Apr 9, 2024
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Dempster Highway, Canadá

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The Dempster Highway is a legendary Canadian road traversing through some of the most remote and beautiful landscapes in the country. Also known as Yukon Highway 5 and Northwest Territories Highway 8, the Dempster Highway connects the Klondike Highway in Yukon, with Inuvik, an Inuit village in the Northwest Territories, located in the delta of the Mackenzie River. The Dempster Highway spans a journey of 740 kilometers (460 miles), from Dawson City to Inuvik, offering incredible landscapes, vast open spaces, and remote beauty. The road is classified as the only road crossing the Arctic Circle.

Location Yukon and Northwest Territories, Canada
From / To Dawson City to Inuvik
Lenght740 km (460 mi)
OpenAll year
Type of RoadGravel

Driving the Dempster Highway

The majority of the Dempster Highway is gravel rather than paved. Gravel roads can be rough, especially after heavy rain or snowmelt, leading to potholes, loose gravel, and washboard surfaces. It’s essential to drive cautiously and be prepared for varying road conditions.

Weather along the Dempster Highway can be unpredictable and harsh, especially in the northern sections. Snow and ice are common in winter, making travel challenging and requiring vehicles equipped for winter driving conditions. In summer, rain showers and mud can create slippery and muddy road conditions.

The Dempster Highway is remote, with long stretches between gas stations, accommodations, and services. It’s crucial to plan ahead, carry extra supplies, and fuel up whenever possible. Cell phone coverage may be limited or nonexistent in some areas.

Is Dempster Highway Open All Year?

While the Dempster Highway is generally open all year round, weather conditions, especially in winter, can impact road accessibility. Portions of the highway may close temporarily due to heavy snowfall, avalanches, or other hazards. Travelers should check road conditions and weather forecasts before embarking on their journey.

The Adventure of the Dempster Highway

The Dempster Highway offers breathtaking views of mountains, forests, tundra, and rivers. It passes through diverse ecosystems, including boreal forest and Arctic tundra. The terrain can be rugged and challenging, especially during inclement weather. Driving on the Dempster Highway presents various challenges, including extreme weather conditions, long distances between services, and encounters with wildlife such as bears and caribou.Despite its challenges, the Dempster Highway attracts adventure seekers, road trippers, and tourists looking to experience the pristine wilderness and unique cultural heritage of Canada’s northern regions.

A fox crossing the Dempster Highway

A fox crossing the Dempster Highway

Truck on the shoulder of the Dempster Highway

Truck on the shoulder of the Dempster Highway

The Dempster Highway as it passes through the Richardson Mountains

The Dempster Highway as it passes through the Richardson Mountains


Construction began in the 1950s, and the highway was officially opened on August 18, 1979, at Flat Creek, Yukon. The road was simply called Highway 11 and received its current name, Dempster Highway, in honor of William John Duncan Dempster. Dempster was a Royal Canadian Mounted Police inspector who patrolled this area with sled dogs in the 19th century when the gold rush immigration shook the northern territories of Canada. Inspector Dempster was sent along with two colleagues on a rescue patrol to find Francis Joseph Fitzgerald and his team of three men, who had gone missing on their way to Dawson City. Dempster finally found the bodies on March 22, 1911.

During the 2011 election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his intention to complete the road by another 140 km, extending it to the village of Tuktoyaktuk, with the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway, without relying on the Mackenzie River ice route.

Dempster Highway in Google Maps

Overall, the Dempster Highway stands as a testament to human ingenuity and resilience, providing a lifeline to the remote communities of Canada’s North while offering an unforgettable journey through some of the most rugged and beautiful landscapes on Earth.

Archived in:
Canada · North America · Yukon

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