Emerald Lake is a lake in the southern Yukon Territory, notable for its intense green color. It is located on the South Klondike Highway at kilometer 117.5 (mile 73.5), measured from Skagway, Alaska. The color derives from light reflecting off white deposits of marl, a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate, at the bottom of the shallow waters.
In June 2009, I took a family sea/land vacation to Alaska. Earlier in the year I had decided that this was my last year as a working man and that I would be retiring before the holiday season. Knowing that I would need a hobby to fill my new found idle time and knowing that I planned on doing a lot of traveling, I decided to reenter the world of photography after a near 20 year hiatus. I purchased my first digital SLR, a Nikon D40, and began to reacquaint myself to the world of photography.
This trip to Alaska was my first challenge as a newbie photographer. During the cruise portion of our trip, the town of Skagway was one of our ports of call. The most popular excursions seemed to be the White Pass railway tour into the Yukon and the glacier tours, but we opted out of both of them. Taking the advice of a friend who had multiple Alaska cruises under her belt, we decided to go on our own self-guided auto tour into the nearby Yukon Territory.
We had reserved a car at the only rental agency in town (Avis) and headed up the South Klondike Highway towards the Yukon Territory at our own pace. The border crossing into Canada was no problem. A few questions and we were on our way. Our route paralleled the railroad tracks for most of the trip so we were seeing the same scenery as the RR passengers with one distinct advantage. We could......stop.... and spend some time at those scenic locations which caught our interest. Numerous lakes.... the town of Carcross... trading posts... wildlife... and even a small desert near Carcross.
For we photographers, that advantage made us forget about the comfort of the dome cars on the train. We were also able to spend triple the time and travel much further into the Yukon then those who opted for the train. Not only did we have the opportunity to stop for that magnificent scenery but we also could stop for wildlife and we did so for three grizzly encounters during our drive.
In fairness, I never heard any negative comments from my fellow passengers who opted for the White Pass Railroad but for photographers I truly believe that the freedom to stop and compose your photos is one factor which should weigh heavily on any decisions. I heartily recommend the self-guided tour by auto up the South Klondike highway into the Yukon for any passengers stopping in Skagway. It is also very economical as we were able to rent a vehicle for the four of us for near the same price as ONE train ticket.