The Dempster Highway, The Yukon & Northwest Territories, Canada

Long been thought of as one of those must do, Holy Grail, great road trips before you die type road was certainly no disappointment. About 450 miles up and 450 miles back and just the one gas station in between before you reached Fort McPherson. I really don’t have the words to describe the vastness of the unending forests, valleys, mountains, magnificent rivers and lakes that go on and on around every bend. Hundreds of thousands of untouched acres of pristine land as far as the eye can see. At least a hundred miles in every direction. The highway itself sits on top of a gravel berm to insulate the permafrost in the soil underneath. Without the gravel berm the road would sink into the permafrost. The road was a little smoother than the Dalton Highway with next to no road works or repairs so a better pace can be maintained, but one still has to be aware of the regular potholes so you do have to pay attention. 

Warnings to carry extra gas and a multitude of spare tires proved unfounded. I didn’t see anyone out of gas or changing tires. Stories of guaranteed broken windshields was also another myth although my door hinges were bare metal from my own rock chips thrown up by my front tires. My rear fenders were also pock marked. This was very true for the Dalton Highway also.

Traveling North was quite quiet with very little traffic but when heading back the flood gates had opened with masses of RVs and traveller heading north. There was a huge reason for the lack of south bound traffic. The Peel River was running extremely high and ferry service had been suspended. Travelers that had been there the entire day waiting were camped along the side of the road, trucks were extremely loud with their diesels Idling and the mosquitoes were out in force. I sat there for a couple of hours but there was zero communication from the ferry service as to when the ferry might start operating again. Huge storms were predicted up river so I decided to head back to Eagle Plains for a comfy night’s sleep, a decent meal and a few beers.

Eagle Plains Motel offers very comfortable rooms, a large restaurant and lounge, good food and service. It doesn’t look very impressive when you pull in for the mandatory gas fill up but you are pleasantly surprised by the services and accommodations. 

I crossed the Arctic Circle and stopped for the obligatory photo op but the sign was in pieces. Who knows what happened to it. It would be a damn big souvenir to take home and a little hard to smuggle across the boarder so perhaps the winter weather took it’s toll on it and it’s being repaired.

I like having roads and trails all to myself so seeing just a hundred or so vehicles really isn't so back when considering I had driven about 800 miles. The American Expeditions Vehicle’s modified Jeep JK 4 door Wrangler did exceptional well and was great choice of transport. The AEV suspension and 35” All Terrains ate up the ruts and potholes with ease.

The next morning the hotel manager called the ferry services to check the status of the ferries and there was still no news so I decided to head home. Once I made the decision to head home the fun pretty much went out of the trip. I just plugged in home into the GPS and went hammer down for the next 3,800 miles. I drove about 10,400 miles on my little Alaskan/Canadian driveabout and there is no doubt I consider where I travelled to be some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. 

I left Chicago early June and there was very little traffic heading north. The hotels, gas stations and attractions were virtually empty but all hell broke loose heading south in mid July. I think every RV owner decided to leave July 4th weekend and head north up the Alaskan Highway. There were lines at every gas station and hotels and restaurants were full. It was a veritable parade of RVs, motor homes, campers, 5th wheels, all stuck behind the slowest vehicle. Sometimes there were 20-30 holidayers in a row. Bloody horrible!!! I was so glad to have left before the rush

©  McNeill/Jeepingoffroad 2018