The Dempster Highway was completed in 1979, and is a well maintained gravel and crushed stone road which extends 742 km/461 miles to Inuvik (Place of Man) an Inuit village 325 km above the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. The Dempster Highway starts 40 km/25 miles east of Dawson City and 496 km/308 miles north of Whitehorse. It is 782 km from Dawson City to Inuvik.
This wilderness route spans remote regions of the Yukon cutting through two rugged mountain ranges, the Ogilvie and Richardson Mountains. Travellers will encounter miles of stunted spruce and alder “forests” (8′-12′ tall) in the Eagle Plains region, and elevated reaches of tundra, before dropping to the Mackenzie River and its flat aspen covered delta.
On the Dempster Highway gas stations are limited. Gas, diesel fuel and repairs are available at Eagle Plains 365.7 km/227 miles, Ft. McPherson 555 km/345 miles, and at Inuvik. Appropriate preparation is essential. Camping on the Dempster Highway is possible at a few private campgrounds and provincial parks. See the highway road log below for details.
It is possible to take the Dempster Highway to Tuktoyaktuk, which is 138 km/86 miles north of Inuvik. The road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk is not part of the Dempster Highway and is not covered by our mile-by-mile description below. This is the first year round, all weather road to Canada’s Arctic and it opened in November of 2017.
Emergency services: Highway information 867-979-2040. Hospital 867-929-2955. Fire Station 867-929-2222. RCMP 867-929-2935.
Dempster Highway road conditions can also vary drastically. Check at the Dawson City Visitor Info Centre or at the Klondike River Lodge (at junction of Klondike and Dempster Highways) for current road conditions before beginning your trip. Signs at Eagle Plains remind you to check conditions again before venturing beyond that location. The Western Arctic Visitor Center on Front Street in Dawson City has all the latest information on the Dempster Highway and the NWT. Open June to September. For up to date conditions on the Highways, you can call 1-867-456-7623 or dial 511 for Current Road Conditions (While in the Yukon).
Be prepared to stop for approaching trucks, especially with dry, dusty conditions. Distances are in kilometres from the junction of the Dempster Highway with the Klondike Highway 40 km south of Dawson City.
Klondike River Lodge. 867-993-6892.
Klondike River Bridge, one-lane.
Wolfe Creek. Indian fishing camp and turnout along bank.
Grizzly Creek. Mt. Robert Service to East.
Yukon Government Road Maintenance Camp.
First crossing of North Fork of Klondike River.
Parking with litter barrel and Information signs. RCMP Commemorative sign reads: “The North West Mounted Police Winter Patrols passed this point on their annual 800 km/497 Kilometer trip from Dawson City to Fort McPherson. From 1904 on each patrol spent two or three months traveling by dog team to the Mackenzie Delta and back checking on area residents, carrying mail bound for Herschel Island and the NWT and exploring the little known region. The only tragedy during this time was the death of Fitzgerald’s `Lost Patrol’ in 1911. The increased use of radio communications and airplanes ended the need for the patrols.”
Tombstone Mountain Yukon government campground. Tombstone Mountain is a steep conical massif at the end of a broad sweeping valley. 36 camp sites, kitchen shelter, firepits, tables, water, toilets, hiking trails. There is an Fee area.
Interpretive Center operates during summer months, campfire talks, nature hikes, and local area information.
Tombstone Mountain information sign.
First crossing East Fork of Blackstone River.
Two Moose Lake has viewing platform and waterfowl interpretive panels.
First crossing of West Fork of Blackstone River. Good grayling fishing, downstream where the east and west forks of the Blackstone River meet.
RCMP Commemorative sign reads: “The North West Mounted Police Winter Patrols passed this point on their annual 800 km/497 mile trip from Dawson City to Fort McPherson. From 1904 on each patrol spent two or three months traveling by dog team to the Mackenzie Delta and back checking on area residents, carrying mail bound for Herschel Island and the NWT and exploring the little known region. The only tragedy during this time was the death of Fitzgerald’s `Lost Patrol’ in 1911. The increased use of radio communications and airplanes ended the need for the patrols.”
Red culvert on side of road is due to iron oxide deposit causing red coloring of Engineer Creek for approximately 5 km.
Parking with views of erosion pillars.
Engineer Creek Yukon government campground. 15 camp sites, kitchen shelter, firepits, tables, water, toilets. Fishing for grayling. Fee area.
Jeckell Bridge (110 m/360 feet) and Ogilvie River. This bridge was built by the Canadian Forces Engineers as a training exercise.
Rest Area. Good grayling fishing in Ogilvie River.
Airstrip along road.
Ogilvie Ridge, Rest are,a toilets. Viewpoint with interpretive platform on geology of the area.
Eagle Plains, elevation 719 m/2,360 feet. Gas, restaurant, camping, dump station, Emergency airstrip on road. Eagle Plains Hotel. 867-993-2453. Bag Service 2735, Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 3V5.
Short side road leads to information sign about Albert Johnson, “The Mad Trapper of Rat River”. One of the most famous man hunts in Canadian history began here during the winter of 1931-32. After a month and a half of eluding the Mounties Albert Johnson was killed, 80 km downstream from bridge, in a shoot-out in mid-February.
Bridge crosses Eagle River. The Canadian Forces Engineers built this bridge as a training exercise.
Landing strip on road.
Arctic Circle crossing. Note that the roadbed is built-up 8-12 feet above the surrounding tundra in this area to protect the permafrost, and the road surface.
Rock River Yukon government campground. 20 camp sites, water, kitchen shelters, toilets. This is a beautiful spot. Fee area.
Yukon/Northwest Territories Boundary. Enter mountain time zone (add one hour to Yukon’s Pacific Time). Wright Pass. Information sign on the Dempster Highway.
Peel River Ferry. No charge. 8am-midnight, mid-June to mid-October. Accesses are quite steep. Cable guided ferry crossing takes 10 minutes.
Ft. McPherson airstrip.
Fort McPherson. All services available. Restaurant, hotel, gift shop, gas station.
Fort McPherson Tent & Canvas Factory. Some products that are manufactured are tents, backpacks, totebags, tepees. A gift shop is also on the premises.
Frog Creek, road east leads to picnic area. Grayling fishing.
Mackenzie River Ferry. No charge. 9am-midnight, mid-June to early October. The ferry will stop at Tshgehtchic (Arctic Red River) for passengers if necessary.
Rengling River crossing Grayling fishing.
Ehjuu Njik Territorial Day Use Area. Picnic tables, water, firewood. Fee area. Very well maintained
Nihtak Territorial day use and fishing access area. Picnic tables, water, firewood. Fee area.
Inuvik. Pop. approximately 3,400. Inuvik prospered as the hub for oil exploration in the western Arctic until that exploration moved north into the Beaufort Sea and its center became Tuktoyaktuk. Inuvik’s economy depends on muskrat trapping and fishing. It is also the location of several government agencies, a center for communication, transportation, commerce, and education. Notice the Utilidors (utility corridors) raised galvanized or concrete culverts that keep the community’s utility lines and pipes above the permafrost. Also note that all buildings are raised above the ground in order to prevent damage to the permafrost.
Western Arctic Visitors Association, Box 1525, Inuvik, NWT Canada, X0E 0T0. Located across from the hospital. Open May – September.
Arctic Nature Tours located next to Igloo Church. 867 777-3300. Tours include Tuktoyaktuk, Herschel Island, Mackenzie River, Sachs Harbour.
Happy Valley Territorial Campground, located at the north end of town. Short walk to shops, restaurant etc. Wonderfully clean, hot shower rooms, electric hook-ups, water and tables. Fee area.
Inuvik Centennial Library 867-979-2747.