Carmacks has served many functions over the years, including campsite, trading post and coal-mining community. Today it is a highway service centre and the home of the Little Salmon/ Carmacks First Nation. Carmacks is located at the confluence of the Yukon and Nordenskiold rivers. It lies 180 kilometres north of Whitehorse on the Klondike Highway, near its junction with the Robert Campbell Highway.
Originally, the Carmacks area was part of the hunting and fishing territory of the Northern Tutchone people. The site of Carmacks was an important trading stop on the river trade routes of the Coastal Tlingit and the Northern and Interior Athapaskan. The modern community is named for George Carmack, one of the discoverers of gold in the Klondike. In 1893, three years before the gold discovery, Carmack found a seam of coal at Tantalus Butte, at the mouth of the Nordenskiold. He built a cabin that grew into a trading post - Carmack's Post.
During the Klondike Gold Rush, the site became a stop on the way to Dawson; later, it was a stop on the Overland Trail between Dawson and Whitehorse. When the first leg of the Klondike Highway was completed in 1950, Carmacks became a major service centre. At that time the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation people were forced to take up permanent residence on the north bank of the Yukon River, where most still live. The business section of Carmacks is on the south bank.