The name Whitehorse seems to come from early miners who thought the rapids below Miles Canyon, Kwänlin, resembled the manes of horses. It was in common use by 1871. The White Horse rapids can no longer be seen. In 1957 construction began on a hydroelectric dam which flooded the rapids with Schwatka Lake. The movie below, submitted for copyright by Thomas A. Edison in 1900, shows a scow descending the rapids in 1899.

During the Gold Rush, there was a short lived settlement at Canyon City above Miles Canyon, as tramlines were constructed around the rapids. With the completion of the White Pass and Yukon Railway in 1900, the main settlement moved to the trans-shipment point between steamboats and railway on the west side of the Yukon River, where downtown Whitehorse is today.