Teslin is 180 km southeast of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway, approximately two hours travel by car.
WHEN TO GO
• The Yukon Motel and Nisutlin Trading Post are open year-round and great sources of information for visitors on things to see and do.
• Check out the outdoor skating rink and snowmobiling and ice fishing on Teslin Lake, as well as local snowshoe and cross-country ski trails.
• Take part in the Lakespiel, Teslin Olympics, and Mini Rendezvous.
• The Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre and George Johnston Museum are open from June–September.
• Enjoy local hiking, biking, fishing, and boating.
WHAT TO DO
• Take a chartered fishing trip on Teslin Lake.
• Experience a guided paddling excursion on the Nisutlin River.
• Pick up a brochure from the Village of Teslin office and take a historic tour of the village with the “Teslin Walking Tour.” yukon.ca/teslin-walking-tour
• Visit the Yukon Motel Wildlife Gallery, with its beautiful exhibits prepared by Carcross taxidermists Chuck and Shane Buchanan.
• Check out the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre cultural demonstrations and workshops and visit the gift shop stocked with local crafts.
• Explore the numerous exhibits and seasonal displays at the George Johnston Museum. gjmuseum.com
WHERE TO STAY
• Yukon Motel: rooms, RV sites, restaurant, souvenir shop, gas station, liquor and beer off sales, ATM service, and wildlife gallery. yukonmotel.com
• Nisutlin Trading Post: eight-unit motel, general store, fast food, gas station, fishing licenses, and ATM service. nisutlintradingpost.ca
• Teslin Lake Campground: open late April to early October; located at Alaska Highway Km 1258. Yukon.ca/camping
WHERE TO EAT
• Yukon Motel: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with daily specials.
• Nisutlin Trading Post: groceries, soft ice cream, and grab-and-go food.
• Kimmy’s Yum Yums: seasonal food truck, often parked across from the Nisutlin Trading Post, serving pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and more.
Much to be discovered
By Rebekah Harrison, Photos by Minnie Clark
As one of the Yukon’s smaller communities, the Village of Teslin is an uncommon destination for visitors and tourists. But speak to locals and you’ll quickly learn it’s a place rich in history with a vibrant and welcoming community spirit that warrants a closer look.
“I really love the community itself and am fascinated by the Tlingit culture,” says Ryan Durack, who moved to Teslin in 2016. “It has been a very special experience to meet all kinds of Elders and learn their stories firsthand.”
Durack, manager of Teslin’s George Johnston Museum, says anyone looking for a cultural experience will not be disappointed by a visit to the village. He says it’s incredible seeing the looks on people’s faces when they leave the museum.
“Most people see the building from the front and figure this will be a typical small-museum 15-minute walkthrough,” he explains. “By the time they come out an hour or two later they are saying, ‘This is one of the best little museums we’ve ever seen.’”
Durack also recommends visitors make time for the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre to experience its exhibits and live programming, which includes demonstrations on carving and smoking fish. The centre features a permanent collection of masks carved by local artists and totem poles representing the five Tlingit clans, created in a project directed by master carvers Keith Wolf Smarch, Dempsey Bob, and Stan Bevan.
“I can’t say enough how much the Tlingit story is a rich one, and I think our museum and heritage centre really support that exploration for people,” Durack says.
Teslin is 180 km southeast of Whitehorse, on a peninsula at the intersection of Nisutlin Bay and Teslin Lake. Known in Tlingit as Deisleen, meaning “long narrow water,” the community traces its origins to coastal Tlingit people who travelled for centuries through the area and eventually moved inland. With the construction of the Alaska Highway, in 1942, Teslin became a permanent settlement.
With a current population of less than 500, Teslin has one of the highest First Nations per capita populations in the territory. The arts, fishing, hunting, and on-the-land activities, such as berry picking, play an important role in the community.
In addition to its cultural offerings, Teslin also has plenty of outdoor opportunities. Durack says locals can point to plenty of off-the-beaten path places to hike, bike, or paddle in the summer and cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter. He says one of his favourite destinations is a hike located near the base of the cell tower just north of town, across from the Teslin Cottage Lots (originally established as a set of mountain-bike trails in 2013, this area is not maintained or marked.)
“I always loved to do that hike in the fall. It is incredibly beautiful; you don’t have to go very high up to get these stunning views of the lake and the Three Aces [also known as Dawson Peaks]. It stinks of cranberry everywhere, there are yellow leaves as far as the eye can see, and I never came across another person,” he says.
Lindsay Johnston, Teslin’s recreation manager, says a favourite community event is the Mini Rendezvous festival, hosted to coincide with the annual Yukon Rendezvous festival, in Whitehorse. Since moving to the community two years ago, Johnston has also launched the popular family-friendly Teslin Lakespiel that includes a round-robin curling tournament and the best tailgate setup contest, featuring decorated vehicles, costumes, and homemade food. She’s excited for an upcoming 3-on-3 community hockey tournament and to introduce the first-ever Teslin Olympics this winter, with sporty spinoff events to coincide with the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Johnston says the community is creating more user-friendly outdoor recreation opportunities. She’s enthusiastic about a trail networking project which will create an organized multi-use trail system. Johnston explains that an accessible walking loop has already been created and future undertakings include adding signage, widening existing trails, and mapping.
Durack is also excited about the trail-building project. “Teslin is fairly quiet in terms of not getting the traffic that some other communities do,” he says, “but there is just so much to be discovered.