The Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road is an ice road that connects the Northwest Territories communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in Canada, using the frozen Mackenzie River delta channels and the frozen Arctic Ocean. During the summer, Tuk is only accessible by boat and plane, but every winter, as soon as the weather is cold enough, crews start building the ice road.
The ice road is 177km long and it was featured in the reality television series Ice Road Truckers in 2008. There are times when you feel like you are driving on glassy marble. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards. In Inuvik, daytime highs are between -7°C and -17°C, dipping at night.
The road is part of the Dempster Highway, the only public road to cross the Arctic Circle. This ice road connects the Klondike Highway in Yukon, to Inuvik. It is open to traffic only during the winter months (between December and March) when the water of the Mackenzie River Delta freezes, tracing a natural road over the length of the river and parts of the Arctic Ocean. During summer the road melts and forms a flowing river. During this season the village of Tuktoyaktuk (commonly called "Tuk") can be reached only by plane or boat. The airport has a gravel runway suitable for jets such as Boeing 737s with special equipment to deal with gravel being thrown up.
Tuktoyaktuk receives few visitors. The village in the far north of Canada has no restaurant or hotel. The world’s longest ice road services gas hydrate fields and exploration facilities at Mallik, Aput, and Langley, along with the ice-locked barges Wurmlinger and Arctic Star, which act as bases of operations for ice road crews and exploration personnel. In addition, the road is a key supply line for Tuktoyaktuk and the hamlet of Aklavik. Thousands of rigs thread their way along the frozen highway each year, hauling fuel, cement, equipment and supplies to four diamond mines and several exploration sites otherwise accessible only by air.
Portions of the road may be temporarily closed due to road work or inclement weather. The rest of the Dempster Highway is on land and can be driven on through the summer. Accidents are rare on the road, due to the light traffic. The ice that make up the road is about 8 feet thick and is littered from place to place with cracks and ridges, making it one of the most dangerous stretch of road. Construction of an all-weather highway between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk commenced in April 2013. The highway is estimated to be finished by fall of 2017, after which the ice road will be permanetly closed. It’s one of the world's northernmost road ends.