Fishwheels on the Yukon

Fishwheel near Eagle ca 1930s.

UAF Archives, UAF-1977-0204-9

During the gold rush era, a new form of technology was incorporated into subsistence practices on the Yukon. The fishwheel was apparently a European innovation brought north by some unknown man of the gold rush in the early 1900s. It revolutionized the traditional fishing economy because it allowed people to take large quantities of fish on deep, muddy rivers where nets and weirs proved to be ineffective. The increased supply of fish was dried and used not only for human food, but to feed the sled dog teams so important for trapping. The surplus was also sold to travelers at the roadhouses beginning to spring up along major travel routes bringing miners in an out of the country. The use of fishwheels is still important on the Yukon River. A community fishwheel built in Eagle a number of years ago became a place where people gathered to share the bounty of the river and to share stories with their neighbors. Setting up and maintaining the fishwheel was also a community activity, spearheaded by an Eagle Village community leader.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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