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The Whiting Watershed

The Whiting is the wildest and most remote watershed in the BC-Alaska transboundary region. It is the only watershed without any roads of any description. In transboundary terms, it is a small watershed, nestled in glacial terrain between the giant Iskut-Stikine and Taku watersheds. The entire Whiting is only 80km/50 miles long, flowing from BC southwest into Stephen’s Passage 48km/30 miles southeast of Juneau. Numbers for the US side are hard to find, but the Canadian drainage area of the Whiting is 2,375 km2 /915 square miles. Both the Tahltan and Tlingit people consider the entire Canadian portion of the Whiting to be within their traditional territory.

The remoteness of the Whiting has spared it from an onslaught by the mining sector, and also challenged the few human visitors that have travelled there. A mining prospector named Tom O’Brian died there of scurvy in 1919. More recently, adventurers on a rafting expedition camped on an island where they found SOS written out in rocks to signal aircraft!
Despite its ruggedness and small size, the Whiting hosts at least 6 biogeoclimatic subzones and variants, and is home to salmon, cutthroat trout, black and grizzly bears, mountain goats, moose and bald eagles, among other species. Although the entire Canadian portion of the river was recommended for protection in a park in the 1990s and the US portion was recommended for a National Wild and Scenic River designation, no part of the watershed has actually been protected or designated.


Since the Whiting is only really accessible by helicopter or boat, it has not suffered the same level of adverse impacts from mining and other resource extraction that other transboundary rivers have suffered. Still, the Chutine River area has been explored on the Canadian side, and there is one gold/silver prospect identified on the US side. US Bureau of Mines officials have suggested that the Whiting holds potential to house massive sulphide, vein gold and porphyry molybdenum and has recommended that the area "be thoroughly investigated for all of these deposit types." The Whiting needs protection soon, before it becomes the next target of the mining sector.

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