Put the Dempster Highway on your travel bucket list ASAP! It’s a must see!
The Dempster Highway is a hard packed gravel road built on permafrost. It spans 740 km from outside Dawson City, up the Yukon crossing the Arctic Circle into the Northwest Territories to Inuvik. There are two mountain ranges, the Ogilvie, the Richardson, and crosses the continental divide three times. The road was extended to the Arctic Ocean, on November 15, 2017 to Tuktoyaktuk.
Goodbye Dawson City Yukon!
So here’s the map. Day one we jumped in the van starting from Dawson City and drove to Eagle Plains YT. Day two we left Eagles Plains to Inuvik NWT.
Goodbye cell service. Just an FYI, The next cell service will be in about 550 km at the Peel River Ferry outside Fort McPherson NWT. So sit back, relax and enjoy the view!
The first stop is Tombstone Territorial Park! This park is on Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in land.
The Tombstone mountains are like nothing I’ve seen before. These are non glacier mountains made of permafrost landforms. They are the alpine tundra. Many parts are covered in a mossy-like grass. The scenery was absolutely stunning. I felt like we stepped into Narnia.
This is peak travel season Canada, but the roads weren’t busy. You came across campers, cyclists and motorcyclists. Also, be prepared for flat tires, chipped windshields, mud and possible car damage. Know how to change your own tire as there’s very few services on this road and limited cell service. So pack emergency and survival supplies and maybe a snickers or two, just in case someone gets bitchy.
The road was fine to travel on. I heard it was rough, but I found the ride smooth and comfortable overall for being a big gravel road. I also loved how the terrain was constantly changing.
I gotta give a shoutout to the well maintained outhouses along the highway. Many on the Yukon side, and a lot less on the NWT side. And if you can’t hold it, well then, I guess you make that mountain your toilet.
This was a replica sign at the Tombstone Park interpretation centre from a local environmentalist at the 1979 highway opening. They were reminding people to see the beauty of this area, not to just focus on the resources for extraction. I concur.
So I did open my eyes, and the land was covered in Arctic cotton. I’ve never seen that before either. It was so pretty!
Since Canada has four distinct seasons, each season will bring something new to the drive. It’s July, so the Arctic wild flowers were in full bloom and there were so many different kinds. I don’t even know the names of these flowers. I think fall would be beautiful as well with the leaves changing colours. But for now, screw the leaves, let’s look at some petals!
There were pockets of lakes peppered throughout the fields.
Some lakes have mineral run off from the mountains that makes them this orange colour. Some animals come down from the mountains to drink this nature’s multivitamin.
Moose are known to be found in the lake and sleeping close by, but we didn’t see any. Still worth the stop to see if you can spot any.
We didn’t have much luck seeing animals. It was quite warm out most days, so most animals like to find shade. Also it’s a huge land mass. The fall would be better for animal sightings I would think. But I did spot these mom and baby Dahl sheep walking along the mountain top. I think this pic should be submitted to National Geographic cause it’s so good lol.
We saw these tourists standing by the road, so we stopped as we figured they saw an animal. They did, they were watching a porcupine. Then next thing you know this lady was chasing it high up in the bush. Definitely not recommended. Just enjoy the animals from a SAFE distance. Remember, don’t ever feed wild animals. You don’t want them associating humans with food. A Fed Bear Is A Dead Bear!
There’s a lot of turnouts to stop at along the highway, with information about the indigenous peoples, history and land. Ogilvie Ridge was cool, you get a 180km view!
There’s Lindsay just really enjoying that ridge view.
Eagle Plains YT @ kilometre 371. An Oasis in the Wilderness as their sign says. End of day one! This is a complex that has hotel rooms, lounge, restaurant, laundry, public showers, RV park, maintenance shop and gas. It’s old and dated, but clean and comfortable. They have satellite tv, but no internet or cell service. It was nice to be unplugged for a bit.
We had to hang out like it was 1988. We couldn’t just stare at our phones, we actually had to have eye contact. Imagine that. Had a nice game of crib, and I mopped the floor with Lindsay and mom. My grandma would be proud.
We were in 24 hour daylight, this was taken after 11pm. Glad they had dark, heavy curtains in the rooms. But remember, no darkness means no Northern lights.
Day 2 Inuvik bound!
But first, let’s cross the Arctic Circle!
There’s little certificates you can get along the way. This was for crossing the Arctic Circle. I’ll have to add it to my resume.
Time to switch territories!
Goodbye Yukon, truly a stunning territory!
Throw your hands up in the air, wave em around like you just don’t care, cause we’re in The Northwest Territories! Let’s wind our watches an hour ahead to mountain time!
Our first morning stop was Midway Lake. No one was really there. It’s mostly weekend/summer cabins. There’s a stage in the centre for summer music festivals. You see stages in many of the communities in the NWT along the way. Oh and the mosquitos were horrible, but no West Nile!
Yay, an animal close up! A cross fox trottin along with a duck in its mouth!
So there’s 2 ferry crossings on the NWT side. Just note if weather is bad, or it’s really windy, they may not be running, so you’ll be stuck. So keep that in mind.
The first crossing is Peel River. If you get on right away, it only takes a few minutes to get across. Its interesting, the ferry is pulled across by a large cable that gets cranked.
This land is Gwich’in Territory. There’s a campground and interpretive centre on the other side, and Fort McPherson is about 10 mins up the road. So if you need supplies or gas etc, this is your stop.
Next ferry crossing the mighty MacKenzie River at Tsiigehtchic.
We pulled over to check out this view point. Our guide said, it’s about a 30 minute walk with return and it’s mostly boardwalk and stairs. So I thought, this will be quick, I’ll keep my sandals, long sleeves and jeans on. Well after an 1 1/2 hike in the hot heat, how quickly I regretted my attire, and not bringing water or bug spray. So lesson learned, never trust your guide lol. But it was a beautiful lookout.
Me with my red as a lobster face, happy in the bug free-ish air conditioning. And for those who think the North is only cold, that sun is so hot. Even if it’s 22 Celsius, it feels like 30.
Inuvik! We made it!
Like I said, this route is a must see. My pictures just don’t do it justice. My next blog will be Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk and the road to Tuktoyaktuk. Hope everyone is well, thank you for joining along!