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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, though some are scans of slides from my 30+ Dempster Highway trips since 1990.

A Guide to the Dempster Highway

Click on the images below to enlarge them

Km 0: The AFD cardlock at the junction of the North Klondike and Dempster Highways is the last fuel until Eagle Plains at Km 369, and prices are lower than in Dawson.

Km 0: At the south end of the Dempster Highway, you'll find several interpretive signs, 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.

Dempster Highway Km 26

The view ahead at Km 26.

The Yukon's Ogilvie Mountains

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

Grizzly Creek trail, Dempster Highway

Km 58.5 - Grizzly Creek Trail: The Grizzly Creek Trail begins at the large parking area here. See an article about that hike, with 17 photos, at the last part of this post at The ExploreNorth Blog (the upper section of the trail is as steep as it looks in this photo).

Tombstone Interpretive Centre

Km 71.5: Tombstone Interpretive Centre: a must-stop to learn about the park and the area. There are interpretive displays and a library as well as guided hikes and other programs. The $2 million centre, opened on August 28, 2009, was designed using the Leading in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) standards to minimize its environmental footprint. See more about the centre on the ExploreNorth Blog.

Beaver Pond Trail at the Tombstone Interpretive Centre

The Beaver Pond Interpretive Trail is an easy 1-kilometer walk to a beaver pond and back, that begins at the south end of the Interpretive Centre parking lot.

Km 72: Tombstone Mountain Campground: This government campground has 36 sites, a cookshack, firepit, tables, pit toilets, bear-proof storage, garbage and recycling bins, and water from the river or holding tank. There are also 2 interpretive walking trails. This is the view of the campground entrance from the north.

Tombstone Mountain Campground has an excellent variety of sites, from protected forest sites to open sites with spectacular views. This is the author's motorhome with the Chevy Tracker we tow.

A look back to 2006, when the Tombstone Interpretive Centre was in a trailer at the Tombstone Mountain Campground.

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.

Goldensides trail, Dempster Highway

Km 74.6 - Goldensides Trail: Goldensides is the most popular hiking trail in Tombstone. Rated Moderate, it's about 4 km return, with an elevation gain of about 210 meters (690 feet).

Spring (June) ice on Lil Creek, Dempster Highway

Km 76 (ca.) - Lil Creek: Upstream from the highway, deep ice forms over the winter. In the Spring, I used to stop there with my tour bus, and the "ice canyons" formed by meltwater were always a big hit with my guests. This photo was shot in June 1996.

Hiking Lil Creek canyon, Dempster Highway

Km 76 (ca.) - Lil Creek: downstream from the highway, Lil Creek has cut a canyon through some very interesting geological formations, with some wonderfully colourful sandstones. See an article about that hike, with 34 photos, at The ExploreNorth Blog.

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).

Flat tire on the Dempster Highway border=

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 102.5: 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 107.6: The Blackstone River flows by this large pullout which has outhouses and garbage bins. This is the heart of the Blackstone Uplands, which stretches from North Fork Pass to Chapman Lake.
Blackstone River rest area, Dempster Highway Blackstone River, Dempster Highway

Joseph and Annie Henry Monument, Dempster Highway

Km 112: Joe and Annie Henry Monument, at a site once known as Black City. Annie Henry was born here in 1904, while Joe was born in 1898 near the Hart and Wind Rivers. They got married in 1921, hunted and trapped together on the Blackstone Uplands, and eventually had 13 children. In the 1950s, Joe Henry guided cat trains that built winter roads to the Peel plateau, and then the surveyors who laid out the route of the Dempster Highway, which some locals call "the Joe Henry". Harreson Tanner sculpted their faces in clay, and Béla Simó cast them in bronze. The rock, shaped like an arrowhead, was found by family friend and Yukon Highways worker Eddie Taylor, and Jackie Olson, one of Joe and Annie's granddaughers, created the plaques and coordinated the project, which began at Annie's request after Joe died in 2002 (Annie died in 2005). For more photos of the monument and information about Joe and Annie, see this page. An excellent 8½-minute interview with Harreson Tanner about his work on the project can be heard here.

Chapman Lake, Dempster Highway

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. The interpretive signs are about Gwich'in caribou hunting, winter police patrols, and the Lost Patrol.

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

Dempster Highway looking south at about Km 125

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 MV Abraham Francis 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. 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

Cemetery at Fort McPherson, NWT border=

Km 550.2: Fort McPherson: At Km 550 there is a short side road to Fort McPherson. Saint Mathew's Anglican Church 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.

Fort McPherson Tent & Canvas Company

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 in July 2003 and I bought a great backpack I've wanted since I first saw them - in 2016, it's still getting used a lot.

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 MV Louis Cardinal), 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: Ja'k Territorial 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.

Aerial view of Inuvik, NWT

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.

Aerial view of Tuktoyaktuk, NWT

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.