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Author Topic: Has anyone been on the Dempster Highway?  (Read 3372 times)

dgolub

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Has anyone been on the Dempster Highway?
« on: December 20, 2014, 11:54:42 AM »

Just curious, has anyone here ever been on the Dempster Highway (YT 5/NWT 8) in Canada?  I was reading about it last night, it looks even more insane than the Dalton Highway (AK 11) in Alaska, between the ice bridges, the fact that it's even longer, and the fact that it looks pretty curvy and is unpaved almost the whole way.
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oscar

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Re: Has anyone been on the Dempster Highway?
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2014, 12:32:20 PM »

Just curious, has anyone here ever been on the Dempster Highway (YT 5/NWT 8) in Canada?  I was reading about it last night, it looks even more insane than the Dalton Highway (AK 11) in Alaska, between the ice bridges, the fact that it's even longer, and the fact that it looks pretty curvy and is unpaved almost the whole way.

I drove it in both directions, up to Inuvik, in summer 2012.  While it's longer than the Dalton, there are fewer trucks on the road, and the truck drivers don't act like they own the road like they sometimes do on the Dalton.

In the summer, there are free, first come-first served ferries on the two river crossings that are served by ice bridges in the winter.  The tricky part for trip planning is that sometimes in the fall and the spring, there's too much ice to run the ferries, but too little to support vehicles, so the river crossings are closed.  Right now, not only are those ice bridges open, but the ice road north of Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic coast (to be replaced in a few years with an all-season road) is also open, though another part of the road has a temporary snow closure. 

All but a few km at the northern and southern ends are unpaved.  The lack of pavement isn't a big deal (I saw multiple groups of bicyclists on the road when I was there), so long as you have good light truck (rather than regular passenger) tires, and a sturdy suspension should the road get potholed after it rains before the graders can smooth things out again. 

The Milepost travel guide to Arctic highways says definitely bring one mounted full-size spare, and a second spare if your tire is an unusual size that might not be stocked along the way.  This advice is not as strong as for the Dalton (at least two mounted full-size spares, no exceptions -- I brought two, never had to use either one), but is stronger than for the rest of the Northwest Territories highway system (one mounted full-size spare should be fine, even on the unpaved highways).

It was a pretty awesome drive, though the scenery is a little less spectacular than on the Dalton.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2014, 04:05:20 PM by oscar »
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dgolub

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Re: Has anyone been on the Dempster Highway?
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2014, 03:01:19 PM »

Just curious, has anyone here ever been on the Dempster Highway (YT 5/NWT 8) in Canada?  I was reading about it last night, it looks even more insane than the Dalton Highway (AK 11) in Alaska, between the ice bridges, the fact that it's even longer, and the fact that it looks pretty curvy and is unpaved almost the whole way.

I drove it in both directions, up to Inuvik, in summer 2012.  While it's longer than the Dalton, there are fewer trucks on the road, and the truck drivers don't act like they own the road like they sometimes do on the Dalton.

In the summer, there are free, first come-first served ferries on the two river crossings that are served by ice bridges in the winter.  The tricky part for trip planning is that sometimes in the fall and the spring, there's too much ice to run the ferries, but too little to support vehicles, so the river crossings are closed.  Right now, not only are those ice bridges open, but the ice road north of Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic coast (to be replaced in a few years with an all-season road) is also open, though another part of the road has a temporary snow closure. 

All but a few km at the northern and southern ends are unpaved.  The lack of pavement isn't a big deal (I saw multiple groups of bicyclists on the road when I was there), so long as you have good light truck (rather than regular passenger) tires, and a sturdy suspension should the road get potholed after it rains before the graders can smooth things out again.

It was a pretty awesome drive, though the scenery is a little less spectacular than on the Dalton.

Neat.  Is there anywhere to stop for gas, or do you have to have enough in your tank for 450 miles when you start?  Also, the speed limit on there is about 30 MPH, right?  It must take an entire day to drive it.
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oscar

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Re: Has anyone been on the Dempster Highway?
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2014, 03:53:52 PM »

Is there anywhere to stop for gas, or do you have to have enough in your tank for 450 miles when you start?  Also, the speed limit on there is about 30 MPH, right?  It must take an entire day to drive it.

The big refueling stop is Eagle Plains YT, at the end of one of the longest gas-free stretches of highway in North America.  That truck stop also has lodging.  Fuel is also available in Fort McPherson NT, as well as Inuvik. 

There was a truck stop at the beginning of the Dempster, but the Milepost reports it burned down last year, and I don't know whether it's been rebuilt.  (Get the latest Milepost before you go -- issued each spring.)  So you may need to refuel in Dawson City YT, before starting up the Dempster. 

The speed limit for the Dempster is 90km/h or 55mph, but it's one of those highways where the number posted on the side of the road is pretty irrelevant.  The Milepost says the highway can be driven from end to end in 10-14 hours, but strongly recommends a more leisurely pace to take in the sights.  I took four days for the round trip (Dawson City-Eagle Plains day 1, Eagle Plains-Inuvik day 2, Inuvik-Eagle Plains day 3, Eagle Plains-Carmacks YT day 4), having previously been burned doing the Dalton northbound in one day and having to spend an extra (and expensive) day in Deadhorse to recover before limping back south.
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Re: Has anyone been on the Dempster Highway?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2014, 02:04:33 AM »

Neat.  Is there anywhere to stop for gas, or do you have to have enough in your tank for 450 miles when you start?  Also, the speed limit on there is about 30 MPH, right?  It must take an entire day to drive it.
Echo speed limits being suggestions. I romped through NT 7 and NT 1 at speeds somewhere north of the suggested 90 km/h above. Plenty of time to see the scenery, since it changes so slowly. 450 miles can be done in a day fairly easily.

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Re: Has anyone been on the Dempster Highway?
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2015, 04:34:14 PM »

Oscar, I have heard the same about the Dempster from the motorcycle community.  The Dempster is longer but the lack of trucks makes it less stressful. I would like to do the Dempster also.  Agree, either the Dempster or Dalton, one needs to take their time and enjoy the trip.  For me either will be a once in a lifetime.     
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