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Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road

The Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road was an ice road that connected 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 was only accessible by boat and plane, but every winter, as soon as the weather is cold enough, crews started building the ice road. The road closed permanently on 29 April 2017 at the end of the 2016-2017 winter season.

The ice road was 177km long and it was featured in the reality television series Ice Road Truckers in 2008. There were times when you felt like you were driving on glassy marble. In Inuvik, daytime highs are between -7°C and -17°C, dipping at night. The road was part of the Dempster Highway, the only public road to cross the Arctic Circle. This ice road connected the Klondike Highway in Yukon, to Inuvik. It was 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 melted and formed 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 serviced 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 was a key supply line for Tuktoyaktuk and the hamlet of Aklavik. Thousands of rigs threaded 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. The rest of the Dempster Highway is on land and can be driven on through the summer. Accidents were rare on the road, due to the light traffic. The ice that made up the road was about 8 feet thick and was littered from place to place with cracks and ridges, making it one of the most dangerous stretch of road. It was one of the world's northernmost road ends. Construction of an all-weather highway between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk commenced in April 2013 and finished by fall of 2017, after which the ice road was permanetly closed. 
Pic: By Ian Mackenzie - originally posted to Flickr as The ice highwayUploaded using F2ComButton, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8463579

 

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