The Ross River Blues
Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
35Trip End Jun 31, 2009
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Faro (population 400) is (or was) a mining town with a large open pit zinc and lead mine. It is a typical company town with money to maintain landscaping and essential services and an impressive little visitor's centre. The town is in the "reclamation phase" meaning that they are decommissioning the mine and the town to return the area to nature. They started this 12 million dollar phase in 1998. However, for a town that once had 2500 inhabitants it must be hard to keep a positive attitude as homes and rental accommodation are boarded up. I heard that the local gas station had an arson fire and was never rebuilt.
Most people drive from Faro south toward Whitehorse, but we chose the less popular road to Ross River. The welcoming sign for Ross River (with a rusty shell of a pickup truck beside it) set the tone for the town. The local ramshackle grocery store had two gas pumps, one of which worked, but you had to tell him how much gas you purchased from the other one because the link between the pump and the readout in the store had failed. The local school has closed and, according to the owner of the general store, there wasn't any industry in town. He said that occasionally a prospector comes through town but that's it. I suspect that most of the store's customers come from the local First Nations band. I wonder what the 300 people in the town do for a living.
Ross River is where the Canol (short for Canadian Oil) Road starts; a road built for a 4 inch oil pipeline to support the war effort in 1939. Oil flowed in 1944 but it was all shut down in 1945. The spectacular 316 metre long suspension bridge over the river was used to support the oil line but now serves as a foot bridge. The road is 249 kilometres long with no services and when it reaches the Northwest Territories it changes names to the Canol Road Heritage Trail and goes on for another 320 kilometres. The trail is now impossible by car, extremely difficult by bike and is usually done on foot and only in the summer if you are very fit and have a month available to do it. Apparently the scenery is stunning but we didn't have the time.
We continued on the road to Watson Lake, spotting two moose, a black fox, several ptarmigans, two arctic hares, numerous ground squirrels, and countless mosquitoes eventually stopping at the Francis Lake Campground, just north of Tuchitua.