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ICE ROAD TO TUKTOYAKTUK CANADA

Roads to the End of the Earth

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ICE ROAD TO TUKTOYAKTUK CANADA

Distinction: Northernmost road in North America, open only during the heart of winter.In the summer, the only way to get to Tuktoyaktuk, a town of fewer than 1000 people at the top of Canadas Northwest Territory, is by plane. All electricity in town is from a diesel generator. And residents shop for food and provisions only twice a year: in the heart of summer, when the Beaufort Sea area of the Artic Ocean is open and ships can come in, and in the dead of winter, when trucks can drive across the Mackenzie River, which has frozen and turned into an ice road.Inuvik, a town about 80 miles south of Tuktoyaktuk, is the end of the line for the gravel Dempster Highway, which meanders the tundra from Whitehorse, Yukon, over the rolling moonscape north of the Arctic Circle tundra. In the winter, when temperatures regularly drop to minus 40 F and the Mackenzie freezes, a road is plowed north from Inuvit, making Tuktoyaktuk accessible by land. Tuktoyaktuk, which means looks like a caribou in Inuit, is home to about 40 hotel rooms. Tourists come to the Mackenzie delta where the water features pingos, large frozen ice mountains that are covered with dirt and support plant growth. The tallest is 160 feet, and nearly 1000 feet wide at its base. Down in Inuvit, the most prolific occupation seems to be taxi driverabout half of the total vehicle population are taxicabs, which are left running 24/7 throughout the winter to keep from freezing.We drove this highway one winter and were treated to spectacular views from bluffs of stark, blue hued short trees scattered haphazardly over pristine ice covered ground for hundreds of miles. The only drama of the drive is the occasional cluster of white feathered ptarmigan pigeons, invisible against the white snow covered road surface, until they alight into flight when approached, narrowly missing a windshield.


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