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The first southern lakes sternwheelers were constructed on the shores of Lake Bennett during the Klondike Gold Rush. They carried freight and passengers from Bennett City to Canyon City at the head of Miles Canyon just upstream from presentday Whitehorse.

Before the railway was completed around Lake Bennett, the lakes steamers Bailey, Gleaner, Clifford Sifton and Reaper were on constant duty transporting rail for the construction crews.

The end of steel in Whitehorse connected to the Yukon River sternwheelers. Dissatisfied with the efficiency of the system, WP&YR set up the British Yukon Navigation Company (BYN). It purchased the Canadian Development Company sternwheelers on the Yukon River and the assets of the John Irving Navigation Company which operated boats on Lake Bennett, Taku Arm and Atlin Lake.

As the stampede waned, many sternwheelers were taken through Miles Canyon and White Horse Rapids to run between Whitehorse and Dawson. The remaining boats worked out of Carcross to supply the growing mining communities in the southern lakes.