cool highways: 4 awesome ice-roads in the Northwest Territories

The North’s cool highways

 

With the arrival of winter, Northerners are revving up for polar road-trips.

That’s right: For thousands of territorial residents, winter is the sole time their isolated communities become road-accessible, as nearly 2,000 kilometers of icy highways are carved through terrain that’s impassable in the summertime.

In the Northwest Territories, winter roads link 12 towns, giving them temporary access to the outside world. Built and maintained by the territory’s transport department, some of the routes are short: The winter road to Nahanni Butte, for instance, reaches just a few kilometres, crossing the Liard River to Highway 7.

But other of the routes are epic. The Mackenzie Valley winter road, which begins at Wrigley, connects to five communities, the furthest of which, Colville Lake, is 651 kilometres distant.

Usually, the winter road season is brief, running only from January to early April. In some years, however, the ice-road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk has operated for more than five months.

For visitors contemplating a spin on our winter roads, proceed with caution. Winter routes are  narrow and rutted, and can seldom be taken at speeds over 50 kilometres per hour. Days are dark and bitterly cold, services are few, and non-essential travel is discouraged.

But if you're geared up for an adventure, by all means: Go! Here's more on our ice road adventures

 

Yellowknife-Dettah Ice Road

Yellowknife-Dettah Ice Road
Distance:  6 kilometres
Average Opening:  December 18
Average Closing:  April 19
Avg. Vehicles Per Day:  479

Behchokǫ̀-Gamètı̀ Winter Road

Behchokǫ̀-Gamètı̀ Winter Road
Distance:  194 kilometres
Average Opening:  February 20
Average Closing:  April 19
Avg. Vehicles Per Day:  49

Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Ice Road

Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Ice Road
Length:  187 kilometres
Average Opening:  December 17
Average Closing:  April 30
Avg. Vehicles Per Day:  45

Wrigley-Fort Good Hope Winter Road

Wrigley-Fort Good Hope Winter Road
Distance:  482 kilometres
Average Opening:  December 31
Average Closing:  March 24
Avg. Vehicles Per Day:  85