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Northwest Territories, Canada

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • There are 10.5 square miles for every person in the Northwest Territories.
  • North America’s first diamond mine opened in 1998 near the territory’s Lac de Gras.
  • Great Slave Lake, 2,014 feet deep, is the deepest lake in North America.
  • Ulukhaktok is home to the continent’s northernmost golf course.
  • The Mackenzie River is Canada’s longest (2,630 miles) with the largest drainage area (700,000 square miles).

A dream come true

Canada’s Northwest Territories is a northern wonderland that is more than one and a half times the size of Texas (but smaller than Alaska) with a population, at 43,000, resembling a reasonable-sized U.S. suburb.

That leaves a lot of open spaces, which encompass the Mackenzie Mountains (an extension of the Rockies), the Mackenzie River (so broad and long it is called the Amazon of the north), Canada’s largest lakes and, in fact, so many lakes and islands that many remain unnamed. The bulk of Northwest Territories roughly parallels Alaska’s latitude, although territory islands are farther north.

This site is a dream come true for the most active travelers among us. Nevertheless, the multifaceted Northwest Territories has a few pleasant surprises for any tourist who will take a chance on it.

For one thing, summer days in the continental Northwest Territories can be hot (in the 80s), and they are sunny, dry and long. Springs are sunny, too.

There’s no lying about winter: Days are short and average temperatures of -5 to -10 Fahrenheit are colder when the winds are up, but winter’s climate is dry, too.

Attractions with broad appeal include the Northern Lights — visible in autumn and spring as well as winter — and the long summer days that, north of the Arctic Circle, deliver the midnight sun.

As for scenery on the ground, there is drama everywhere, and visitors don’t have to hike all over the territory to grasp the big picture. Driving trips and even flightseeing tours are on offer.

In the towns, visitors learn about native cultures (about half the territory’s population is aboriginal) at festivals, in museums and in the shops where locally made goods are sold. Tour companies offer escorted jaunts to see wildlife or to fish in the territory’s clear waters. Playing golf is something of a kick, too.

At the other extreme, independent and active travelers may paddle a kayak through whitewater rapids, drive a dogsled team, hike across the mountains, drive on an ice road (in deep winter) or head to a fly-in lodge for fishing. There are many ways to get close to nature here.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take a (very) quick swim in the Arctic Ocean during your trip to Tuktoyaktuk to see pingos. The area, in the territory’s Mackenzie Delta, is dotted with the striking sight of hundreds of pingos, i.e., large earth-covered mounds of ice.
  • Take a canoeing trip — and run the rapids — on the Mountain River as it makes its way down the Mackenzie Mountains to the Mackenzie River. Mountain has been called Canada’s best river for canoeing. Or, rent a kayak and try the Class V whitewater rapids on the Slave River.
  • Book a dogsled excursion of one or more days. Learn to drive your team of dogs.
  • Drive or ride on an ice road, such as the road that, in winter, connects Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk and crosses part of the Mackenzie Delta. It is the world’s widest ice road.
  • Hike the Canol Heritage Trail through the Mackenzie Mountains, described as one of the world’s top long-distance hikes — but only experienced hikers should take on the full 230-mile route. For an alternative, heli-hike on the Ram Plateau.
  • Choose your vessel, whether kayak or cabin cruiser with crew, and fish in Great Slave Lake. Or show up in winter, and fish through a hole in the ice. (By law, you are required to toss trophy-sized fish back into the water.)

Things to do for Centrics

  • Play golf on tundra at the Ulukhaktok Golf Course on the far-north Victoria Island. Play around the clock under the midnight sun. While in town, fish in Arctic waters and eat fried muskox, too.
  • Watch whales (including white belugas) and polar bears in the Arctic region. Also, observe the woolly muskox, creatures that predated the Ice Ages.
  • Spot the numerous visiting birds in the territory’s national parks, bird sanctuaries or even near its lakes.
  • Sign on for a guided tour into the forest to pick berries, black currants, blueberries, cloudberries or cranberries.
  • Go cross-country skiing. Look for cross-country ski clubs, groomed trails and rental skis in the larger communities.
  • Bring your camera(s) and snap seriously good photos, taking advantage of the light produced when the sun sits low in the sky.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Observe the aurora borealis (aka Northern Lights) in all its majesty. Or travel above the Arctic Circle in June when you can see the sun around the clock.
  • Buy art — soapstone or wood carvings, birch-bark baskets or paintings — from local artists.
  • Eat freshly caught local fish; also, sample local game meats.
  • Come to Inuvik in July for the Great Northern Arts Festival. Or, choose from an array of other festivities, such as carnivals, fishing derbies, golf tournaments, crafts fairs and events centered on summer solstice and the midnight sun.
  • Make the rounds of gardens at Fort Smith, which is referred to as the garden capital of the north.
  • See the Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Fort Smith or the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Northwest Territories Tourism at www.spectacularnwt.com