Yellowknife has many features that make living here unique. The aurora is quite simply spectacular. It never ceases to amaze. Equally amazing are the sunrises and sunsets. Because of our northern latitude, the sun almost seems to be in a perpetual sunrise/sunset during the winter months, as it doesn't come up too far from the horizon. 
One of the best ways to experience the sunrise and sunset, while enjoying another unique attraction, is watching them from the Dettah winter road, which crosses Great Slave Lake from Yellowknife to Dettah. Though it is only 6 km long, it offers views of what makes life in Yellowknife exciting. You will notice that I call it 'Ice Road'. Although the officially it is known as a 'Winter Road', I think Ice Road is more descriptive...

A tree and orange pole mark the edge of the Ice Road. Snowmobile and dog sled trails cut across the Ice Road in several places. 

Travelling the Ice Road can be quite an experience. For some first timers, there can be some feelings of anxiety. I've had family immediately start to roll down windows and take off their seat belts. Standing on the Ice Road, it is very common the hear the crack of ice and feel it move up and down as traffic passes.

On the Ice Road watching the sunrise. 

When the temperature with windchill is -50C, sometimes this is the best view one can brave.

The Ice Road itself is pretty straight. There's a right hand curve on the northern/Yellowknife end to send you south towards Dettah. 6 km later the road starts to curve towards the east, leading into Dettah.

Heading to Dettah on the Ice Road, you start travelling East, and quickly come to a graceful right hand curve. That sun is bright. When the temperature is very cold, or there is any amount of wind, ice fog, or blowing snow are a common occurrence.

Heading south towards Dettah before sunrise.

Driving the Ice Road is an experience any time of the day. But crossing close to sunrise and sunset provides a palette of ever changing colours. All of these images (except for the aurora photos) were taken within an hour of sunrise or sunset, over the course of 4 days.

Travelling south, the ice road heads towards the mouth of Yellowknife Bay which opens onto Great Slave Lake, the 10th largest lake in the world.

The view directly south from the Ice Road. Being the 10th largest lake in the world, you've got a long way to go before making landfall on the other side.

Maintaining the Ice Road

For newcomers, cracks on the Ice Road may be a bit uncomfortable of a thought. But they occur all over the Ice Road. Stand close to one as traffic drives by and you're bound to hear a crack, and possibly feel the ice move up and down.

Gravel is laid down on the Ice Road for traction. When the road first opens, the sun is still low on the horizon. As March approaches, and the sun gets higher, expect to see more bare ice as you travel along.

As desolate as it may seem, travelling the Ice Road presents an opportunity to witness so many aspects of what makes life in Yellowknife unique. 

These aren't just oddly placed homes. They're houseboats! This view is from the north end of the Ice Road. The buildings in the foreground are all houseboats. Behind, on top of the hill is Pilot's Monument, which provides a commanding view of Joliffe Island, the house boats, and ski/floatplane operations that occur on Great Slave Lake.

Yellowknife is home to quite a few houseboats. They attract people for many reasons, but they lend a lot of charm to Yellowknife. The houseboats, along with Old Town, give Yellowknife so much character. This is easily my favourite part of town to spend time in (much of it while on the deck of Mario's Marvellous Movie Emporium, a relatively new houseboat based cafe.)

Stopping to view the houseboats. The snow and ice on the back of my van is as hard as cement.

Vehicles aren't constrained to the Ice Road. Car, snowmobile and dog sled tracks make their way across Great Slave Lake in abundance close to Yellowknife. Keep an eye out for fresh powdery snow so you don't get stuck. This is a close up view of the Government Dock area of Old Town, an area which serves as the main access to land for the houseboaters .

The houseboats make for excellent aurora photos as well.

    Tracked vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. A Bombardier makes it way across Great Slave Lake to an ice fishing hut.

An ice fishing hut on Great Slave Lake.

Dog sledding on Great Slave Lake. It was -37C when I took this photo. Standing still the windchill brought it down to -50C. I can only imagine how cold it would have felt on this sled.

A lone tree on the south end of the Ice Road. I think the sunset makes for a lovely companion.

The same tree underneath the aurora last year.

Come to Yellowknife, and you're bound to hear about our ravens. Make sure to ask about the Flaming Raven. Halfway down the Ice Road and this raven came swooping over me.

A view of downtown Yellowknife from the Ice Road. This area was  known as New Town as Yellowknife expanded up the hill from Old Town .

Houseboats nestled close to Joliffe Island.

Yellowknife has much to offer in the winter. Yeah, its cold, but you can stay active to keep warm. If you come, don't forget to check out the Ice Road. Do yourself a favour and do it close to sunrise or sunset. You'll be just as amazed by the colours as you would by a New Brunswick forest in the fall.

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