An Adventure Motorcyclist’s Guide to Riding the Dempster Highway – Part 2

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Inuvik - The End of the Road
DempsterGasStops

On the Dempster:

In Part 1 of An Adventure Motorcyclist’s Guide to Riding the Dempster Highway we covered the basics of preparing for your ride to the Western Canadian Arctic. Now in part two, we’ll cover the critical information you need for the Dempster itself, and that starts with fuel.

Fuel:

The longest stretch without fuel is the 370km ride between from Klondike River Lodge at “Mile 0” junction of the Yukon Highway 2 (the Klondike) and the Dempster Highway, to Eagle Plains. Unless you’re on a bike with range similar to a KTM 640 Adventure or BMW R1200GS Adventure, 550kms, carry additional fuel — unless you’re into hyper-miling.

Gas is available at:
A) Km 0 / mile 0: Klondike River Lodge at junction of the Yukon Highway 2 (the Klondike) and the Dempster Highway
B) 370 km/227 miles Eagle Plains
C) 555 km/345 miles Ft. McPherson
D) 742 km/461 miles Inuvik.

Tip: If you don’t want to drag a gas can across the better part of North America, you can always pick up one at the Canadian Tire in Whitehorse, YT – only about 500kms from Km 0 /mile 0.

Recommended Accommodations:

In some cases “recommended” is too strong a term, but “the only thing available” is too long. At least you’ll know what to expect. Regardless of where you stay along this adventure Highway, if you’re not camping, make reservations.

Hotels

Dawson, YT:
Dawson is a flowing mix of history and the modern in a living town. This is in contrast to historical town sites, like Barkerville, which struggle to create a stasis in a modern world, through hired actors playing historical roles and museum-like curation. More importantly it’s a full service town, except it’s lacking a motorcycle shop. So if you need a service, plan to stop in Whitehorse, which has a number of good shops.

We’d recommend the Aurora Inn from our previous assault on the Dempster with its Swiss chalet decorative sense and precision service, smoothed by warm and personable Yukon hospitality. Remember to trade your shoes for the courtesy Crocs at the front door to keep the floors clean, as Dawson’s streets are all dirt. The Aurora is motorcycle friendly and had me wheel the KTM around back between wings of the building to keep it safe and out of sight. Plus you just can’t beat the fresh baked croissants with home made preserves at breakfast.
Aurora Inn: 867-993-6860
http://www.aurorainn.ca

Work camp “overflow rooms” at the Klondike River Lodge.
Work camp “overflow rooms” at the Klondike River Lodge.
Klondike River Lodge, YT:
Beds, gas and a pub grub restaurant. If you’re on the cheap, or if the main hotel is filled, there are “overflow rooms” offering the very finest in work camp facilities. Yes, if you’ve ever wondered what the digs of a long term highway crew smelled like after a season of construction, here’s the answer. Arrive early for a room in the main lodge, or press that extra 40km into Dawson.
Klondike River Lodge: 867-993-6892

Eagle Plains
Eagle Plains
Eagle Plains, YT:
I’m not sure this is a recommendation, but at 370km from “Mile 0” Eagle Plains is the only gig in town… actually it is the town. This service center offers hotel rooms, fuel, a bar and a restaurant – all at a price. If you’re dying for a hot meal, remember to arrive at the restaurant before the kitchen closes at 8PM, otherwise you’re making due with sandwiches of dubious quality (see emergency supplies). They will not make an exception for a late arrival.
The rooms are decorated in nouveau truck stop chic, and are a means to an end.
Eagle Plains Hotel: 867-993-2453

Inuvik - The End of the Road
Inuvik - The End of the Road
Inuvik, NWT:
A town at the end of the world, or at least the road, Inuvik is a full service community of 3400 – excepting motorcycle shop. For accommodations we’d recommend the Nova Inn Inuvik, it’s new, clean, utterly modern and you can’t go wrong with an in-room fireplace. During our stay Donna-Lynn Baskin hosted the Nova and the warmest and most helpful hotel concierge I’ve met this side of New York, and Inuvik reveals itself a welcoming and strangely metropolitan town if you take the time to look beyond the surface of corrugated buildings and houses on stilts. Surprises include the only community greenhouse north of the Arctic Circle and the “Family Center” complete with full sized swimming pool and mandatory hot tub.
Nova Inn Inuvik: 866-374-668 (toll free)
http://www.novainninuvik.ca/

Camping:

_MG_5136Remember this is bear country and you’ll likely see Grizzly, so take precautions when camping:

  1. Where food lockers are provided, use them.
  2. Do not cook near your camp, 100m away is recommended.
  3. Try to locate more than 100m from the latrine.
  4. Wrap all food in plastic and store away from the camp.
  5. Check the campsite before setting up:
    o Are there any signs that bears have been visiting this site? You’re looking for droppings or diggings.
    o Have the previous campers kept the site clean, reducing food smells and cleaning up their garbage.
  6. Dispose of food waste well away from the campsite, and in designated containers.
  7. NEVER store food in the tent.
  8. Minimize the number of tents (a few big tents are better than multiple small ones)

If the weather’s good camping is the way to go – provided you’ve remembered to pack the bug repellant. There are numerous public campgrounds providing various levels of service along the Dempster, for those who aren’t inclined just to find a cozy place to pull off and call home for the night:

  • km 0/ mile 0 Klondike River Lodge. 867-993-6892
  • km 73/mile 45 Tombstone Mountain Yukon government campground. Tombstone Mountain is a steep conical massif at the end of a broad sweeping valley. 36 camp sites, kitchen shelter, firepits, tables, water, toilets, hiking trails. Fee area.
  • km 194/mile 120.5 Engineer Creek Yukon government campground. 15 camp sites, kitchen shelter, firepits, tables, water, toilets. Fishing for grayling. Fee area.
  • km 371/mile 230.5 Eagle Plains. Gas, restaurant, camping, dump station, Emergency airstrip on road. Eagle Plains Hotel. 867-993-2453
  • km 447/mile 278 Rock River Yukon government campground. 20 camp sites, water, kitchen shelters, toilets. This is a beautiful spot. Fee area.
  • km 548/mile 340.5 Northwest Territories Government Nitainlii Camp and Information Center. Water, firewood, toilets and hot showers – important on a cool ride. Fee area.
  • km 738.5/mile 458.9 Chuk Park territorial campground. 38 camp sites, electric hook-ups, showers, tables, water, firewood. Fee area

Motorcycle Parts and Service:

None, but there are plenty of folks who can help. Which is a problem if the Demspter chooses to be hard on your bike. For example, when wet the abrasive mud ate completely through the rear brake pads on 50% of the bikes in our group, necessitating their replacement in Inuvik. Don’t despair though, because as there are daily airfreight flights between Edmonton and Inuvik via Canadian North Cargo. You’ll need a cooperative person, or dealer in, Edmonton willing to take parts to the “Southern Canadian Shipping Office” at Edmonton International Airport. If you don’t know anyone in the Edmonton, it would be a great time to make friends on ADVRider.com’s regional forum.

Inuvik:
Mike Zubko Airport
P.O. Box 1038
Inuvik, NT
X0E 0T0
Phone: 867-777-2953
Cargo Inquiries: 1-866-663-2223
Hours of Operation:
Monday – Saturday: 09:00-16:00
Sunday: 10:00-16:00
Edmonton:
Edmonton International Airport
Service Rd. & 6th Ave.
P.O. Box 9893
Edmonton, AB T5J 2T2
Phone: 780-890-4206
Cargo Inquiries: 1-866-663-2223
Hours of Operation:
Monday-Friday: 06:00-21:00
Saturday-Sunday: 06:00-15:00
(closed from 12:00-13:00)

Getting There:

By bike of course, and if you’ve a choice we’d recommend the more scenic Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37) through Northern BC rather than Highway 97 though Dawson Creek. This route also allows for adventurous side trips to Stewart/Hyder and Telegraph Creek. For those “southerners” who wish to save mileage or have holiday time constraints, ferry service is available via the Alaska Marine Highway system leaving from Bellingham and traveling to Haines or Skagway, Alaska, putting you on the Dempster’s doorstep as it were. Another option is to travel via BC Ferries from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, sailing up the scenic inside passage (video), while still letting you ride the 37. For more adventurous sorts, the ride from Terrace, BC, through the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Fields from to the “Cranberry Junction” connection with Highway #37 is well worth it.

Conclusion:

This, of course, is not a comprehensive guide, but provides the core information you’ll need to ride the Dempster. If you’re a new adventure rider and need an all-inclusive packing list or in depth advice don’t be deterred. A resource like the HUBB will provide such, though the site is focused on global travel the lists can be cut down to size with a little thought.

Above all, don’t let a lack of preparation deter you. Take your time, if you need parts or equipment know that they can be gotten in most centers throughout BC, Alaska and the Yukon or shipped in. Most of all enjoy the adventure.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. David Webb says:

    Great advice guys. I’m making the journey this July… I can’t wait for my “Arctic Circle” photo!

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    1. David,
      Good luck man! Keep us up to date on how the preparations and ride goes.
      Cheers,
      Neil

      Like

  2. Bill Ryder says:

    Ride the Dempster. I rode it in 1979 when it first opened and in 1994 for a aniversary of some sort….also a few times in between. Beware the mud and the sharp rocks. Also take a mosquito head net as even with repelant those pesky critters will fly up your nose. I always travel with a head net tucked in a jacket pocket…that way if I crash in the bush I can at least last a while before being eaten alive. I have to laugh at the degree of high tech stuff people seem to think is needed these days. You wouldn’t believe the bikes I have ridden to inuvik and back. Would I ride to inuvik again….YES.

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  3. Eric Hall says:

    Lots of good advice and resources – thank you gents!
    Rode from California to Watson Lake on my BMW RT last October (cold, but not wet); riding all the way to Prudhoe on a KLR 650 this August. Plan to take time to ride up to Inuvik, too, on the way home. thanks again for the prep advice. Eric

    Like

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