Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 43 –Fort St. John, BC to Sikanni River

Today’s Mileage 118
Miles to Date 4013
Miles Remaining 5629

This morning we had the alignment checked on the coach at the local Freightliner repair facility in Fort St. John. We left the coach did a little grocery shopping and exchanged some U.S. dollars for Canadian dollars at the local bank. When we returned to the Freightliner shop, the coach was finished. The camber was out 5/32 of an inch and was corrected to specifications.

We were on the road by 10:30 A.M. The decision was made to split the leg to Ft. Nelson in two so we are now at the Sikanni River where we will spend the night. It was an easy decision to call it quits after 118 miles as we got up at 6:00 A.M. so as to be at the Freightliner shop 15 minutes before our 8:00 A.M. appointment.

Of course I had to wash the Hummer and coach while in St. John. All was good until we stopped for lunch. It started to rain just as we finished lunch and it was time to get back on the road. It rained for the next 15 miles, just enough to undo the washing efforts.IMG_0285

The Fort St. John RV Park that we were in lost its WiFi internet service Saturday evening and did not come back until we were leaving. The Sikanni River RV Park does not have  internet service plus we are in a deep valley so there is no cell phone service either.


The Sikanni Chief area had the southernmost airfield in the Northwest Staging Route used during WWII. Local pilot Jimmy “Midnight” Anderson used the airstrip. The strip is gravel, 6000 feet long with an elevation 3,258 feet.

Sikanni River was the site of the most treacherous hills on the original highway known as suicide hill and had the ominous greeting: “Prepare to meet thy maker.”

IMG_0284 In 1943, Alaskan Highway construction crews rerouted much of the pioneer road built in 1942 and replace temporary bridges with permanent structures. The Sikanni Chief River Bridge was the first permanent structure completed on the Alaskan Highway. The 1943 bridge was destroyed by arson on July 10, 1992.

The Sikanni Chief River flows east and then north into the Fort Nelson River, which flows into the Liard River and on to the Mackenzie River, which empties into the Arctic Ocean. It is easy to see how the rivers served as both transportation routes and travel routes by both the natives and early settlers. Even today the rivers and lakes connect more settlements then roads. The rivers were navigated by water craft when not frozen and by foot, horse and horse drawn wagons when frozen.


Day 42 – Sightseeing Day




Peace River Valley

We did a day drive to Hudson’s Hope, the W. A. C. Bennett Hydro Dam and Chetwynd today.

Hudson’s Hope is an early settlement on the Peace River where gold seekers and trappers sought their riches. It is also known for the discovery of dinosaur tracks along the Peace River and in the 1960’s it became the staging area for the construction of the W. A. C. Bennett and the Peace Canyon Hydro Dams.

The Bennett Dam is one of the world’s largest earth fill structures and forms BC’s largest reservoirs, Williston Lake. Together the two dams produce 3,425,000 KW of electricity that is utilized as far away as Los Angles.


Earth filled Bennett Dam


Williston Lake



German Touring Hotel Coach – Carries 24 People

Chetwynd is home to beautiful handcrafted chainsaw sculptures. The chainsaw carving project began as part on the Rendezvous ’92 Committee which was created to help with celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Alaska Highway.


In 2005 Chetwynd hosted the first annual Chetwynd International Chainsaw Championship. The Championships are held the 2nd week in June.










They are 80 carvings located in various places around town.










Day 41 – Ft St John – Camp Day – Charlie Lake


The WiFi at the park where we are staying is going up and down and has been mostly down today. As it is the weekend, it may be Monday before it is up so it may be a while between posts to the blog as we may be on the road Monday depending on how long the front end alignment takes.

We have now learned that it is best to get a campground early Friday and wait out the weekend. The locals really like to camp on weekends and any Provincial Campground by a lake or river is completely full by 7:00 PM. They even pack several campers into each site.

Charlie Lake: Many solders assigned to building an inland supply route from Canada to Alaska were stationed at Ft. Saint John.

Shortly after 8 A.M. on May 14, 1942, a pontoon boat left the 341st Engineering Regiment landing on the south end of Charlie Lake to deliver equipment, supplies and personnel to Company E’s bivouac site at the north end of the lake, a distance of about 12 miles. There were seventeen men on board. Major John Turvey, in charge of the expedition, had overseen the loading of the equipment, which included a radio command car, a bulldozer, drums of oil and other supplies.

The two-bay, three-boat raft had been built the previous day under the supervision of Lt. John Langendorf, of the 74th Engineer Company. The front compartments of the pontoons were fitted with canvas covers to keep water out.

When they started out from the south end of the lake, the water was choppy, with one-foot waves. Powered by two 22 horsepower motors, the boat preceded north in increasingly rough water and stronger head winds, with waves soon reaching two to three feet.

By 11:15 A.M., the boat was about two-thirds of the way to its destination and in the middle of the lake. The men discovered that a plug had come out of the gas line of one of the motors and gasoline was draining out. They had just rounded the headland when Major Turvey ordered a turn to the west shore. As the boated started to turn, two waves hit it in succession, flooding the right pontoon, which went under, and tipping the raft at a precarious angle. Then it settled and went under, all in less than two minutes.

A mile and a half away in his cabin on the northwest shore of the lake, homesteader and trapper, Gustaf Albin Hedin watched the pontoon ferry making its way up the lake as he cooked breakfast. He checked the progress through his field glasses, returned to his stove, and then checked the lake again. This time the boat was nowhere to be seen. Instead, he saw men bobbing in the water. Within two minutes, he had launched his 14-foot rowboat. It took him 15 minutes to reach the men.

At the accident scene, he found nine men afloat. They were hindered in their own efforts to rescue themselves by their heavy winter clothing and boots. Some of them couldn’t swim. He hauled two survivors ashore, the returned to help others; even through his small boat was in danger of being swamped by the waves. Two more were rescued during the second trip, and on the third trip he saved one more man.

Gustaf Hedin received a metal from the Humane Society of Canada and was also honored by the Canadian military and the U.S. military.


Memorial to the Men That Lost Their Lives on Charlie Lake


Home on the Hill Overlooking Charlie Lake

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 40 – Fort Saint John, British Columbia


As I mentioned yesterday, we bypassed Dawson Creek, the famous Mile Post 0 of the Alaska Highway to save mileage. Both Don and I have been to Dawson Creek on our previous trip to Alaska. The first two nights are at the Ross H. Maclean Rotary RV Park. They are a little pricey at $40 per night for full hookups. But it does give us a chance to catch up on the laundry, empty our holding tanks and fill the fresh water tank with Reverse Osmoses water. We hope to relocate tomorrow to the Charlie Lake Provincial Park for $16 per night, dry camping. The problem is it is the weekend and the Provincial Parks seem to fill up with local campers. Our backup is the local Wal-Mart parking lot.

Tomorrow will be camp rest day if we get into the Provincial Park. Sunday we will take a loop drive along the Peace River and outlying communities. Tuesday we will continue our journey towards Alaska.

We are several days ahead of our original schedule plan so this layover we aid in getting us back on schedule. Why a schedule? It turns out that that at the present rate we will be on the Kenai Peninsula in the middle of fishing season. We could not get reservations at the campgrounds there until August 1st so we need to do most of our sightseeing on the way up to the Kenai Peninsula so as on August 1st.

The City of Fort St. John is a small city in northeastern British Columbia, Canada. A member municipality of the Peace River Regional District, the city covers an area of about 22 km² (8 mi²) with 17,402 residents (2006 census). Located at Mile 47, it is the second largest city along the Alaska Highway, after Whitehorse. Originally established in 1794, as a trading post, Fort St. John is the oldest European-established settlement in present-day British Columbia.

Over the years the community has been moved a number of times for varying economic reasons. The present location is thought to be its sixth. The original trading post built in the area was named Rocky Mountain House. It was established one year after Sir Alexander Mackenzie explored the area in 1793. One of a series of forts along the Peace River constructed to service the fur trade; it was located southwest of the present site of Fort St. John. The Dunneza and Sikanni First Nations used it as a trading post. It was also used as a supply depot for further expeditions into the territory. The fort closed in 1805. Fort d'Epinette was built in 1806 by the North West Company. It was renamed Fort St. John in 1821 following the purchase of the North West Company by the Hudson's Bay Company. This fort was located about 500 meters downstream from the mouth of the Beatton River. It was shut down in 1823.

Fort St. John was reopened in 1860 on the south side of the Peace River, directly south of the present clip_image002community. It was moved in 1872 by Francis Work Beatton directly across the river. This community lasted until 1925 when the river ceased to be the main avenue of transportation and the fort was moved closer to where settlers were establishing homesteads. The new town was constructed at Fish Creek, northwest of the present community, on the new trail to Fort Nelson. It did not shut down until 1975. In 1928, C. M. Finch moved his general store to two quarters of land where he also built a government building to house the land, telegraph and post offices. The present site for the town was firmly established after he donated five acres (20,000 m²) for a Roman Catholic Church and additional land for a hospital.

Fort St. John is the transportation hub of the region. The main highway, Highway 97 (Alaska Highway), built in 1942 by the United States Army, runs through the city, north to Fort Nelson, the Yukon, and Alaska. As the highway goes over the Peace River to Dawson Creek, it reduced the community's dependence on the river for transportation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 39 – High Level, AB to Fort St. John, BC

Today’s Mileage 219
Miles to Date 3895
Miles Remaining 5747

Our original plan for today was to travel to Dawson Creek with one over night about half way. I was talking to a local while we were having lunch and he told me of a short cut from where we were having lunch that would take us to Fort St. John. The short cut saved us forty miles.

Last night I washed the Hummer in High Level. Big mistake as it rain during today’s drive and it looks the same as it did before I washed it. Now we have a thunderstorm and it is pouring down rain. At least we are settled in for the night in a Good Sam’s Campground with full hookups and even WiFi. We will spend at least two nights here before continuing our journey towards Alaska.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 38 –Lady Evelyn Falls to High Level

Today’s Mileage 220
Miles to Date 33576

Miles Remaining 5956

We continued our back tracking today and are now back in High Level, Alberta. High Level is a good place to spend the night as there is free WiFi at the Best Western, free overnight parking at the Tourist Information Center and a place to refuel the coach with diesel at the Petro-Canada Card Lock Station. One can use the Pacific Pride cards at Petro-Canada Card Stations in Canada. These stations are more plentiful and designed for truck refueling making it easy to maneuver a motor home and toad in and out. Plus an added advantage is that there are no international transaction fees that would be accessed using credit cards. Pacific Pride sends an electronic bill at the end of the month to be paid by check that I can queue electronically online.

We did save a couple of points of interest to stop at along our back track portion of the trip. On the way up we skipped Hay River Alexandra Falls and Twin Falls. Both falls are close together so we opted for Alexandra Falls as the falls are the higher of the two. The Dene of this region calls Alexandra Falls “Hatto deh Naili” a place of power protected by the spirits. The falls cut through rock that dates back 400 million years.

Approximately 11,000 years ago the last glacier (Al Gore take note, the global warmer period that we are now in started over 75,000 years ago) retreated leaving a large lake reaching from Great Bear Lake to Athabasca. Evidence of this former lake can be seen in sand and gravel beach ridges, found on the east side of the Hay River. As the level of the lake fell, the Hay River was forced to adapt and began to cut into bedrock which was soft, and easily eroded. Alexandra Falls formed where the river flowed over resistant limestone.


Hay River Before Falls


Forest Floor by Hay River


Day 37 –Yellowknife to Lady Evelyn Falls

Today’s Mileage 233
Miles to Date 3356
Miles Remaining 6176

We are now on our way to the Yukon and Alaska. But first we must backtrack all the way back down Highway 2 in the NWT and Highway 35 in Alberta to pick up the highway that will take us to Dawson Creek and Milepost 0 of the famed Alcan Highway.

Our initial plan was to spend the night in a pull out just pass the ferry but it was just another few miles to the Lady Evelyn Falls campground that has 30 amp electrical service. With the electrical service we will have a warm light instead of the cold nights that we had to endure at the Fred Henne Campground in Yellowknife.

We had hope to take the NWT Highway 1 and NWT Highway 7 to Forts Simpson, Liard and Nelson but we all we got were different stories from the Tourist Information Facilities in High Level, Hay River, 60th Parallel and Yellowknife and numerous other people. Some said that the road was good, some bad and the one Information Center said that it was almost paved all the way. We pretty much dismissed the paved data and came to the conclusion that it was not worth the risk to save approximately 500 miles and more prudent to back track and pick up main highways to Dawson Creek.

Some comments on visiting Yellowknife by RV:

We arrived just before noon on Friday June 18th. The campground was completely full but we were told that we could go to the overflow area by the shower building and as soon as a site became available we would be assigned to it. ATV’s used the mounds by the shower building to race around each evening and there was quite a bit of noise from vehicles coming and going to use the showers. We did get to pay $22.50 per night for this entertainment. Saturday we were again told that a sight might become available, no site. Sunday we were told that we would most likely get a sight for sure. Again no sight even through campers that came to the overflow area after us were getting sights. For whatever reason, we were completely forgotten about.

We intended to stay in Yellowknife until June 24th but since Monday is just about over and still no site with electric and a picnic table, we have decided to depart Tuesday morning. $22.50 is a little much for staying in a parking lot and not even being able to sit outside and have use of at least a picnic table . The average price that we have been paying for full service campgrounds, (water, sewer and electric) during our first 3000 miles of travel on this trip to date is $15.00. We still have just about 6000 miles to go before this journey is over.

If I have known that we would not have gotten a site, I would have parked in a pull out on the highway. It would have been much quieter, and would not have cost $90. When we arrived on Friday, we were told that the dump station was not working and if we wanted to dump and fill up with fresh water that we had go to the water facility in town which we did. Bottom line is that we did not use the showers or any other facility in the park. While in the park we remained inside our RV as we did not have a table or anything else to use outdoors nor was there any room to set up our table and chairs. We ended up not camping, we were parking. I guess that when you have a monopoly on campgrounds, you can overcharge.

I do understand that it was a big holiday weekend and that the campground was booked by the local inhabitants. However, I would have thought that someone would have the foresight to provide a nice parking area for the tourist traveling by RV. For instance there is a large area overlooking a beach just across the highway from the airport. There is another parking area at the beach just below that area. There are several businesses with parking lots downtown and a parking lot adjacent to the park downtown where the celebrations were held. Any or all of these areas could be set aside for tourists traveling in RVs to use during holidays when the local people fill the campground. That way the City of Yellowknife would have a win – win situation. The local people can camp and do their thing in the campground and the tourist RV people can spend their money at the local business and not their dollars to park in the campground parking lot.

Day 36 – Yellowknife Summer Solstice and National Aboriginal Day


Today is both Summer Solstice and National Aboriginal Day here in Yellowknife. The morning is cloudy with on and off showers so we tried to sleep in but the usual kids on ATVs running on the gravel mounds by the showers woke us up. So it was rise and shine, take Mik for his morning walk and some cleaning chores in the motor home.

Around 11:00 we took a drive on NWT Highway 4 pass the two closed gold mines and across the Yellowknife River. We then return to Yellowknife’s downtown park and enjoyed the free fish fry and entertainment.

Next it was back to the Yellowknife River to attend the National Aboriginal Day celebration. One of the native customs on National Aboriginal Day is “sharing”. The Dene people bought fish, caribou meat and bannock (a native biscuit) to share with all the attendees. The fish were uncooked and whole, one needed to clean and cook their own fish on a large open grill. The caribou meat was hind and front whole quarters. You cut the meat from the quarter and cooked it on the same grill.

A good time was had by all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 35 – June 20, 2010 Yellowknife


Last night was cleared and the sky was bright all night long. This morning we woke up to rain but there is hope as the sky is starting to clear. As the morning was rainy, we went into town to the Javaroma Café and took advantage of free WiFi there after which we visited the Yellowknife Museum.

Single Engine Passenger Plane

Gipsy Moth Single Engine Passenger Plane

The Mackenzie or Deh Cho flows out of Great Slave Lake and meanders north and west for almost 1243 miles (2000) km to the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic. For thousands of years, it has supplied food and travel access to the Dene of the NWT. Since the early 1800’s it has given outsiders access to its rich resources of furs and minerals. Today large tugs and barges still use the Big River to get fuel and supplies to remote communities and camps.

A brief history of Yellowknife

Yellowknife, and the adjacent river and bay on Great Slave Lake, derive their names from the knives once used by Dene of the area. The blades were fashioned from naturally occurring copper gathered along the northern reaches of the also aptly named Coppermine River, near the Arctic coast.

The people of the city’s two neighboring communities of Dettah and N’Dilo are the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Their ancestors – Slavey, Dogrib, and Chipewyan speaking Dene have inhabited the region since time immemorial, with known archaeological evidence dating back thousands of years.

In the 1700’s the Metis families came to trade then the trading companies. Company trading post explorers Samuel Hearne in 1770, Peter Pond in 1786 and Alexander Mackenzie in 1789 came next. John Franklin completed his overland trip to the Arctic coast in 1820.

By the 1930’s new transportation systems over water and by air were established and the Yellowknife area became more accessible. In 1933 Johnny Baker and Herb Dixon made the first free gold discovery up the Yellowknife River. The Con Mine became the first NWT gold producer with the pouring of a brick in September 1938 and modern Yellowknife was born.

By 1942 Yellowknife was a small village with many services and several producing gold mines.  Grant Mine struck gold in 1944 in town, with no room for expansion a new town site was surveyed in 1945 where the present downtown is today.

In the summer of 1953, Yellowknife became a municipality and its first major was elected. In 1967 Yellowknife was named capital of the Northwest Territories and later was designated a city on January 1, 1970.

The goldmines which formed the City have all closed, with the first, Con, being the last in 2004. But the mining industry remains strong and prosperous by the diamond mines to the north.

Highest temperatures are in July in the low to mid 20C (68F) range and occasionally above 30C (86F). Winters are long and cold with plenty of days below -30C (-22F) and sometimes down to -40C (-40F).

The Last Mooseskin Boat

Moose Skin Boat During the late fur trade period, the Shu’htaot’jne exchanged meat for trade goods with the European traders in the Mackenzie Valley. Around 1800, in order to transport increasing quantities of meat to the trading posts, the Shu’htaot’jne innovated a large watercraft. Using available materials, the Shu’htaot’jne designed a cargo craft that suited the swift moving currents of mountain rivers. These large boats were made from raw moose skins stretched over wooden frames and could be propelled both by oars and a sail. Inspiration for the boat may have come from the Hudson Bay Company’s, wooden York boats.

The Shu’htaot’jne constructed the boats at mountain camps in early summer. The boats were dismantled after each river journey to trading posts along the Mackenzie River. The hides were then tanned and use for other purposes, while the wooded frames were discarded. The Shu’htaot’jne returned to the mountains on foot to hunt and trap over the winter months.

With increasing settlement in communities, the mooseskin boat had largely disappeared from the Shu’htaot’jne way of life by the 1950’s.

This boat was built as part of a project to revive and document the knowledge associated with mooseskin boat building. In March of 1981, a group of Shu’htaot’jne traveled to their ancestral homeland in the Mackenzie Mountains. There they spent several months hunting moose, scraping hides, making sinew, felling trees and preparing to build this large boat. Once all the materials were ready, they assembled the boat in five days. In early June, they sailed the boat down the tumultuous Keele River. Upon their arrival in Tulita a week later, the whole community celebrated their journey and the revival of traditional boat building skills. The boat was towed to Normal Wells and then sent by barge and truck to the museum in Yellowknife.


Monday, June 21st will be our last full day in Yellowknife. Tomorrow we will head south to pick up he Alcan Highway. We will be without internet service until we get to High Level so Monday’s Yellowknife update will be posted then.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 34 – Yellowknife – Start of Solstice Festival


The yellow knife is based on a copper powder knife used in the mining industry. It was important for the dynamite suppliers to use a copper knife because opening the powder cases with a steel knife could cause a spark.

The City of Yellowknife adopted the knife a few years ago to symbolize gold mining as one of the major industries in the area.

Yellowknife has been the capital of NWT since 1967. Yellowknife is named after the Yellowknife Dene who moved into the area in the early 1800’s.

On January 1, 1970 Yellowknife was incorporated as the first city in NWT.

The city has continued to grow, and today, Yellowknife has a population of 18,000. It has many thriving businesses including two gold mines within city limits.

What does one do when the sun does not set? Well you just don’t go inside. One parties all day past midnight. The Solstice Festival starts June 18th and continues through the 21st. The celebrations include the Festival of the Midnight Sun, Canadian Multi-Cultural Day, St. Jean Baptiste Day, the Raven Mad Daze, the Beer Barge BBQ Party and the Mid-night Golf Tournament.

The Beer Barge Party is an historical celebration of the first barge of the season arriving from Hay River and has taken place since the 1940’s. We did not know about the Beer Barge Party until today. It turns out that the Comanche Society that we use to belong to when we had our Piper Comanche flew into Yellowknife and is partaking of the party.

We had an early dinner at the Wildcat Café’. The Wildcat is the most famous restaurant in town. It was opened in 1937 by Willy Wiley and Smoky Stout. The café was closed in 1951 and was due for demolition until a group of local residents formed a society to preserve the building. It reopened in 1979 as a summer restaurant. The building is designated a heritage site and celebrated in Canada’s Museum of Civilization.

 IMG_0246 IMG_0247   IMG_0249IMG_0248


You can click on an image to enlarge it.

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Day 33 – North Arm Territory Park to Yellowknife

Today’s Mileage 71
Miles to Date 3123
Miles Remaining 6309

We have now most likely reached the most northerly point of our travels North 62 degrees 28.198 minutes unless we exceed that longitude in Alaska.

It was a short drive to Yellowknife from the North Arm Territory Park. We arrived during the busiest weekend of the year. The campground is full so we are in a parking overflow lot of the campground. I am not sure where all the campers came from as the only road from the rest of world was void of traffic as we drove it this morning. Territorial campgrounds are expensive, $22.50 a night for a this gravel parking lot with no hookups and $28.00 a night for a pull through with just 30 amps electric.

There is internet available in the airport parking lot, so with some luck I might be able to catch up on the blog posts this evening. We plan to spend at least four nights in Yellowknife so I will post more on Yellowknife in the coming days.

Contrary to what we were told, we have cell phone service here.

The rain has found us again but we are told that the weekend will be good for the longest day and aborigine celebrations.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 32 –Lady Evelyn Falls to North Arm Territory Park

Today’s Mileage 166
Miles to Date 3052
Miles Remaining 6370

Today’s big event was crossing the Mackenzie River by ferry and encountering herds of bison grazing along side of the Highway 3 that will take us to Yellowknife. According the Northwest Territories road map there are only 7 highways in NWT. So far we have traveled on four of them, 1, 2, 3 and 5.

IMG_0223As we proceed north the trees are getting smaller 

IMG_0224 IMG_0230

Bison are bedded down and grazing along the highway


Tonight we are camping on the North Arm of the Great Slave Lake. This area is much like northern Finland not only is the country side, the trees and vegetation much the same, the Great Slave Lake has a northern arm the like Finland.





IMG_0232 Our evening view from our coach

IMG_0234Old Cabin by the lake 

Tomorrow we will proceed to Yellowknife. We are without cell phone and internet service. We will most likely have only internet service at local library in Yellowknife. We have been told by travelers heading south, that Yellowknife local wireless company is one that Verizon does not contract with.

We will be arriving in Yellowknife during the weekend of Aboriginal Day and the longest day of the year. Included in the celebration is a golf midnight tournament. There is no penalty accessed if your golf ball is carried off by a raven. The golf course is built on Pre-Cambrian Shield.  The course is mostly sand and bedrock. Each player is issued a small piece of carpet to take along as their portable turf.

Day 31 –Hay River, NWT to Lady Evelyn Falls

Today’s Mileage 85
Miles to Date 2886
Miles Remaining 6436

Today is our 37th Wedding Anniversary that we are celebrating at Lady Evelyn Falls, NWT.

It was a short hop today from Hay River to Lady Evelyn Falls. Along the way we stopped at McNallie Creek and falls. McNallie was a foreman for Western Construction and Lumber Company. The Western Construction and Lumber Company had the contract in 1956-57 to build the highway from Enterprise to the Mackenzie River. He and Mr. Little, Western Construction’s location engineer, attempted to cross a creek by canoe. The stream appeared very placid but was only a short Distance upstream from a sheer drop of fifty feet.

The canoe was swept downstream and the two men managed to fling themselves to shore before it went over the falls.

The creek and falls was immediately dubbed McNallie Creek and McNallie Falls.

The Slavery Village of Kakisa, population 52, sits on the bank of Kakisa Lake and the continuation of the Kakisa River. The Kakisa River passes through two lakes, Tathlima and Kakisa joining the Mackenzie River near the Great Slave Lake. Down river from Kakisa Lake is a small falls and then Lady Evelyn Falls. There is the Lady Evelyn Falls Territorial Park adjacent to falls. We arrived at the park around noon, had lunch and explore the Kakisa village, river and falls.

IMG_0220Lady Evelyn Falls

360 million years ago there was a tropical ocean here along with a salty lagoon filled with life. Dinosaurs have come and gone from the area. The falls flow over what is left of a coral reef. The area is abundant in fossils of creatures that lived in a much warmer climate then is here today. One has to wonder how many climate changes have taken place before Al Gore discovered and got rich off of climate change.

It is a sunny day. The mosquitoes have found us or we found them. At any rate we have been in mosquito country for the last several days. Also there is no cell phone or internet service here at Lady Evelyn Falls.


Day 30 - Hay River NWT

The early history of Hay River can be dated back some 800 years ago when the Slave Dene of the area probably set up camps on the west banks of the Hay River where it empties into the Great Slave Lake. This is earliest that archeological has been able to establish to date of human activity. Dene tradition records that the Hay and Meander Rivers was used as a travel-way by the Dene throughout what is now northwestern Alberta.

IMG_0212Dene Cemetery 

More modern history records visits to the area on the east bank by today’s K’atl’odeeche First Nation Reserve. No permanent settlement took place until around 1893 when Chief Chiatlo brought his group to settle from the southwest end of the Great Slave Lake.

IMG_0211 Mouth of the Hay River at the Great Slave Lake

It was not until the 1930’s that commercial fishing began to take hold and Hudson Bay Trading built a post and people started living on Vale Island on the west side of the river. During WWII the U.S. Army Engineering Corps built a gravel runway on Vale Island for a staging area for the construction of the Canol Pipeline. After the war more business move to the community and what is now Old Town was developed on Vale Island.

In 1949, an all-weather road was completed from Grimshaw / Peace River towns, now known as highway 35, and Hay River became the first major community in the NWT to be linked year-round by road to Sothern Canada.

In 1963 ice backed up the Hay River flooding Vale Island. A “new Town” was established on the west bank. The town of Hay River was incorporated in 1956. Today Hay River is one of only six tax-based communities in the NWT.

Visitors have a large variety to choose from. There is golf, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, hiking, canoeing, birding and road trips exploring the area’s history and wild life.

IMG_0210 St. Anne’s Catholic Church on the K’atl’odeeche First Nation Reserve

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 29 – Hay River, NWT

The Great Slave Lake beach and Hay River Harbor border the campground so this morning we took a walking tour. Along the way, Mik came above a squirrel that took off for a tree and then bark back at Mik who of course had to bark back at the squirrel.

I noticed that there was no activity at the harbor, yet Hay River is supposed to be the main shipping terminal to points north. Well it turns out that the Great Slave Lake is still ice bound. It is only melted here due to the rivers that flow into the lake at this point. Shipping activity is still weeks away then the harbor will come to life as there will only be a small window to get the supplies north before the ice sets in again.

Hay River is the only community in the NWT with an all weather road. Hay River plays such a crucial role in transportation in the North that it has earned the nickname “Hub of the North”. Hay River serves  as a barge port for the entire Mackenzie River system from the Great Slave Lake and down river all the way to the Beaufort Sea in the Western Arctic. Barges filled with petroleum products will leave here to supply all of the villages including the diamond mines with fuel for the coming fall, winter and spring.

The other main mode of transportation is the winter roads (ice roads). Those looking for an adventure can booked a ride as a passenger with truckers traveling the ice roads. Ice road trucking is quite dangerous. Besides white out conditions, break downs, sliding off of the road and becoming stranded, there is the danger of breaking through the ice and sinking to the bottom of a lake, river or Arctic Ocean. The locals claim that several rigs are lost every year and both truck and driver are never to be seen again.

Yellowknife, the largest populated community has an all weather road but the road crosses the Mackenzie River and there is no bridge. The crossing is either by ferry or ice bridge. During this time of year, the ferry may have to stop operating for days at a time when the ice breaks up on the Great Slave Lake and flows down the Mackenzie River. In the fall the road is cut when the ferry is dried dock due to ice build up. Traffic can only resume again when an ice bridge can be built. Spring reverses the problem as the ice bridge can no longer support traffic and the ferry cannot operate due to the ice. A $160 million bridge is under construction with expected completion this year.  The new Del Cho Bridge will replace summer ferry and winter ice bridge crossings to ensure uninterrupted transportation of goods and people along the Mackenzie Highway linking Alberta to Hay River and Yellowknife. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 28 –High Level, Alberta to Hay River, NWT

Today’s Mileage 199
Miles to Date 2801
Miles Remaining 6521


Today we reached the first goal of our summer trip as we crossed the 60th Parallel into the North West Territories.





The highway from High Level to Hay River is in excellent condition with many pull outs that for breaks and even overnight parking.







The Northwest Territories (NWT) is the second largest of Canada’s three territories. It stretches from the Arctic Ocean in the north, west to the Mackenzie Mountains, south to the borders of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan and east to the Nunavut border. Much of Canada’s longest river, the Mackenzie River, and two of its largest lakes, Great Slave and Great Bear, are in NWT. the 2008 population was 43,283.

The NWT is home to three major diamond mines supplying 15% of the world’s diamonds. Canada is the third largest diamond producer by value in the world. The collective operations of the NWT mines reached 16.6 million carats worth $1.4 billion in 2007.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 27 –High Level, Alberta


One important High Level industry that I forgot to mention yesterday is the oil industry. The surrounding oil fields employ many of the locals and people from all over the northwest during the oil season. The oil work is mainly in the winter. The oil fields are in very remote areas with no roads. The only way to get to the well areas is after the ground is frozen and travel is via ice roads. The population of High Level nearly doubles in the winter when the oil work is in full swing. Image a place where the population increases when the temperature drops to -40 degrees C.

03 Information Center High Level


 High Level Tourist Information Center where we are dry camping in the parking lot. Our WiFi is from the nearby Best Western Motel.






02 Fuel Prices

 Great fuel prices when one is oil country.

01 Required Pickup Truck



  Tundra Pickup Truck – And Montanans think that they have muddy roads.

Day 27 – Drive Along The Peace River

Rivers connected the north in days gone by, the Peace River brought the first settlers to the site of Fort Vermilion that started out as a fur trading post where “Alberta Began”.





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I will write more on the history of this area and add it later. It has been a long day and I need to mke a run to the Best Western to post this blog and get our email.