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Guidebook: Driving the Dempster to the Arctic Circle


Getting there: From LAX, you can fly in to Whitehorse. That's about 330 miles from Mile 0 of the Dempster, which begins 15 miles south of Dawson, in central Yukon. Connecting service (change of planes) to Whitehorse is available on Air Canada and Alaska, and restricted round-trip fares begin at $596.

Whitehorse has various rental agencies for vehicles suitable (and allowable) on the Dempster. I used Norcan Leasing, (867) 668-2137, fax (867) 633-3110, http://www.norcan.yk.ca, with an office at the airport and a good selection of SUVs. My Jeep Grand Cherokee was $260 a week, plus insurance.

Where to stay: Dawson has six B&Bs, and more than a dozen assorted hotels, motels and inns.

Bombay Peggy's Victorian Inn & Lounge, 2nd Avenue and Princess Street, Box 411, Dawson, Yukon Y0B 1G0; (867) 993-6969, fax (867) 993-6199, http://www.bombaypeggys.com. Nine uniquely furnished rooms and complimentary sherry and port. Single with shared bath, $55; doubles with shared bath, $60; doubles with private bath from $105.

Downtown Hotel, 2nd Avenue and Queen, Box 780, Dawson, Yukon, Canada Y0B 1G0; (800) 661-0514, (867) 993-5346, http://www.downtown.yk.net. It has 59 rooms and a pub and a restaurant. Double, $86.

The Dawson Bunkhouse, Bag 4040, Dawson, Yukon, YOB 1GO; (867) 993-6164; fax (867) 993-6051, http://www.bunkhouse.ca. It has 27 single and double rooms with shared shower, and there are also five suites. Doubles begin at $32, and suites go for $58.

There is one hotel along the Dempster, at about the halfway mark. Eagle Plains Hotel, Bag Service 2735, Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 3V5; (867) 993-2453, 22 miles south of the Arctic Circle, has 32 motel-like rooms, restaurant and lounge. Double, $81. The gas pumps hereshut down at 11 p.m. and open again at 8 a.m. so for early departures, be sure to fill up the evening before.

Arctic Chalet B&B, 25 Carn St., Inuvik, NWT Canada; (867) 777-3535, fax (867) 777-4443, http://www.arcticchalet.com, has a natural setting on a lake amid stunted black spruce. Five private rooms with private baths; two guest rooms in the master log house on the six-acre property outside of town. Singles, $64; doubles, $72. Airport pickup.

Mackenzie Hotel, P.O. Box 1618, Inuvik, NT, XDE 0T0; (867) 777-2861, fax (867) 777-3317. Thirty-three rooms, central location. Doubles, $100.

Polar Bed & Breakfast, 75 Mackenzie Road, P.O. Box 2258, Inuvik, NT X0E 0T0, (867) 777-2554. Small, quiet inn in the center of town. Two singles, two doubles, and two shared bathrooms off a central living room with well-stocked common kitchen complete with breakfast food. Double, $62.

Where to eat: Dawson has about a dozen restaurants. I liked Amica's Ristorante, 5th Avenue and Craig Street, (867) 993-6800. Comfortable, relaxing dining, view of Yukon River over the wooden veranda. Italian cuisine and pizza. Entrees from $8, pizzas from $10.

Klondike Kate's, (867) 993-6527, P.O. Box 417 Dawson, YT, Canada Y0B 1G0, near the Palace Grand Theatre. Casual and funky and has good food. Lunch about $7. One drawback: The tour buses stop here and fill the tiny restaurant.

The Triple J Hotel, 5th and Queen, (867) 993-5323, has a good barbecue on the small veranda. Northern Buffalo bison steak, with Yukon Gold potatoes, baked beans and salad. $14. Breakfast specials at just $2.10.

The best deals in town are at Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall, (867) 993-5575. Pizza slice, $2.75; Caesar salad, $4.50; and cheeseburgers, $3.50.

The restaurant at Eagle Plains Hotel (see above), about midway between Dawson and the end of the Dempster, has hearty servings, and meals are reasonably priced.

For more information: Klondike Visitors Assn., P.O. Box 389W, Dawson, Yukon, Canada Y0B 1G0, (867) 993-5575, (877) 465-3006, fax (867) 993-6415, http://www.dawsoncity.ca.

Northwest Territories Arctic Tourism, Box 610, Yellowknife, NT X1A 2N5 Canada; (867) 873-7200, fax (867) 873-4059, http://www.nwttravel.nt.ca.

Canadian Tourism Commission, 550 S. Hope St., 9th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90071; (213) 346-2700, fax (213) 620-8827, http://www.travelcanada.ca.

Carl Duncan
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