The earliest known inhabitants of the area were the Taku River Tlingit First Nations people, who traveled through the broad valley on their annual hunting, fishing and trading migrations. Tucked into the far northwestern tip of British Columbia, the remote and spectacularly beautiful community of Atlin graces the eastern shore of the mighty Atlin Lake, British Columbia's largest natural lake.
Atlin was founded in 1898 after European explorers Fritz Miller and Kenny McLaren discovered gold nearby in Pine Creek. The White Pass and Yukon Railway Company recognized Atlin's potential as a tourist destination and promoted the town to the fullest.
Ten thousand fortune hunters poured into Atlin in 1899 and the town began to emerge with hotels, stores, offices, specialty shops, and saloons. By the time gold finds had dwindled to a trickle in 1915, many had been seduced by the compelling beauty of Atlin's landscape - and stayed. With its long summer days (19 hours of light at midsummer soltice!), this community of about 400 continues to attract artists and other restless souls.
Atlin is BC's most northwesterly community, about 180 km (112 mi) southeast of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. From the Alaska Highway, turn south on to Hwy 7 at Jake's Corner, where this scenic, all-weather road will take you the 94 km (58 mi) to Atlin. The town is idyllically located midway along the eastern shore of Atlin Lake, across from the majestic Coast Mountains. A vast wilderness network of lakes, mountains, glaciers, plateaus and valleys surrounds Atlin.
Re-live the Gold Rush by visiting the Atlin Museum, housed in the original 1902 schoolhouse and view the photo, gold mining artifacts and First Nations collections. Guided historical tours of the Atlin townsite are available.
Don't miss the graceful old paddlewheeler M.V. Tarahne which, in her glory days of 1916-1936, carried passengers and freight the length and breadth of the lake; now she rests on shore. The Atlin Historical Society has done of a lot of restoration work to the boat so visitors are still able to enjoy it.
Pine Creek Falls can be found 6.4 km (4 mi) from Atlin on Discovery Road. This is a great location for a summer picnic, to splash around with the kids in the natural warm springs, hike a mountain trail, canoe an isolated lake, or camp on the water's edge.
To see examples of local First Nations art work and catch a glimpse of traditional dance, visit the Taku River Tlingit Centre for Culture.
Atlin's restored 1900 courthouse is now the home of the Atlin Courthouse Gallery featuring work from a diverse group of local artists including painters, carvers, quilters, goldsmiths, photographers, and more.
Anglers can fish right off the town dock, or cast their lines in the local lakes and streams, where rainbow trout, arctic grayling and northern pike can be found. Atlin Lake is popular with the locals as is nearby Como Lake and Surprise Lake. Guided fishing tours are also available and for serious anglers fly-in trips can be arranged.
Atlin Lake offers exceptional boating opportunities including: motor boating, canoeing and kayaking and house boating. Canoeing and kayaking on the lake are becoming increasingly popular. Paddle for one or a few days and soak in the views and fresh air. Houseboating is an option for summer groups. The houseboat rental company offers guided day trips and two- to three-day charters. Atlin has two marinas, the public Brewery Bay Marina, and the private Norseman Adventures Marina. Both are close to downtown Atlin and Norseman rents motorboats.
This 5,000sq km (1,950sq mi) area offers everything a snow enthusiast could ask for. Over 300 runs at an elevation of 1,800 m (5,000 ft) offer skiers and snowboarders at the intermediate level and up some amazing terrain. Cross-country skiing is also popoular. Locals regularly ski on and around Atlin Lake and Teresa Island in the middle of the lake. Snowmobiling and snowshoeing on the lake is also fun.
There are trails for every level of hiker in the Atlin area. The Monarch Mountain Trail is one of the most popular routes. This 6.5 km (4 mi) long trail heads through sub-alpine to a viewpoint of Atlin Lake. Llewellyn Glacier is a not-to-miss hiking experience. The sediment from this melting glacier is what gives Atlin Lake its Aqua colour. The glacier can only be reached by a 30-minute boat ride. The walk to and from the glacier takes about four hours but is flat although there is some walking on large rocks. Atlin Mountain, Ruby Mountain, El Dorado Creek and others offer additional hiking opportunities.
The Atlin Arts & Music Festival is one of the biggest events of the year, attracting many visitors. A cross-cultural celebration of arts and crafts, this family event takes place in July. It is designed to showcase all forms of performance, visual art and music.
Background Photo Credit: Tourism British Columbia