We had spent the night in Valley View, Alberta Canada in the city park. It was 620 miles to Yellow Knife. We had switched from the road map to the Milepost book. This is a book that was developed after the Alaska Highway was completed in 1942. It is a great resource as it gives you mile by mile what the attractions are and what to look for in regards to scenery and wildlife. We headed towards Peace River. There are lots of big farms with oil pumping rigs.
The credit card we had been using for gas had been locked out by the credit company, so we stopped in Peace River as there was cell phone service. After getting the credit card “unlocked” we made a wrong turn and found ourselves near the Peace river museum. So we figured that it was fate and walked over the foot bridge to the entrance. The admission was 2 Canadian dollars or loonies, as they have a loon or waterfowl on the coin. At the front desk were two very helpful gentlemen. The museum was full of interesting exhibits and information.
We enjoyed the scenery of Peace River, which will eventually flow into the Slave River (pronounced Slav-aye), and into Great Slave Lake.
We were now on Hwy 35 or the MacKenzie Hwy. The side trip to Yellow Knife was going to add 1200 miles to our trip and we would have to drive on the Deh Cho highway, but we were excited for the adventure.
We stopped in a turnout to eat lunch and a bear walks in front of us. He was much more interested in the garbage containers than he was in us. After lunch we decided to take a short side trip to La Crete. We would need to take a ferry across the Peace River at Tompkins Landing. The ferry can hold 95 tons. We crossed with a logging truck and a semi full of grain. It only took about 7 minutes but it was cool and FREE!!!
La Crete is a Mennonite settlement. As we were driving a small black bear ran across the road. 2 bears in one day…WOW The La Crete area is very agricultural. Huge swaths of trees are bull-dozed for farming purposes. We drove into Fort Vermillion which is the oldest settlement in Alberta. Nothing really special about either place, but the ferry made it a nice side trip.
We got back on Hwy 35 and continued our northward drive towards Yellow Knife. We stopped at the 60th Parallel welcome center, where you are given a certificate. We were now in the Northwest Territories. We met the host couple Eric and Vi. They were very nice and let us sit in the office to use the WiFi. There is a campground there, so we got a site for the night. They cooked up some Taber corn (it is a Canadian variety) and gave us the corn, tomatoes, and rolls to have with our chicken and noodle dinner. It was their last week, so Eric gave Jim a NWT shirt. Very nice people!!!
The next morning we stopped in the office to get hot water for our hot chocolate. Vi gave us information of the waterfalls we needed to stop at. The first was Alexandra Falls. We would now be travelling on NWT Hwy 1
We then stopped at Louise Falls.
The last waterfalls was Lady Evelyn Falls, where you can walk a short trail to the brink of the falls.
As we followed Hwy 1, towards Yellow Knife, which is the capital of the NWT, we came to the Deh Cho Bridge. It crosses the MacKenzie River. The MacKenzie is a huge river that flows out of Great Salve Lake. It’s watershed is 1/5 of Canada. The bridge was completed in 2012, after many delays and several contractors. Before the bridge was built a ferry was used.
We stopped at the bridge overlook to grab lunch and look at the information boards about the bridge.
The bugs were horrible so quickly got what we needed then fixed lunch in the pickup. As we were eating we noticed the ravens had taken quite an interest in us.
As we headed east towards Yellow Knife we would cross the Wood Buffalo Sanctuary. At the time the sanctuary was created, there were only 14-18 in the area. They are now thriving.
So far, the roads had been decent, however the last 63.3 miles to Yellow Knife was huge frost heaves. The Yellow Knife area is rock. The gaps in the rock are filled in with dirt, and this creates frost heaves. We slowed down, but everyone was passing us, bouncing their vehicles as they went.
There are also numerous turnouts for the winter roads. These are only accessible, when the water freezes on the rivers and ponds that surround Yellow Knife.
We found a camping spot at Fred Hennie Territorial Campground. It is on rock so they provide tent platforms. They had hot showers, which would be nice since we hadn’t showered since we left Idaho. It was right next to the airport, so a bit noisy. We set-up our canopy and headed to the laundromat.
We had heard the Northern Lights might be occurring, so after washing our clothes, headed to an empty tent platform and waited. We could see the city lights of Yellow Knife and we also got a small show of white Northern Lights.
The next morning we headed out to explore Yellow Knife. Our first stop was the Territorial Capitol for a tour. The grounds had a flag walk with the city flag of each community in the territory, as well as an interesting wood sculpture.
The tour was very interesting. The building opened in 1993. Before that, the legislative sessions were moved to different cities, with the chair, ceremonial robe, and the mace being transported to those cities. The mace is a type of scepter. There are a pebble inside the mace from each community, so it rattles when moved.
There was a caribou that had been carved from a whale bone. It takes 100 years for the oil to dry from the whale bone, so the carving came from a 1870 whale bone.
The NWT believes in a transparent government. There are no political parties, just 19 independent members. They have a round room called the room of no secrets. This is where negotiations take place. There are no minutes kept and everyone has an equal voice. It also had beautiful murals on the walls.
There were pictures of the past territorial premieres, as well as First Nation artwork.
The Legislative Room has all natural materials. The wall is zinc-plated and the clerk’s chair is covered in seal skin. The tray in front of the desk, holds the mace when they are in session. The room is circular to represent an igloo. The upper windows are made from recycled car windshields and represent ice. And yes that is a real polar bear rug. It was brought into a session by an angry legislator. It is left to remind that the needs of the people should be priority. Every session is broadcast to all 33 communities and is translated into several First Nation languages. There are 11 official languages in the NWT.
After our tour, we had an employee come and want her picture taken with us. She saw our pickup in the parking lot and loved our license plate…BD2DBNE. It is a George Thurgood song…lol. We headed to the Northern Heritage Center. Lots of displays.
Animals of the NWT
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
We drove through Yellowknife and stopped for a quick picture at the city building. The city has a population of about 20,000. It’s name comes from the copper tools that the Dene people made.
Diamond mining is a new discovery in the area(1991), so we stopped and watched at the Diamond Centre movie mining and diamonds. It was more like a diamond store than a museum. We did learn that kimberlite is the rock that diamonds are found in. The diamond process is completely automated with no human hand ever touching the diamond. However, 1000 people are employed, working 2 week shifts of 12 hours per day. They are flown to mine. This open pit mine has blasted 50,000 tons of ore, yielding 150,000 carats.
We had been told to go to the ROCK. You climb the stairs and there is a monument to bush pilots.
From the top you can also see the houseboat island. the city skyline, and Old Town.
We had looked up and the Wildcat Cafe was one of the suggested places to eat. It was very good. The menus are in the shape of the NWT license plates. We had fish and chips and a modified Philly steak sandwich.
In Old Town, the houses are built on rock. Pillars are drilled into the rock. Sewer and water lines run through the yards. Some houses have holding tanks, that “hog” trucks come and empty weekly. There is also an unusually named road in Old Town….
We stopped at the airport and took a picture of the first plane to land at the North Pole.
We then had a scary moment…as we were driving we heard a loud clunk, clunk, clunk. Stopped the truck, Jim went back and picked up a piece of metal. It had a name on it, so we looked it up to see if it came off our pickup. It was a bearing that just so happened was for our pickup. We called out mechanic back in Idaho, sent him a picture. He had Jim look at all the possible issues. It was finally decided that by coincidence, we ran over a piece of metal that just so happened was the same part that our pickup used. What a weird coincidence. Cindy was still nervous that night, but Jim kept telling her that we would have a hole in the engine if it was from out pickup. She worries about everything!!!
We ate dinner, then went back up to the tent platforms, for a Northern Light show. This time, they were a bit stronger. We could see the Auroral oval and they were a light green.
Just 10 days earlier we had witnessed a total solar eclipse and now we were getting to see the Northern Lights. We had up to 5 ribbons at a time. Tomorrow, we will leave Yellow Knife and drive the dirt Deh Cho highway….