A Celebration of Swans

Swans in flight.

2024 is the 30th anniversary of A Celebration of Swans, the Yukon’s premier birding festival held annually during the month of April. Visit the Swan Haven Interpretive Centre to welcome spring and witness the mass migration of thousands of swans, ducks and geese.

More than 20 events are planned between April 1 and 30. All events are free and take place at the centre, unless otherwise noted. See below for the full list of events. 

The bird situation at Swan Haven, 2024

Swan numbers are on their way down as they move north to their breeding grounds in Yukon and Alaska. Other waterbirds are still arriving however, including Eurasian Wigeon and Canvasback ducks. For the most up-to-date numbers, go to Ebird.org.

April 18 swan count.

Festival poster

Every year a collectible poster is produced featuring an art piece that celebrates spring. Hundreds of these posters are distributed to communities across the Yukon.

Learn how to get a free copy of the poster.

Swan Haven Interpretive Centre

The Swan Haven Interpretive Centre opens April 1. It’s located at 58 Swan Haven Drive, Marsh Lake, in the North M'Clintock Bay subdivison.

Entry is free and free parking is available at the centre and along Swan Haven Drive.

The Swan Haven Interpretive Centre sits on the shore of M’Clintock Bay in Marsh Lake, where there is open water in early spring that waterbirds rely on to feed, rest and stay safe. Visit the centre to learn about bird migration with knowledgeable staff and hands-on indoor and outdoor exhibits. Then, walk along the shoreline trail to view (and hear) thousands of migrating swans, ducks and geese.

2024 hours of operation

Open daily from April 1 to 30.

Monday to Friday: 5 pm to 8 pm.

Saturday, Sunday and holidays (April 1): 10 am to 5 pm.

You are welcome to visit outside these hours to view the outdoor exhibits and access the shoreline walking trail.

Visitor Survey

Have you visited Swan Haven this year, or in the past? Are you unable to join us this year? Please tell us why so we can plan great programs in the future. 

Complete this short survey to tell us about your visit to Swan Haven or why you can't make it out. 

Surveys results are completely annonymous and will be used to help plan events. 

Facilities

There is no waste disposal at Swan Haven so please pack out everything you bring with you.

Bring your own drinking water; there is no running water on site.

Amenities:

  • Heated two-storey building. The first floor is accessible via a boardwalk and ramp.
  • Outhouses (including one that is wheelchair accessible).
  • Viewing decks.
  • Shoreline walking trail (approximately 1 km return); accessed via a set of stairs.
  • Indoor and outdoor interpretive exhibits.

There is no running water on site.

What to bring

  • Warm clothing and layers (temperatures vary widely in April).
  • Comfortable boots (expect snow, mud and ice).
  • Sunglasses, sun screen and a hat (the glare off the ice is strong).
  • Drinking water and snacks.

School visits

School programs have always been a large part of spring activities at Swan Haven. Hundreds of school children make the trip with their classes to participate in hands-on activities and games, in a spectacular outdoor classroom. 

These popular programs are available for Grades 2, 3 and 5 throughout April. These programs are provided in partnership with the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. Teachers and administrators, please visit their program page for details and teacher resources. Contact education@yukonwildlife.ca to book a visit.

Student art contest

Wildlife-themed art submissions (in any format) is displayed at the Swan Haven Interpretive Centre. Winners will receive great prizes and their art will be displayed at the Whitehorse Public Library in May.

Events

All events are free and take place at the Swan Haven Interpretive Centre, unless otherwise noted. More events and registration information will be added soon.  

Wednesday, April 24

Senior’s tea

The Marsh Lake Community Society invites seniors and Elders to enjoy tea, coffee, sandwiches, homemade goodies and swan viewing. Come, mingle and enjoy!

Time: Drop in 11 am to 4 pm

The first floor of Swan Haven Interpretive Centre can be accessed by a wooden boardwalk and ramp for improved mobility accessibility.

Martha Ritchie open studio

Artist-in-residence Martha Ritchie invites visitors to the first of two open studios during her time at Swan Haven. Get a view of the printing blocks being carved as well as a preview of the textile project as it progresses. Martha will be on hand to share how she works as well as answer questions and give insights into her swan project.

Time: 5 to 8 pm

Saturday, April 27

Yoga and contemplative walk

Start your morning at Swan Haven with gentle stretching amidst the sounds of nature (which, when it comes to swans, can be quite loud!). Amber Berard-Althouse will lead a one-hour yoga class inside the centre, followed by a contemplative walk on the lake ice out to the swans. Bring your own yoga mat (BYOM).

Time: 9 to 11 am

Registration is required as space is limited. (Registration opens at noon one week prior.)

Register for yoga class and contemplative walk.

Martha Ritchie open studio

Artist-in-residence Martha Ritchie invites visitors to the second and final open studio event during her time at Swan Haven. Get a view of the printing blocks being carved as well as a preview of the textile project as it progresses. Martha will be on hand to share how she works as well as answer questions and give insights into her swan project.

Time: 11 am to 2 pm

Watercolours workshop

M’Clintock Bay and its visiting waterbirds offer an inspiring setting. Artist Daphne Mennell will guide you through watercolour techniques as you create your own painting. All materials are provided and no experience is necessary. This event is free but registration is required as space is limited.

Time: 1 pm  

This event takes place outdoors so dress warmly for sitting at picnic tables while painting. It is accessible via a level, frozen gravel surface.

Registration opens at noon one week prior.

Register for this workshop.

Sunday, April 28

Bike to/from Swan Haven (approx. 45 km)

It’s road-biking season! Add bird-viewing to your training schedule with a one-way shuttle to or from Swan Haven (approximately 45 km from Whitehorse). You can either bike to Swan Haven and shuttle back, or shuttle to Swan Haven and bike back. This is not a group ride and the ride is not supported in any way, so bring all the tools, food, gear and spandex you need. This event requires registration and costs $20/person. Maximum 14 guests per direction.

Book early to secure a spot by emailing Boreale Explorers (info@be-yukon.com). Registration closes Thursday, April 25 at 5 pm.

Time: Departs Whitehorse at 12 pm (meet at rest stop near South Access); departs Swan Haven at 1:15 pm

Cost: $20

Drop-in relief printing with Martha Ritchie

What better way to celebrate the swans than with a hand-printed clothing decal? Printmaker Martha Ritchie will provide visitors with an opportunity to try their hand at printing onto fabric using a selection of pre-carved printing blocks and repurposed textiles. Or bring along a favourite item of clothing and give it a new look. This drop-in activity is free and family-friendly. 

Time: 1 to 3 pm

Tuesday, April 30

Brownie Mountain hike

This short but steep hike is also known as M’Clintock West Ridge. We’ll get an elevated view of Swan Haven and M’Clintock Bay in the lovely, evening light. Requires hiking 2 kilometres over very steep, uneven terrain (which could be snowy and/or muddy). We recommend bringing hiking poles and boots. Review trail and parking description at Yukonhiking.ca.

Time: 6:30 to 9 pm

Location: Meet at 10 Burns Road (Department of Environment building) to carpool and caravan to the trailhead at Marsh Lake. Involves an approximately 30-minute drive (one-way).

May 5

Dagay (swan) walk (Burwash Landing)

Bring your lunch to Kluane and enjoy a guided walk with Diyet, who grew up on the ancestral lands of the Kluane First Nation. Learn about the dagay (swans) of Jèdàlį (head of the river) and enjoy a cup of hot tea and bannock at the end of the day. Warm layers and rubber boots are strongly recommended. Registration is required so we can share additional information related to this event. If travelling from Whitehorse this is a long day but worth the trip to say goodbye to the swans for another season.

Time: 12 to 4 pm

Burwash Landing is approximately three hours from Whitehorse/one hour from Haines Junction. Meet at the Kluane Museum of History. From there, we’ll carpool to an area nearby.

This event is free but registration is required so we can share information leading up to it. Audiences of all ages are invited to participate. Involves walking about 3 km down an old dirt road and along the mudflats, with minimal elevation change. 

Registration opens April 28 at noon. Register for this event

May

Shorebird walk

At a certain point in spring, we say goodbye to migrating swans and hello to shorebirds including sandpipers, snipes, yellowlegs and godwits. Birding expert Jukka Jantunen will sort it all out during a short walk and talk.Rubber boots are highly recommended.

Time: Sometime in the first two weeks of May, depending on the speed of spring melt and arrival of shorebirds. We’ll update this event before the end of April.

Location: TBD based on spring melt and bird sightings but we will likely meet near Swan Haven or the Lewes River Bridge.

Registration is required so we can share event-specific information. (Registration opens at noon one week prior.) Check back for registration link.  

Contact: 

For questions about A Celebration of Swans and wildlife viewing events, email wildlife.viewing@yukon.ca or phone: 867-667-8291 or toll free in Yukon: 1-800-661-0408, ext. 8291.