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A tiny gold–rush relic 470 kilometres from Whitehorse has 20 residents, two bars and a pizza joint. It’s also the site of one of the territory’s most passionate feuds.
My journey to the heart of the Yukon’s historic mineral wealth started with a question posed to a waitress at the Gold Rush hotel in Whitehorse: What’s the weirdest place in the Yukon?
Her answer was a patch of pay dirt around 470 kilometres north, past endless forests of spruce and golden-leafed aspen, at the end of a gravel road known as the Silver Trail. There lies Keno City, a gold rush–era relic with about a dozen full-time residents, tap water not fit for human consumption and two bars whose owners haven’t been on speaking terms for more than a decade.
Perched among hills rich in silver, zinc and lead, Keno City began as a Swedish prospector’s staked claim in 1919, its name inspired by a popular gambling game and intended to lure fortune-seekers with the promise of an ore-laden metropolis in Canada’s frigid northern reaches.
People made a go of it here for 70 years, as the region became one of Canada’s largest producers of silver. But in 1989, Keno was largely emptied by the closure of the United Keno Hill Mine. That turned the nearby community of Elsa into a ghost town and prompted even the most stubborn holdouts to rebrand their beloved mining outpost as a quirky testament to human tenacity.
“You walk into a place like Keno and you’re like: ‘What? How many people live here, 12?’” said Dirk Rentmeister, 57, a former miner who grew up in Keno and was drying out a freshly detached moose head in his driveway.
For the record, the population is 20, according to the 2016 census for the Keno Hill area, but that includes parttime residents like Rentmeister, who now owns the Silvermoon Bunkhouse motel, and returns each summer to capitalize on visitors’ desires for nostalgia, nature and all-terrain vehicle rides through the wilderness.
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Get unlimited access to thousands of curated premium stories, newspapers and 5,000+ magazinesRead this exciting story from Reader's Digest Canada September 2018. <p>A tiny gold–rush relic 470 kilometres from Whitehorse has 20 residents, two bars and a pizza joint. It’s also the site of one of the territory’s most passionate feuds. ]]>