ICE ROAD — Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk

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Ploughing the ice road

Heavier traffic on the ice road.  Heavier traffic on the ice road.

distant traffic and eroded hills along the ice road Along the Mackenzie River ice road toward the south east

Nicely plowed ice road looking south east.

Eroded hills on the eastern bank of the Mackenzie River


Maintaining the Ice Road

According to the NWT Department of Transportation website as of 2006: since 1999, the earliest the ice road has opened is December 2, while the latest it has been put into service is January 2, which occurred in 2006. Ice management professionals venture out to measure ice thickness and assess ice quality; then to determine if the ice cap on the frozen river is structurally sound, and if it is safe for snowploughs to begin blazing a trail through the snow capping.

The courageous snow plough operators are heroes on the northern ice roads; their collective courage and stamina makes it possible for the road to exist. The plows provide road clearance throughout the winter and spring operating seasons.

Sadly, in the Canadian North, it is not uncommon for a piece of moving equipment to break through the ice; neither is it rare to hear that a snow plough operator has lost their life on the job.

Monitoring of ice conditions continues while the go-ahead is given to light vehicular traffic, enabling residents from Inuvik, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk to travel between communities. Eventually heavy trucks and loaded trailers carry supplies, including dry goods, construction materials and petroleum products to the Mackenzie River communities as well as resource exploration camps in the Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean).

The ice road remains open as weather conditions allow, but usually closes before mid-April. These pictures were taken on March 27, just prior to spring thaw. The NWT Department of Transportation website provides up-to-date road conditions and ice road status. As of April 29, 2011, the ice road was still open.

You might enjoy visiting the website Inuvik Photos to see some pictures of the ice road near Tuktoyaktuk, captured by the respected Arctic photographer and community leader, Merven Gruben. There are also some very nicely presented photographs from Philippe Morin, another respected northern photo journalist who operates the website and who has included a long list of web links and blogs that relate to the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk area.

Continued. . .

Researched Information

Inuvik 1 Located  68°21'N  & 133°43'W,
on the east channel of the Mackenzie River
Tuktoyaktuk 2 Located 69°27'N  & 133°02'W,
on the shore of the Arctic Ocean (Beaufort Sea), at the discharge of the Mackenzie Delta
Arctic Circle 3 Located 66°33'N
Meterological 4
Conditions on Day of Trip
TEMP: -30 °C / -22 °F
SKY: Clear at times with a foggy haze near the Mackenzie Delta

DAYLIGHT: 14 hrs approx.
Approx. Ice 4
Road Length
187 kilometers / 109 miles
References  1Wikipedia: Inuvik
 2Wikipedia: Tuktoyaktuk
  3Wikipedia: Arctic Circle
Dept. of Transportation
Personal notes