Support the Arctic Sea Ice Forum and Blog

Author Topic: Trip report: Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean  (Read 525 times)

HapHazard

  • Grease ice
  • Posts: 585
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 225
  • Likes Given: 4366
Trip report: Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean
« on: August 19, 2022, 10:51:02 PM »
IDK how many of you are aware of this epic road trip or if you're even able to try it, but if you live in North America you can drive all the way to the shore of the Arctic Ocean, at the village of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada. The final stretch starts just outside of Dawson City, Yukon - yes, the site of the infamous Klondike Gold Rush - and it's called the Dempster Highway. It is an all-gravel road which can be very rough, and runs over 800km all the way up to the Arctic Ocean, through some of the most barren & beautiful scenery you'll ever see.

Any questions, I'll answer if I can. First off: Yes, I did wade into the ocean. So cold! haha.

Here's some of my pics.

« Last Edit: August 19, 2022, 11:11:00 PM by HapHazard »

HapHazard

  • Grease ice
  • Posts: 585
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 225
  • Likes Given: 4366
Re: Trip report: Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2022, 11:02:34 PM »
I've got 4 more pics to upload, first attempt timed out though. Will edit this later.

[edit] Success!


oren

  • First-year ice
  • Posts: 8452
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 3265
  • Likes Given: 3358
Re: Trip report: Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2022, 12:49:56 AM »
Thanks for sharing, HH. Beautiful picturs.I envy you for making this trip.

HapHazard

  • Grease ice
  • Posts: 585
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 225
  • Likes Given: 4366
Re: Trip report: Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2022, 05:45:57 AM »
I already plan on doing it again, as I now have a few friends who are insisting on doing it now. I did this one solo.

Protip: flat tires are extremely common on the Dempster. Bring a full-size spare. Drain some air out of your tires (mine are 35 psi but I ran at 25 psi on the Dempster) as that'll help soften blows. Bring a pad for under your jack (like a square of 3/4" plywood) in case the road is wet, otherwise the jack will simply sink. The cause of flats are sharp rocks. Normally they'll lay flat, but your front tire may kick one up & it won't settle in time before your rear tire hits it. Almost all flats on the Dempster are the rear tires.

Also, don't rely on cell signals. You'll drive for hours with nothing. No cell signal, no houses, no services, no nothing except Mother Nature & the occasional fellow adventurer. It's awesome.

There's 2 ferry crossings at the Peel & Mackenzie rivers. Eagle Plains is at around the halfway point & has everything you'll need: motel, camping spots with access to showers, a bar/lounge, full service station (fix your flats, top up your gas) etc.

One thing I learned was about pingos, which are landscape features native to the area & only found in permafrost. Tuk has the highest concentration of them in the world, pretty neat. The last pic in my first post shows 2 of them in the distance.

2 moar Dempster pics:


Tor Bejnar

  • Young ice
  • Posts: 4556
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 875
  • Likes Given: 797
Re: Trip report: Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2022, 07:03:56 AM »
I was on the AlCan Highway many years ago (mid-1970s) north of Whitehorse in late August.  I remember being told the American section was nausea-inducing hummocky due to frost heaves which couldn't be flattened due to the road being paved.  The Canadian section was gravel and a delight (annually flattened), except that in the spring (mud season) it tended to be muddy and impassable in a small car. (Obviously, some of that was experience and some 'information shared.')

Thanks for the photos, Hap - sure would like to see one with your feet in the Arctic Ocean!  (My mother once had me swim out toward the edge of lake ice (early summer along the Routeburn Track) and then to "hold still" while she took a photograph.)
Arctic ice is healthy for children and other living things because "we cannot negotiate with the melting point of ice"

Sebastian Jones

  • Grease ice
  • Posts: 597
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 172
  • Likes Given: 138
Re: Trip report: Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2022, 05:08:20 PM »
Thanks for this  HH!
I have had the rare privilege of living, working and exploring the Dempster Country for years.
When people visit me, I always take them, or suggest they go, to at least the lower 100k of the highway.
It is very special country.

HapHazard

  • Grease ice
  • Posts: 585
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 225
  • Likes Given: 4366
Re: Trip report: Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2022, 09:02:23 PM »
I thought I'd link a map of the route I took. Note: cell service was nonexistent from the southern end of HWY 37 until Teslin on HWY 1 (Alaska Hwy) - that's roughly 950 km or 12 hours driving. Plenty of gas stations though.

The Dempster itself has more cell service areas; there's a small community at each of the 2 ferry crossings, then there's Inuvik near the ocean (pop. >3000) and Tuk has you covered, as well. Those are all along the top half. Eagle Plains is around halfway, and they have private wifi I assume you can ask to connect to. In between those places & other than the welcome center at Tombstone Territorial Park at the southern end, there's absolutely nothing at all, you may as well be driving on Mars.

There are a few camping spots with thunder pavilions along the way, but you can pull over pretty much anywhere to take a break / sleep.

Google Maps link