Dempster Highway 559a1

Dempster Highway. The rest of this narrative (below) is about the trip and not specific to this picture.


Dawson City (previous picture in this set) is where one gets on the Dempster Highway. The Dempster Highway is a graded gravel road running north for 736 km (457 miles) across the Arctic Circle to Inuvik, NWT (Northwest Territories). The highway runs through very remote territory and usually has very little traffic. On the days that I drove it, it was typical to see another vehicle about once every 1-2 hours, though there was a 4 hour stretch where I did not see another vehicle. From Dawson City there is no population (no cabins, no ranches, no mines... nobody) for 369 km (230 miles) until Eagle Plains. Eagle Plains is a gas station, restaurant, motel, and campground. After Eagle Plains, there is another stretch of 180 km (112 miles) with zero population, then one begins to encounter small communities and traffic (a vehicle every 30 minutes or so.) It is recommended when traveling the Dempster Highway to carry extra spare tires (the gravel is rough on tires), tape for fixing any broken hoses or wiring, extra gas, and emergency supplies (food, water, blankets) in case your vehicle breaks down and no one comes by for a couple of days.


It is very difficult to describe the experience of driving the highway. After the first hour on the road, one begins to realize how very alone they are. Because the road is gravel, it would be very easy to slide off and go down an embankment, and not be found until months later. But somehow, even though I was driving alone, I found it awe-inspiring instead of frightening. Most of the road runs through mountain valleys and along ridges, with air that is so clean and clear that one can see for what seems like an eternity -- for much of the road, if one were to go due east, one would not encounter human habitation for 1000's of miles. Coming around one curve, I saw a large, gray, wolf crossing the road -- which was somehow quite moving to see. And, because there is no night in June, it was possible to watch owls hunt for food. Though the following pictures in this set have no wildlife, hopefully they capture some of the beauty of the road.


From 1994 San Francisco - Arctic Ocean camping trip. Scan of an older picture. Best viewed as part of the NW Canada set.


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Taken in June 1994