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Old 07-15-2014, 07:28 PM   #1
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Dempster Highway

Just completed a side trip on the Dempster Hwy which goes to Inuvik, Yukon. We drove up about 110 miles without the trailer. The first 5 miles were not so great, but after that the road was quite good, a few potholes and washboard areas, but for the most part an easy drive. We stopped at the Tombstone Interpretive Center, which was an excellent visit. We drove up past where the treeline ends and tundra begins. We continued up past the continental divide. There were 2 small creeks/rivers very close to the divide, and sure enough, they flow in opposite directions. The landscape up that way is incredible and well worth the drive. It was 68 degrees in Dawson City when we returned and when we turned back on the Dempster it was 41. If I ever make it back this way again, I'll plan on making the whole trip to Inuvik...476 miles one way. At some point we'll be posting pictures.,
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Old 07-15-2014, 07:48 PM   #2
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Good for you folks for being adventurous! Not many have the nerve to venture up the Dempster. I lived in the NWT for almost 25 years and Inuvik is well worth the effort to go and see.

That said, wait a couple more years as they are now building a road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. Once complete, you will have the ability to drive right to the Arctic Coast. Polar Bears and all!

By the way, how did your truck tires hold up on the shale (type of stone on the road)?

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Old 07-15-2014, 08:23 PM   #3
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It is hard for even me to believe, but 31 years ago, in 1983 three of us made a trip up what was then the fairly new Dempster Highway to Inuvik, towing a 25' Airstream, with an '83 Suburban 6.2 L diesel. We only got just north of the Arctic Circle as we had tire trouble and didn't think it was wise to go farther. We had tire service at Eagle Plains and they advised us that although the tire was round, firm and black, it would not hold up much longer. The shale surface was new, and very tough on tires. We had intended to go to Inuvik and fly out to Tuk... but plans had to change. It was still a great trip.

The year prior, a tree fell on our previous Airstream in Dawson City area. Another great adventure.

Too old to do it now, but sure glad we did it then. So, do it now, you will never get any younger....lol.
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Old 07-15-2014, 09:01 PM   #4
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It is hard for even me to believe, but 31 years ago, in 1983 three of us made a trip up what was then the fairly new Dempster Highway to Inuvik, towing a 25' Airstream, with an '83 Suburban 6.2 L diesel. We only got just north of the Arctic Circle as we had tire trouble and didn't think it was wise to go farther. We had tire service at Eagle Plains and they advised us that although the tire was round, firm and black, it would not hold up much longer. The shale surface was new, and very tough on tires. We had intended to go to Inuvik and fly out to Tuk... but plans had to change. It was still a great trip.

The year prior, a tree fell on our previous Airstream in Dawson City area. Another great adventure.

Too old to do it now, but sure glad we did it then. So, do it now, you will never get any younger....lol.
What a great story and GREAT adventure!

The first time I did the Dempster was in the late 80's and we went through 9 tires before we made it to Inuvik. We were pulling a 24ft. Jetboat with us and it got pounded to crap by the stones. (good thing is was welded alum)

Once in Inuvik we loaded the truck on a barge heading south and we spent the next 3-weeks boating down the McKenzie River (I think around 3200 km) to Hay River and Great Slave Lake. One of the best trips I've ever done with lots of memories!
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Old 07-16-2014, 12:22 AM   #5
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Arcticfox, your adventure on the Dempster and down the McKenzie to Hay River would have been wonderful too. There is something about the Yukon which has always attracted me, and I am so glad we made 5 or 6 trips in the late 70's and early 80's.

Funny story: While on the Dempster we met a couple in a Chev Vega (remember those horrid cars). The had 13 inch wheels. They told us they also had 7 flats going on the Dempster to Inuvik, the RCMP having to rescue them twice and take them for a tire repair. They went all the way from Dawson to Inuvik in ONE DAY, and back the next. What was funny was that they kept saying they went up to Univac, they had been there and didn't even learn how to pronounce the name. To them, it was the old US computer, Univac (and I am no longer even sure of the spelling).

One year we took the first Airstream up the Canoil (again, spelling) highway. That was fun too. Long stretches had grass growing down the center of the highway. We were assured that the road did not end and we could go through, and we did. Too dumb to worry. It was fun to see the old 6" pipeline still in place in many locations.
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Old 07-16-2014, 12:31 AM   #6
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A slight aside from the subject of the Dempster, the books of RM Patterson (particularly The Dangerous River) are among my favourites all time! If you're at all interested in the Canadian North, worth a read!
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Old 07-16-2014, 09:03 AM   #7
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One year we took the first Airstream up the Canoil (again, spelling) highway. That was fun too. Long stretches had grass growing down the center of the highway. We were assured that the road did not end and we could go through, and we did. Too dumb to worry. It was fun to see the old 6" pipeline still in place in many locations.
WOW the Canol trail! I've never been on it, but have friends who did the whole thing from McMilan Pass to Norman Wells via ATV - it took them forever as the trail is very over grown and in tough shape. Did not even think it was possible to get down it with any type of vehicle even though hauling an airstream.

NOW THAT'S AN ADVENTURE!!

If I remember right this trail was put in place by the US military to ensure access to the gas wells at norman Wells. It was done in the later 30's early 40's and there is still military stuff rusting away all along the trail... The trail itself goes from a few hundred feet above sea level to something like 9000 ft. and then back to a few hundred at Norman Wells.

What a trip it must have been - AMAZING!

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Old 07-16-2014, 09:03 AM   #8
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A slight aside from the subject of the Dempster, the books of RM Patterson (particularly The Dangerous River) are among my favourites all time! If you're at all interested in the Canadian North, worth a read!
Thanks for this - I don't know this book and will have to check it out!
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Old 07-16-2014, 11:15 AM   #9
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We saw one RPod on the side of the road up on jacks with both tires off. Passed a very small compact Toyota with 3 spares on the roof. Did not see any travel trailers but did see quite a few truck campers. We had no issues.
As for authors about the area, I just discovered Robert Service and have enjoyed reading his verses. We attended a reading of some of his works at his cabin in Dawson City.
I believe the road passed Inuvik is completed, but not positive. Starting to plan my 2016 return trip as 2015 is nearly filled up.
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Old 07-16-2014, 11:16 AM   #10
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WOW the Canol trail! I've never been on it, but have friends who did the whole thing from McMilan Pass to Norman Wells via ATV - it took them forever as the trail is very over grown and in tough shape. Did not even think it was possible to get down it with any type of vehicle even though hauling an airstream.

NOW THAT'S AN ADVENTURE!!

If I remember right this trail was put in place by the US military to ensure access to the gas wells at norman Wells. It was done in the later 30's early 40's and there is still military stuff rusting away all along the trail... The trail itself goes from a few hundred feet above sea level to something like 9000 ft. and then back to a few hundred at Norman Wells.

What a trip it must have been - AMAZING!

Cheers
Doug
There are (were) two parts in the early '80s at any rate, the South Canol and the North Canol. Without rummaging through my old maps, photos and talking with the friends who went, I cannot remember which part was open then, but I believe it was the South Canol only. We did it on our first trip into the Yukon, so would have been in 1979 I believe. We had a '78 Jeep Cherokee with the AMC 360 engine. 11 mpg max. Trailer was a '69 21' single axle Airstream, the one which got crushed by a tree in Dawson City area later.

As I mentioned, we may have been too dumb or too trusting of our local advice. We took the road and went through the lower half of it. Pretty much had the road to ourselves as I recall. We did OK though. On another trip we started up the same road, but it was raining and slippery and yucky. I finally made an executive decision to turn around and go back that time. As I recall now, the hardest thing was to find a place big enough to turn the rig around. We finally did, had lunch, and went down to the main highway.
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Old 07-16-2014, 11:28 AM   #11
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Attached is a photo, taken around midnight at the RCMP yard in Dawson City Yukon after the tree was removed from the Airstream. It happened in a Yukon Government Campground about 10 miles south of the city.

We camped in the trailer all the way home. State Farm Insurance totaled it out of course and the next trip North had a double axel 25' 1972.
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Old 07-16-2014, 12:07 PM   #12
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Attached is a photo, taken around midnight at the RCMP yard in Dawson City Yukon after the tree was removed from the Airstream. It happened in a Yukon Government Campground about 10 miles south of the city.

We camped in the trailer all the way home. State Farm Insurance totaled it out of course and the next trip North had a double axel 25' 1972.
LOL - Ouch that must have made one hell of a bang! Were you in it when the tree came down?
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Old 07-16-2014, 01:03 PM   #13
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No, we were on Midnight Dome out of Dawson City. Came back to a 14" tree on the Airstream. Got the RCMP, they got a guy to come and lift the tree off. We towed it to the RCMP yard, got a motel, next day worked on it so we could get inside.

Cleaned it up and tossed things broken out. Towed it back home. Kinda a sad trip for the end of a nice rig. But stuff happens. We went back...with the next rig.
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Old 09-09-2014, 07:44 PM   #14
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This is long overdue as we are now in Merdora, Mt and have time to do some post. You guys inspirered me to check out the South Canol Road. After a the three day side trip to Atlin, we were ready for an another adventure. We dropped the trailer at Johnson Crossing, we headed up the Canol ( Canada Oil Company, built by US ). We never made it to Ross, it was rough. My goal was to make it to Lapide Gorge. It was raining, foggy, and cold. 137 or so miles to Ross and we made it about 80. My hat is off to you guys who made it all the way. Just FYI, I was told the "North Canol" is closed
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