Home > Carcross Summit II > Backgrounder – Destination Carcross MOU

Destination Carcross is… “A collective vision for Carcross as a vibrant, sustainable tourism destination with a commitment to action from all stakeholders to make that vision a reality.” …from first Carcross Summit, October 23, 2003

The vision for Carcross is…“a sustainable year-round tourism destination where we celebrate and share the beauty and richness of our land, First Nations culture and gold rush history.”

On January 6, 2005, Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN), the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad (WP&YR) and the Government of Yukon signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work together with the goal of developing the Carcross area as a sustainable tourism destination.

The MOU is a tool to engage and build relationships and support a comprehensive, coordinated approach to developing a sustainable tourism economy in the Carcross area. The ‘Destination Carcross’ MOU forges a partnership to increase tourism visitation and stimulate economic ventures in the Carcross region.
MOU objectives:

  1. The parties share a collective vision of a sustainable economy and tourism industry in the Carcross region, which is within the Carcross/Tagish First Nation’s traditional territory;
  2. The parties uphold the principles of integrity, respect, equality, quality, service and the development of market-driven and market-ready products;
  3. The parties will work together to create a positive economic climate;
  4. The parties will develop a pilot project to create market-ready aboriginal tourism product and aboriginal economic development;
  5. The parties will co-host a follow-up to the successful Carcross Summit to include community and industry input to enhance economic opportunities and community development;
  6. The parties will work with strategic stakeholders to create a Destination Carcross work plan, with actionable items, roles, responsibilities, timelines and deliverables and address the necessary components to support the development of the Carcross region as a sustainable economy and tourism destination;
  7. The parties will maintain regular contact, to share information and measure progress on the action items in this Memorandum of Understanding;

C/TFN, WP&YR and Yukon government have also committed to working with the community to develop a shared vision and plans for Destination Carcross.

Recent Events
The past three years have seen a steady acceleration of dialogue and progress on developing a sustainable tourism economy in the Carcross area.

• In May 2003, the Yukon government and WP&YR signed a letter respecting areas of mutual interest and recognizing the historical relationship between Yukon and WP&YR and the potential for business opportunities and local employment.

• In August 2003, C/TFN and WP&YR signed a memorandum of understanding outlining common goals in their efforts to see a more prosperous tourism and business community in the Carcross area and to co-host the Carcross Summit.

• In 2000, C/TFN launched Four Valleys project; was put on hold until 2002 when its assessment continued and Four Mountains Resort was launched. Resort project and founding of Caribou Crossing Adventure Company in 2004. Four Mountains Resort is envisioned as a four-star 80 room lodge overlooking Lake Bennett. C/TFN hosted design workshops (charrettes) with the community to guide resort design.

• In October 2003, the First Nation, Yukon government and the federal government initialed the C/TFN Final and Self-Government Agreements

• On October 24, 2003, White Pass and C/TFN hosted Carcross Summit in Whitehorse. Delegates from Carcross, Tagish, Atlin, Alaska, Seattle, Juneau, industry associations and government discussed vision and actions to support tourism in the Carcross area.

• In March 2004, six Carcross area residents participated in an intensive four-day wilderness tourism training retreat at Marsh Lake’s Inn on the Lake. Participants focused on best practices and worked with existing wilderness tourism operators.

• In an April 2004 vote, C/TFN members did not ratify land claim agreements.

• In December 2004, C/TFN released its Tourism Code of Conduct. The intent of the code is to shape tourism development in the Carcross area by ensuring community benefit, and respect for local culture and the environment.
• On January 6, 2005, White Pass, C/TFN and the Yukon government signed a memorandum of understanding to work together with the goal of developing the Carcross area as a sustainable tourism destination.

• WP&YR continues to upgrade the rail line between Bennett and Carcross. In January 2005, White Pass announced limited charter train service to Carcross in summer 2005, and the Yukon government purchased the Red Line train.

• On January 13, 2005, Canada and the Yukon announced a $3 million investment in the Carcross waterfront. The development project will cover a number of activities including community clean up, water, sewer and road improvements, landscaping and upgrades and construction for river structures.

• Referendum on having a second C/TFN land claims vote was approved on Feb. 12, 2005. A second land claims ratification vote will be held from May 25 – 28, 2005.

Carcross Tourism History
The people of the Yukon’s Southern Lakes are veterans of the tourism industry. Yukon’s tourism story began when the First Nations people greeted and guided the early explorers, traders and members of the North-West Mounted Police. The Klondike Gold Rush drew tens of thousands of goldseekers to the Yukon, many of whom traveled over the coastal passes along traditional trading routes. Many First Nations people worked as guides, packers and in other ways to meet the needs of the travelers. The 110-mile long White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad was built at the height of the Gold Rush, completed with the driving of the golden spike on July 29, 1900 in Carcross.

Four Tagish people helped spark the Klondike Gold Rush with their gold find on Bonanza Creek. Kate Carmack, Skookum Jim, Dawson Charlie and Patsy Henderson gained fame and became important historical figures for their role in the Gold Rush. For years, Henderson met tourists from the train and told gold rush tales and stories about his people’s traditions. In the 1950s he entertained visitors with his Uncle Patsy’s Show.

Wealthy, independent and curious tourists were drawn to the new northern frontier, joining rail and steamer excursions that offered a comfortable route to the interior. In the years following the Gold Rush, Carcross was a travel hub as the railroad and Yukon River sternwheelers carried well-heeled, adventuring visitors to once-remote places like Dawson City, Whitehorse and Atlin. For more than forty years Ben-My-Cree was a fabled garden stop along Tagish Lake for SS Tutshi sternwheeler passengers. The owners offered guided tours of their extensive garden, and visitors included the Prince of Wales and President Roosevelt.

The South Klondike Highway opened in 1978, providing an important link to the coast. The train closed in 1982 and reopened in 1988 to service the growing Alaska cruise ship industry with tourist excursions to White Pass summit. Over the past thirty years, the Chilkoot Trail has been developed by Canada and the U.S. as a national historic site and backcountry destination. The trail draws wilderness travelers to the area, though Carcross has been largely excluded from the Chilkoot experience because of limited train access.

The community of Carcross suffered a major blow in 1990 with the burning of the SS Tutshi, the town’s major tourist attraction and one of the few remaining authentic artifacts of the paddlewheel era. In 1991, the Carcross train depot opened as the Carcross Visitor Reception Centre, and in the same year Frontierland also opened its doors. Tourism planning began in the Southern Lakes area in 1990, and a plan was completed in 1994. The South Klondike Highway Interpretive Plan was completed in 1997. New tourism businesses continue to take root in the Carcross area, joining some well-established businesses and diversifying the area’s tourism offerings.