The name Whitehorse  was given to the treacherous rapids encountered by stampeders, who likened them to the flowing manes of Appaloosas. An entry in an early edition of the Klondike Nugget described the scene:
Many men who ran these dangerous waters had never handled a boat in their lives until they stopped at Lake Bennett to figure out which end of their oar went into the water.… The boats filed into that tremendous first section of the canyon, dodged the whirlpool in the middle, rushed down the second section of the canyon, tossed around for a while in the seething water of the rapids, made that stupendous turn into White Horse, as with rapidly accelerating speed they plunged into the final chaos of angry water . . .
A few men drowned; many managed to hang onto their lives but lost their boats and grubstakes. Regulations were put in place that allowed only expert handlers to pilot the rapids. Undoubtedly, this saved countless lives and supplies in the more than 7,000 boats that passed through in the first, crazy rush to the Klondike.
Soon after, an eight-kilometer (five-mile) horse-drawn tramway was built around the rapids to the present site of Whitehorse, where goods were reloaded into boats to complete the journey to Dawson City . A tent city sprang up at the tramway’s lower end, and Whitehorse was born.
The town’s role as a transportation hub began in 1900, when the WP&YR reached Whitehorse , finally connecting Skagway  (Alaska) to the Yukon . At Whitehorse, passengers and freight transferred to riverboats for the trip down the Yukon River to Dawson City. In 1942–1943 this role grew substantially, as did Whitehorse along with it, during the construction of the Alaska Highway.
In 1953, Whitehorse eclipsed declining Dawson in population and importance and became the territorial seat of government. Whitehorse today thrives on highway traffic, territorial administrative duties, and its function as a supply center for Yukon mines.