices, including the operational headquarters for the Northwest Highway System services.

The camp closed in 1964, when the federal Department of Public Works and Government Services assumed responsibility for the Alaska Highway.

Some of the camp buildings and PMQs remain today. One of the former barracks is now a rental residence named “The Barracks”.  The former NWH headquarters building is occupied by various federal and territorial government offices, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Source Material:  Alaska Highway Heritage web site – www.ouralaskahighway.com, assistance given by Tascha Morrison, Alaska Highway Community Society (2015) & Hougen Group web site – www.hougengroup.com.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/abandoned-canadian-military-bases/abandoned-bases/yukon/

21 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. Chris Carnall

    The USAAF hangar that was built in 1938 known as Hangar C at the Whitehorse, airport was the last of the airport’s Second World War hangars. On the night of 18 Jan 1999 the hanger was destroyed by fire, the temperature that morning -20°. At the time of the fire the hangar housed small private and commercial aircraft and was administered by Trans North Air. I do have a photo of the Hanger C prior to the fire if you would like a copy of it. There are other photos on line of the fire which was reported in the Whitehorse Daily Star on line.

    I was stationed at CFNA Det Yukon as the QM at the Cadet Camp known as Boyle’s Barrack south of town at Mary’s Lake at the rank of Petty Office 2nd Class from 1996 to 1999.

    Det Yukon is still active with approx. 4 to 5 regular CF members full time and during the summer when the cadet camp is up and running 20 to 25 regular and reserves member to work with the cadets.

    CHEERS
    Chris Carnall (ret’d) CPO2
    Naval Storesman
    Powell River BC

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. Can you provide me with some information on CFNA? It would be greatly appreciated. The only information I have is from Wikipedia. Can you add anything to Dawson Lake?

      Bruce

      Bruce

      1. Bruce Forsyth

        P.S. Yes, I would like any photos that you could provide.

  2. Peter Allan

    Hi Bruce, I spent many years on radar stations and other bases that are now closed, so I enjoy your website very much. One of my favorite was RCAF Stn Whitehorse 66/68, would you know where I can look at old pictures of the station and personnel. If its OK I’m including my e mail in case someone other than you has any information for me. Again thank you Bruce for a fine website. Peter Allan…………… petethestwd@hotmail.com

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site and for the good comments. I’m glad you like the web site. If you have any pictures of the station that you are able to share, that would be appreciated.

      Bruce

  3. steve goodfellow

    dear sir my father was stationed at muskwa garrison mile 295 Alaska highway from 1958-1962 we lived in pmqs .Ihave tried to find out what happened to the base but everyone ive spoken with tells me there was no base in fort nelson. Iknow there was I lived there,Ithink there was approx. 28 homes pmq’ Ithink the army also built a grade school on the highway between the base and the city of Ft Nelson

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Steve,

      You are not mistaken. The web site http://canadianprovostcorps.ca/history-10.htm, makes mention of Muskwa Garrison. I don’t know much about it myself, but I will put it on the To Do List.

      Do you have any photos of your time there? You can send any photos to bruce@militarybruce.com.

      Thanks, Bruce

  4. Sheila Greer

    Hello Bruce – looking for dates of operation for the Aishihik airport. Can you help with this?

    Thanks, Sheila Greer, Edmonton

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Shelia,

      It looks like the Aishihik Airport opened during WWII and closed in 1968. I’ve added some information that I found to the Yukon entry.

      I hope this helps,

      Bruce

  5. Sheila Greer

    Thank you – Sheila

  6. Sheila Greer

    Thank you

  7. Gerry Bartlett

    My father had several northern posting during WW2 with the RCAF. I dimly recall his mentioning a place that sounded like Kitty something or other. Does this resemble something you might be familiar with? One of his postings was in Alaska, if that helps. Thanks.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Gerry,

      That doesn’t sound familiar to me. Can you provide any other details?

      Bruce

  8. John Stern

    Coming back to Whitehorse from a trip to Watson Lake, I pulled off the Alaska Highway (on the North side) just a bit past Johnson’s Crossing expecting to find a gravel pit as most of these pull offs usually lead to. But no! I was amazed to find an airfield of considerable length which I would say is every bit as long as our runway here in Whitehorse. Is there a history attached to this airfield?

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi John,

      I have no idea about this airport, but it looks like it could have been used during the Alaska Hwy construction or as a Air Defence Command emergency airfield. I’ll look into it and see what I find.

      Bruce

  9. J

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ib51lx5zkb1jaf8/AACmqbp6Pfiko96JAbQ9RPAfa?dl=0

    Check out the aerial photo Bruce – it shows quite clearly. I have also enclosed a couple of photos of both ends of the runway and a picture of what I think used to be the frame for a windsock. I had no idea that there were emergency airfields in addition to the regular airfields which I thought were spaced every 300 miles beginning at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Thanks for the photos.

  10. Brian Graves

    My Dad was Transferred to Watson Lake about 1948 from Regina. I was about 4 or 5 at the time and we stayed there about three years. Our first house was the old officers mess and I recall well the huge fireplace and log construction. Great place. Then we moved across the field to the PMQ’s on the lakeshore. This was great as well for a young kid. Swimming and fishing at the doorstep. The PMQ’s were built about 4 feet off the ground of course, then the window sill was about another 3-4 feet above the floor. I can recall waking up after a heavy snowfall and seeing wolf forepaw prints in the fresh snow on the window sill! One year in winter a military AC, type I don’t know, crashed and burned across the lake from the PMQ’s. The pilot’s wife apparently lived on the base and I recall my Mom saying she had to be sedated when she heard the wolves howling near the wreckage that night. It was some time before they could get to the wreck site. The lake provided excellent trout and Pike fishing. Rumour in those days was the bottom of the lake had not been plumbed. I suspect with modern technology that has since been remedied. At the time, I knew little about the military side. My mother was the teacher there for several years. She had 8 rows, one for each grade, sometimes there’d be a kid in each row! That is where I began school and so Mom was my first teacher, but not for the last time. Overall it was a wonderful place for a child, summer and winter. The stories about the mosquitoes carrying off children are unfounded. Though we did lose the occasional small dog. 😉 Thanks for the informative article and the memories.
    Cheers

    Brian

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for sharing your story. If you have any photos that you wish to share, please send them to bruce@militarybruce.com.

      Bruce

  11. Brian Graves

    I may have a few…somewhere. If I can find them I’ll certainly send them.

    Cheers

    Brian

    1. Fran Sasaki

      Hi Brian, My father was an aviator, transport pilot, WWII, So. Pacific. Fast forward to 1953. I have all of his flight logs, he wrote in one of them, flew into Whitehorse, Yukon, flew a Beech 18. I don’t know why he was flying up there, he flew all over the world, that year, I’ve been told he was flying everywhere not able to say what he was doing. Any info or insight would be much appreciated. Thank you, Fran my email is fran.sasaki@att.net

Leave a Reply to steve goodfellow Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>