|The Dempster Highway in Winter
March 23, 2009
The Dempster Highway is a 450 mile long highway that connects the Klondike Highway in the Yukon Territory of Canada
to Inuvik, Northwest Territories on the Mackenzie River delta. During the winter months, the highway extends another
121 miles to Tuktoyaktuk, on the northern coast of Canada, using frozen portions of the Mackenzie River delta as an ice
road The highway crosses the Peel River and the Mackenzie Rivers using a combination of seasonal ferry service and
ice bridges in the winter.
Last summer Jackie and I did the Dempster in June and July. I seized the opportunity to do the Dempster again this
winter with Christoph of Taiga Journeys in Whitehorse.
The first 450 miles is a gravel road. There were blizzard warnings during the whole trip, and a party of tourists like us the
week before spent 36 hours trapped at Fort McPherson and there had been frequent closures the last few weeks.
Fortunately, we skirted the blizzards and made it through with terrific views.
Below is a picture of the beginning of the Dempster Highway taken from the airplane which we took for our return to
If the road looks paved, it is not. It just looks that way through the ice. Ice and snow make this gravel road a much
smoother drive in winter than in the summer although ice and snow create other hazards.
We arrived at the Tombstone Mountains about an hour into our drive north.
Below the Ogilvie Mountains in Tombstone Park. There was a blizzard warning for these mountains on our first day as
we set out on our drive.
This is Christoph our
driver and guide. He
was very cautious
and very competent
and never slid once
in our 1400 miles of
travel on ice and
It pays to have a
Swiss guide in this
remote area of the
We saw a fair amount of Ptarmigan
Below, a Sundog (three suns) and a rainbow around the sun caused by ice crystals in the air.
The middle point in the road and the first place to stop for gas and lodging is the truck stop at Eagle Plains. For about
an hour before arriving we drove through a forest fire area from about five years ago.
Late that afternoon, we arrived at Eagle Pass. This is a very dog friendly truck stop. Dogs roam the hotel, and the brown
dog in the front regularly hitch hikes with truckers who pass through Eagle Pass.