Hay River to Yellowknife
Note: Twice a year, for a few days or up to three weeks (at breakup and freeze-up, respectively, of the Mackenzie River), the road to Yellowknife is not passable (call 800/661-0750 or check online at www.gov.nt.ca for current conditions). In summer, the free ferry operates daily 6 a.m.–midnight, while in winter an ice road is constructed across the river.
Lady Evelyn Falls Territorial Park
From Enterprise, south of Hay River, Highway 1 heads northwest, coming to Lady Evelyn Falls Territorial Park after 53 kilometers (33 miles). The namesake falls, where the wide Kakisa River cascades off a 15-meter (50-foot) escarpment, are easily accessible from the highway, seven kilometers (4.3 miles) down a gravel road.
A short trail leads from the day-use area down to a platform overlooking the falls. The falls are part of a territorial park that has a campground (mid-May–mid-Sept., $17) with pit toilets, bug-proof cooking shelters, and firewood.
The highway forks 85 kilometers (53 miles) from Enterprise: To the left, Highway 1 continues west to Fort Simpson, and to the right, Highway 3 heads north toward Yellowknife. Highway 3 crosses the Mackenzie River via a ferry, 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the junction.
Across the river and just up the highway, a spur road leads eight kilometers (five miles) to the Slavey Dene community of Fort Providence (population 600), perched high above the river on its steep northern bank. On the riverfront through town, markers honor the roles played in the region’s history by Alexander Mackenzie and the Church.
Rae-Edzo, 214 kilometers (133 miles) north of Fort Providence, is the largest Dene community in the Northwest Territories, with a population of 1,500 Dogrib Dene. They settled around a Hudson’s Bay Company post as early as 1852. In the 1960s, the government began developing a new townsite, Edzo, closer to the highway. The school at Rae was closed, and a new one opened at Edzo. Today, most of the people continue living at Rae, where the water access is better for fishing and hunting, whereas the government buildings are up on the highway at Edzo.
The 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) side trip to Rae is worth taking. The resilient community is perched on a rocky outcrop jutting into Marian Lake. The main road through town leads to a small island, where the rocky beaches are littered with boats, fishing nets, and dogs tied up waiting for snow. Apart from the snowmobiles, the village looks much as it did 100 years ago.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition