Dempster Highway

Yukon Highway 5 and NWT Highway 8

Yukon and North West Territories, CANADA

1988  1994  1998  2005(2)  2009 2016 *2018  

*Note: This is our most recent trip. The 2018 link combines a drive on the Dempster with the drive on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway. Photos from this trip are not included in the photo gallery noted at the end of this post.

This page was assembled using the photography and journal text from our trips along the Dempster over a period of several years. I have attempted to keep the photography chronological. It's a mix of analogue and digital, the quality is poor to good and is the result of various cameras and photographers. I've edited some of the older analogue, scanned pictures to make them as presentable as possible; some are black and white and in vignette format. A portion of the route description has been copied from territorial government documentation.

The Dempster Highway begins about 40 kms east of Dawson City, YT at it's junction with the Klondike Highway. It is a 740 KM (450 mile) hard packed, but well maintained, gravel road that winds its way through two mountain ranges, the Oglivie and the Richardson; crosses the continental divide three times, traverses the Arctic Circle and loosely follows old dog team routes on its way to Inuvik and the Mackenzie Delta where access to the Arctic Ocean is available.

In the Northwest Territories, the highway crosses the Peel River and the Mackenzie River. In summer access is via free ferries and in winter by crossing the ice road. As a result there are about 3-4 weeks in the Spring (thaw) and Fall (freeze up) when the highway north of the Peel River is inaccessible. In summer, plan to arrive at the ferry crossing the end of the first week of June, this will avoid you sitting at the ferry crossing where there are no facilities until the ferry is operational. The ferry crossings are operational generally first week of June until the latter part of October. Ice road crossings are accessible end of November until the end of April.

The highway is gravel, so drive according to the conditions of the road. Calcium chloride is applied to the road for "dust free" pass zones so, if it is raining, the road can be very slippery. Although most of the road is gravel, there is still some shale on the road, between Eagle Plains and the Yukon/NWT border. Tires should be in good condition, carry a spare, give truckers the right of way and drive slowly. Carrying a vehicle recovery kit, emergency medical supplies, satellite phone or DeLorme inReach are all recommended.

Appreciate the vastness of the land, do some hiking, fishing or photography. To experience summer conditions, including the midnight sun, plan your trip for June to Septemer. Late August or early September is a good month to view the fall colours. Herds of caribou may be seen either mid-Sep to late Oct or again in March and April.

Take advantage of services either in Dawson City or at KM 0 of the highway. Next services are at Eagle Plains, 370 KM (230 miles) away. Eagle Plains has a motel, restaurant, lounge, gas station, RV park and campsites. Services are then available at Fort McPherson and Inuvik. There are several camp-grounds along the route that provide minimal facilities, be prepared to boon-dock camp.

1. 'ALONG THE DEMPSTER, An Outdoor Guide to Canada's Northernmost Highway': by Walter Lanz

2. For additional detail ... Wikipedia: The Dempster Highway

3. A page out of  The Milepost

... click on highway log above to enlarge

3. Our Personal Log driving the Dempster from Inuvik south to the Klondike Highway in 2005. (Note: The original table format didn't export well from WORD > BLOGGER.)

The Dempster Highway is Our ALL-TIME FAVOURITE Road Trip! 

We have always travelled the road in late summer. We've encountered a range of road and weather conditions and we've not always been able to complete the entire trip because of that. At times heavy rains can cause washouts and extremely slick road surfaces, snow is possible in late August / early September. We were once stuck at Eagle Plains for 2 nights waiting for heavy rains to subside. We then ventured further north to the Arctic Circle crossing, but abandoned any idea of reaching Inuvik due to worsening driving conditions. Take your time on this trip. You could easily spend 5 - 7 days travelling in each direction. There are endless opportunities for photography and a number of fishing spots. Although there are established hiking trails in several locations, it is possible to hike nearly anywhere. 

All the Google Photos Here ... 

Same Photos Here, but from Picasa and with captions

If you enjoyed this report, you may want to read about driving the

 Telegraph Creek Road 

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