Before riding up the Dempster to Inuvik, I sat through a 20 minute presentation from the Canadian Tourist Bureau in Dawson City. The video showed driving the Dempster to be a walk in the park as you cross the continental divide three times. Well, that may be true when the sun shines 24 hours per day. On my trip, it rained.
I left Dawson City in June '06, gassed up at the Klondike River Lodge and made my first stop at Tombstone Mountain Campground. I spent about an hour looking through the interpretive center and enjoying the day. Continuing north, my next stop was Engineer Creek Campground where the mosquitos attacked en masse. I shared a screened enclosure with some university students for lunch. Back on the gravel, I made my next stop at Ogilvie-Peel Viewpoint where I added some gas for the final ride into Eagle Plains.
The road had been pretty good up to this point. But, I kept my speed under the limit for safety and fuel economy. The facilities at Eagle Plains are 230 miles from The North Klondike Highway and I really didn't know what to expect. It was a welcome relief when it came into view. However, someone watered the highway for dust control and things got a little dicey as I slid into the fuel station.
You can find my review for the Eagle Plains Lodge in the Whitehorse city listing. Why? Perhaps every remote outpost has a postal address in Whitehorse. The physical location is only 530 miles off. I may have forgotten to add that the price of gasoline and cigarettes is the most expensive in North America.
As it happened, the night I camped was Summer Solstice and I joined a party worshiping the sun behind the lodge. It was a lot of fun singing, drinking and fighting off the mosquitos. We made wagers on when the sun would be lowest on the horizon and 2:30am was the winner.
After a hearty breakfast the next day, my first stop was the Arctic Circle for obligatory photos. I pushed on past the Rock River Campground and made my next stop at the Northwest Territories Border which is near Wright Pass(pic 1). You can see from the picture that the weather might turn and I did pass a little snow on the roadside. Then, it was downhill to Peel River and the free ferry.
I made another stop for gas and a snack lunch at the mini mart in Fort McPherson. The next section of road turned into three inch deep marbles and it was slow going to the next ferry crossing at Tsiigehtchic(pic 2). While waiting for the ferry, I received an update on the Stanley Cup finals from someone with a satellite phone, no cell service here. Then, 80 more miles of relatively flat dirt & gravel until the airport south of Inuvik where the pavement begins again, surprise.
My trip up the Dempster was without incident. That was not the case on the return. The weather front did come in and it did rain for a day. I did heed the advice about waiting 12 hours for the roads to dry. But, others did not. During my three day stay in Inuvik, 10 vehicles slipped off the mucky road and two others had incidents. Five were not able to continue their trip without major repairs. And, this is a pretty high frequency since you might only see four other vehicles per hour while travelling on the Highway. I have three pictures I will try to add:
Fuel truck slid off at Eagle River Bridge; 10kph(pic 3).
The wrong way to the gas pumps at Fort McPherson(pic 4).
The Dempster outside Inuvik, slicker than whale snot(pic 5)!
Was this an adventure? You bet it was. Even though the only wildlife I encountered on the highway were mosquitos, the scenery, the permafrost, the people, and the uncertainty about road conditions all contributed to one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Your mileage will certainly vary.
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