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. 

No comments: