Day 7 – Up the Dempster to the Arctic Ocean and Tuktoyaktuk

From the junction of the Klondike and Dempster Highways, it’s 456 miles (734 km) to Inuvik, North West Territories and then an additional 86 miles (138 km) north to Tuktoyaktuk, North West Territories beside the Arctic Ocean.

The Dempster Highway is only paved for the first 5 miles (8 km) from the Klondike Highway and the last 6 miles (10 km) into Inuvik. The road is open year round but it is a hard road on vehicles and tires, its gravel surface has sudden changes, potholes, becomes boggy and slick in wet weather and is made of crushed shale, which is very damaging to tires. You will need to use 2 free ferries on your drive to Inuvik. Calcium Chloride is used to stabilize the road during wet conditions so it’s advisable to clean the vehicle as soon as you can after traversing this road.

Woke up the next morning and there was a light rain falling. It lasted for a few hours in the morning then cleared up.

Making our way up the Dempster we pass Engineer Creek Yukon Government Campground at mile 120 (193.8 k) where it was decided a short break was needed. We drive around the loop of campsites to explore the possibility of this being a stop on the way south. It was fortunate that we went through as I noticed a gentleman’s vehicle I knew from Instagram that was also making the trip north. He had already been to Tuktoyaktuk and was making his way south. Stopped for about 30 minutes exchanging tales of our adventures so far. The campground is full and very quiet although quite soggy from the rain and has many mosquitoes swarming about, no doubt from the rain. This was an area with he most mosquitoes experienced on the trip.

You must go all the way to Eagle Plains for gas, food, and lodging. This small outpost is located 229 miles (369 k) form the the gas station at the intersection with the Klondike Highway. Remember to fill up with gas when available along the Dempster, there might be long distances between services.

At 252 miles (405.5 km) from the Junction with the Klondike Highway you arrive at the Arctic Circle.

At 289 miles (465 km) you pass into the Northwest Territories. This Territory has approximately 519,734 sq mi (1,346,106 km2 ) with a population of only 44,420 residents (estimate for 2019).

Just a short distance takes you to the first ferry crossing at the Peel River. We are the only vehicles on this northern crossing of the ferry.

Video by H. Berge

Video by H. Berge

One mile past the ferry crossing we arrive at our camp for the night, Nitainlai Interpretive Center and Territorial Park Campground. The center has very nice exhibits and displays of the Gwich’in culture. The adjacent campground has water, firewood, toilets and wonderful warm showers. It is a nice respite after a days driving.

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Before settling down for the evening gasoline is required in the vehicles and as tomorrow is Sunday the stations won’t be open till about noon. It is a short drive north into Fort McPherson, a town of a population of approximately 791 people with a Café, 2 grocery stores, 2 gas/diesel stations and an 8-room hotel 342 miles (465 k) along the highway.

 

Day 6 – Campbell Highway, Klondike Highway and onto the Dempster.

After an easy breakfast we left camp about 8:30 to continue along Canada Highway 4, The Campbell Highway following old fur trade routes. This 362-mile (5983 km) paved but mostly gravel road will lead to Highway 2, the Klondike Highway,  for the adventure to the far reaches of the Northwest Territories and the Arctic Ocean along the Dempster Highway.

The highway is named after the first white man to explore the Yukon area, John Campbell, this all season road leads from Watson Lake to just north of Carmacks on Klondike Highway (2). This rougher road is shorter in distance than continuing along to the junction of the Alaskan Highway and the Klondike Highway but it is much slower. Services are few and far between along this highway.

Stopping at several overlooks of the Yukon River we noticed several small dots moving along the river. Canoeists were floating and paddling with the current, their boats loaded down with camping gear. Now that looks like a great adventure to make (another bucket list item).

We are now in a landmass named Beringia stretching from eastern Siberia, through Alaska, and to the Yukon. This area was not covered in glaciers at the time of the Ice Age but was an area of dry, dusty, treeless Steppe where you could see Bison, wild ponies, Wooly Mammoths among other animals. During the ice age the water level dropped 425 feet (130 m) creating Beringia, the land bridge between Russia and North America.

Making it to the the Klondike Highway I stopped at a scenic overlook and made lunch. What a delightful place to eat.

It was decided early that this day would be another drive day to make it to the Dempster Highway quickly as a storm was moving into the area. Wanting good weather in Tuktoyaktuk we pressed on making it to the start of the Dempster at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Filling with gas at the intersection we continued about 70 miles to stop and camp at the end of a emergency airstrip. Pulling far off the end of the runway and completely off the marked airstrip we set up camp at 7:00.

The Northern Adventure – Journey to the Yukon

Having already started the first post of this adventure HERE although I should explain what this Journey is about and where in shall go. 

But First:

ADVENTURE – An exciting, daring, bold, risky or very unusual experience or undertaking fraught with physical, financial or psychological risks.

Lets go on an Adventure

What does this mean? It can be different for everyone; skydiving, mountain climbing, scuba diving, river rafting, caving (spelunking) traveling, exploring…… anything that is outside the ordinary for that individual is an adventure. Many make their adventures a way of life and never stop. For some it is just a day, weekend or short trip. Does it need to involve speed, height, a high level of physical exertion or highly specialized gear, some would say yes. I do not think that at all, it is up to the individual the extent of the adventure to be accomplished.

The Individuals:

The explores will consist of 2 individuals who are basically strangers, we came together on social media in our interests for the outside and vehicle exploration. Communicating through the computer is all we done as we live in different states. The team consists of Heather’s 2015 Subaru Outback (#heidi_roo), and myself in a 2017 Subaru Outback (#sled_rider).

 

The Journey:

It will involve a drive from Vancouver, WA to Dawson City, Yukon Territories, Canada, up the Dawson highway to the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk, YT, Canada and back. It is something I have never done and it has always been on my bucket list. I have taken 2 cruises to Alaska and have loved the experiences. I now want to experience the lands of Canada and Alaska from the ground driving through the countryside.

Map 1Map 2Map 3Map 4

  • Will it be an adventure? …..yes as this will go far north as you can drive in Canada.
  • Will it be exhilarating? …..Yes.
  • Will it be fun and exciting? …..Definitely.
  • Is this outside the box for travels…..Definitely.
  • Am I excited to plan and start this adventure? …..OH YES.
  • Has this route been carved in stone…..NO, it will change even as we travel I’m sure.

The trip will leave Vancouver, WA and head up Interstate 5 to the Canadian Border. Crossing into British Columbia, Canada the journey continues north to Prince George, BC and to the start of the Alaskan Highway in Dawson Creek, B.C., Canada. British Columbia has a population of approximately 4,751, 600 in 364,764 sq. miles (944,735 sq. km) making it the 3rd largest province in Canada.

Heading north from Dawson Creek we will go along The Alaskan Highway, Canada Highway 97, passing through Fort Nelson and entering the Yukon Territories, Canada just before Watson Lake to visit the Sign Forest. The Yukon has the smallest population of any Province/Territory of Canada at approximately 37,858 with a land area of 186,661 sq. miles (483,450 sq. km).

What is the difference between a Province and Territory? Territories are administrated differently than Provinces. Provincial government powers are laid out in the Constitution, whereas the territories are given powers from the federal government, thus the territories control less of their own affairs.

Heading north on The Campbell Highway, Canada 4 we will stop in the old mining town of Mayo / Keno then will then make our way up the Dempster Highway, Canada 5, crossing the Arctic Circle, Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada and then continue the final 130 km on the new all season road to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada and the Arctic Ocean. The Northwest Territories has an approximate population of 44,469 that live in an area of 452,480 sq. miles (1,171,918 sq. km), this province has about the one sixth of the land area of Canada making it the second largest and most populous territory of Canada.

I mention the population and sizes of these Territories as they are still sparsely populated; a majority of Canadians live very close to the border with the United States. The population for the state of California is estimated to be 39,497,000 in 2017 with an area of 163,696 sq. miles (423,970 sq. km). The state of Washington has approximately a population of 7,535,591 and a land area of 71,362 sq. mi (184,827 sq. km). When you look at these numbers California has 241 people per sq. mile (93 people per sq. km), Washington has 106 people per sq. mile (40 people per sq. km), while The Yukon with 6.5 people per sq. mile (1 per sq. km) and The Northwest Territories having 1 person per sq. mile (about 1 person per 2 sq. km). So as you can see the farther north we head the less people, cities and urbanization will be encounter.

SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD PLAN.

After dipping our feet into the Arctic Ocean and exploring the area it will be time to return to Dawson City, Yukon Territories, Canada to explore the old mining district and town. The journey will then cross the Yukon River on a ferry as we head west to Chicken, Alaska along Top of the World Highway. Continuing on the Taylor Highway to the junction with the Alaskan Highway, we turn south for Haines, AK along the beautiful Haines Highway.

Backtracking to the Alaska Highway the route passes through the Capitol of the Yukon Territories, Whitehorse, the only city in the Yukon Territory. Leaving Whitehorse we will head toward the Cassiar Highway, Canada 37, and back to Prince George. From Prince George it is east to Jasper, Alberta, Canada to visit Jasper National Park and Banff National Park along the Icefields Parkway to Banff, Alberta, Canada.

From Banff we will enter back in to the continental United States and journey along the Going-to-the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. After a short stay in Glacier NP it is time for all to return to our home bases.

·      Adventure? …..I think so.

·      Something out of my ordinary routine? …..DEFINITELY for me.

So what does this involve? A lot of investigation on the Internet, reviewing maps and with the help from individuals who kindly share their knowledge of the areas that are being visited. I will be camping along the way when possible and staying at motels, hotels or lodges only as needed to freshen up.

·      Will schedules change?

·      Will additional sites present themselves?

·      Will destinations be revised?

All a YES to me, it is still being planned so anything is all possible.

Since we will be camping most of the nights along the journey. Some of the camping equipment in my vehicle will include Roof Top Tent, sleeping bag, stove, pots, fry pan, plates, cooking and eating utensils, camp chair and table, mosquito repellant and head netting, camp lights and batteries, propane, lighter and matches, trash bags, cleaning bucket, 5 gallon drinking water container, a refrigerated cooler and food storage containers, a hand held GPS, first aid kit, whistle, cordage (para-cord), knife, bear spray, maps, compass and Garmin In-Reach Satellite Emergency System . Communication between vehicles will be with HAM, GSMR and Citizen Band (CB) radios. We will have at least one complete set of tools and vehicle recovery gear for any unforeseen issues with mine having a winch permanently installed.

This should be a great Journey.