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Dempster Highway (Yukon - NWT)
Road Log & Photo Album

by Murray Lundberg

    Most of the photos below have been taken since 2003 when I first went digital. I have dozens more photos from my 30+ Dempster Highway trips since 1990 - some day I'll scan some of those slides and add more.

A Guide to the Dempster Highway

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Km 0: At the south end of the Dempster Highway, you'll find an interpretive sign, a bridge across the North Klondike River, and a few miles of pavement. This is one of 10 rest areas along the Yukon section of the Dempster, as well as 3 government campgrounds.

The Yukon's Ogilvie Mountains

Km 45: Heading into the Ogilvie Mountains at about Km 45. Only 691 kilometers to go to Inuvik!

Km 71.4: Tombstone Mountain Campground: This government campground has 36 sites, and a small but very good interpretive centre.

Km 74: Tombstone Mountain viewpoint: This large pullout at Peter's Point is the most common spot to take photos of Tombstone and the surrounding mountains from.

Km 82: North Fork Pass Although it looks like hiking across the open tundra would be very easy, those who try are in for a big surprise. The surface is spongy, often wet, and very uneven. From the gravel pit near the top of North Fork Pass (Km 82), though, a rough trail leads high into the mountains, affording views such as this. A transport truck can barely be seen on the highway far below.

Km 82: Heading north from North Fork Pass, which is the highest point on the highway at 4,265 feet (1,300 meters). Some of the lakes far below have ice on them through most of the summer due to the permafrost here (permafrost is ground that never thaws).

Before you head up the Dempster (or any other gravel highway), ensure that you have the tools to fix a flat tire. The guy with the 5th-wheel had been sitting by the side of the road for 3 hours when I came along, because he didn't have one of the parts for his jack. I was unable to help, but it looked like the semi driver who stopped to help was going to be able to.

Km 103: Two Moose Lake Don't expect to find wildlife around every corner, but over the years I've had some superb wildlife experiences along the highway, with caribou, moose and wolves. Seldom have I been in a position to get any photographs, but at 06:45 one July morning I saw this moose swimming across aptly-named Two Moose Lake well in advance, and was able to get her swimming and then meet her as she crossed the road.
Moose at Chapman Lake, Yukon Moose crossing the Dempster Highway at Chapman Lake, Yukon

Km 116: Chapman Lake is one of the largest lakes alongside the highway. This large pullout makes a good turnaround point for those who want to have a look at the vast subarctic tundra but can't drive the entire Dempster Highway.

Km 124: Gravel airstrip - 3,000 feet long, at 3,100 feet elevation.

Km 125: Heading south at about Km 125 on a beautiful calm July morning at 06:20.

Km 194: Engineer Creek Campground has 15 unserviced sites.

Km 196: Ogilvie River Bridge is 110 m (360 ft) long, built in 1971 by the 3rd Royal Canadian Engineers.

Km 259: rest area (with outhouses) on a high ridge, with an expansive view of the Ogilvie and Peel Rivers.

Km 369: Eagle Plains Hotel: rooms, meals, fuel, tire and mechanical repairs. No Web site but email eagleplains@northwestel.net or phone 867-993-2453

Km 378: Eagle River Bridge

Crossing the Arctic Circle on the Dempster Highway

Km 405: With a storm approaching from the south, a bus tour group celebrates reaching the Arctic Circle with a few bottles of champagne.

For several years through the 1980s and '90s, Harry Waldron, Keeper of the Arctic Circle, was a common and unforgettable part of these champagne celebrations.

Km 446: Rock River Campground has 20 unserviced sites.

The Northwest Territories border on the Dempster Highway

Km 465: The Northwest Territories border at Wright Pass Summit. Note that you need to set your watch ahead one hour here (and one hour back when going south).

The subarctic country through which the Dempster Highway passes.

A broad view of the subarctic country through which the Dempster Highway passes, taken from a side road leading to a communications tower.

Km 509: Midway Lake: the site of a popular music festival each summer.

Km 536: Tetlit Gwinjik Wayside Park: this lookout offers a panoramic view of the Richardson Mountains, the Mackenzie Delta, and the community of Fort McPherson.

Km 539: Peel River Ferry: Loading my motorcoach onto the ferry to cross the Peel River. The gravel loading ramps have to constantly be rebuilt as the river rises and falls, sometimes dramatically over very short periods. Each year the highway closes during the periods when the river is freezing and when the ice is breaking up. This varies year to year, but is roughly the months of May and November - a record of past dates can be found here. After the river freezes you drive across on the ice (which is regularly checked for strength by engineers). The ferries, particularly this one across the Peel, are also often stopped by debris in the water during high runoff periods, so be prepared for lengthy delays (several hours is fairly common, days less so).

Km 541 - Nitainlaii Territorial Park: has an interpretive centre, picnic facilities and 23 unserviced sites

Km 550: Fort MacPherson: At Km 550 there is a short side road to Fort McPherson. The cemetery here is the final resting place of Inspector Francis Joseph Fitzgerald and the other members of The Lost Patrol, a party of Mounted Police who perished nearby after getting lost in 1911. The men's bodies were found by a search team led by Corporal William John Duncan “Jack” Dempster, in whose honour the highway is named.

The Fort McPherson Tent & Canvas Company is famous for making very high quality wall tents, backpacks and other such items. We took a tour through the plant and I bought a great backpack I've wanted since I first saw them.

The village of Tsiigehtchic (formerly Arctic Red River), NWT

Km 608: Mackenzie River Ferry: The village of Tsiigehtchic (formerly Arctic Red River), NWT, is accessible only by ferry. The large river to the left (seen from the rest area at Km 607) is the Mackenzie (which you cross on a free ferry), the smaller one feeding into it is the Arctic Red River.

Km 692: Ehjuu Njik Wayside Park has picnic tables, outhouses, and good Arctic grayling fishing.

Km 714: Vadzaih Van Tshik Campground on Caribou Creek has 12 unserviced sites.

Km 719: Nihtak Day Use Area on Campbell Creek has picnic tables and outhouses.

Km 731: Jak Territoral Park: (formerly Chuk Park) is on a hill overlooking Inuvik and the Mackenzie Delta, with 37 serviced and unserviced campsites, picnic tables and other facilities.

Km 736: Inuvik: The Dempster Highway ends at the community of Inuvik. From here, a flight to Tuktoyaktuk is highly recommended - as well as seeing an Arctic village, the aerial views of the Mackenzie Delta are remarkable (see our Guide to Tuktoyaktuk for more information). This view is of Inuvik as we headed north in a Twin Otter on July 9, 2003. Our pilot for this flight was world-famous polar rescue pilot Bob Heath - now there was a man who loved his work. Tragically, he and 2 others were killed in a Twin Otter crash in Antarctica in January 2013.

A look at Tuktoyaktuk from a Twin Otter. The large airport is just off to the left out of sight.

Toe-dipping in the Arctic Ocean

A ceremonial toe-dipping in the Arctic Ocean (the Beaufort Sea, actually) is a great way to highlight your Arctic adventure, but is tougher than it appears - even in mid-summer, it is cold! I've heard stories about people swimming, but have never seen it in my many visits to Tuk.