The Force in the North

Big Salmon/Little Salmon

Big Salmon and Little Salmon detachments, thirty miles apart, were established in 1897 when Major Walsh and Judge McGuire’s parties were frozen in at these points. At each place there is two good buildings, a men’s quarters and a store-house.  (Report of the North-West Mounted Police, 1898. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer. 1899:36.)

Inspector Cortlan Starnes arrived in Skagway on September 17, 1898 and started north to take Judge McGuire and Frederick Wade to Dawson City. Three boats were ready for them at Lake Bennett. Starnes, Wade and Constable Magnus were each in charge of a boat. The waves were high on Lake Bennett and two of the boats jettisoned cargo to stay afloat. On November 5, the Starnes party met ice pouring out of the Takhini River and the same was true at Hootalinqua. They reached Little Salmon on November 11 and decided they could go no further. Inspector Starnes established a winter quarters about a mile below the junction of the Little Salmon and the Yukon rivers and he remained there until January 31, 1898. Starnes purchased 3,000 pounds of provisions from travellers. (Jim Wallace, Forty Mile to Bonanza: The North-West Mounted Police in the Klondike Gold Rush. Calgary: Bunker to Bunker Publishing. 2000:61-2.)

Both detachments were moved to the opposite side of the Yukon River in 1899. As the winter trails did not pass along the River, both detachments were closed starting in 1901. (Report of the North-West Mounted Police, 1900. Sessional Papers, Volume 11. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer. 1901:3.) The Big and Little Salmon detachments were opened when the River was navigable.

The Little Salmon detachment was abandoned in the summer of 1903.(North-West Mounted Police Annual Report. Sessional Paper No. 28. 1904:36, 37.)

Big Salmon was closed in 1903. The detachment buildings stood until 1995, when they burned in a forest fire.