72 hours in Yellowknife, NWT


Yellowknife (pronounced /ˈjɛloʊnaɪf/) (2006 population: 18,700[1]) is the capital of the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada. It is located on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, approximately 400 km (250 mi) south of the Arctic Circle, on the west side of Yellowknife Bay near the outlet of the Yellowknife River. Yellowknife and its surrounding water bodies were named after the local Yellowknives Dene First Nation, who made tools from regional copper deposits. The current population is ethnically mixed. Of the eleven official languages of the Northwest Territories, five are spoken in significant numbers in Yellowknife: Dene Suline, Dogrib, South and North Slavey, English, and French. In the Dogrib language, the city is known as Somba K’e (“where the money is”).[2]

Forget about living off of the grid, how about living off a piece of rock in the middle of an island? Yellowknifer’s like their wide open spaces and solace lifestyle.

houses  near yellowknife from air_tim van horn

An older suburban neighbourhood built in the 1980’s is still on the edge of Yellowknife.

With a limited amount of continous flat ground in Yellowknife, houses, rent and space are all a premium in this fast growing northern community.

yellowknife flying in

Yellowknife sign at the airport – little did I know that the steel exterior would repeat itself throughout Yellowknife’s architecture.

yellowknife sign

A Polar Bear greets you in the baggage collection area of the Yellowknife airport.

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Yellowknife’s Skyline

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The courthouse

Many of Yellowknife’s buildings are clad in metal siding, making it impossible to determine exactly how old the buildings are, as well sometimes making it hard to fall in love with them. I can only imagine what it might be like with a cold north easterly wind blowing at 65 kms per hour on a minus 32c winter’s day.

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Downtown Yellowknife, from the “Old Town”

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A new condo development overlooks downtown.

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A miscalculation in the cost of blasting rock for the basements cost a group of developers the entire project, leaving roofless condos exposed to the elements for over two years.

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The Wood Yard is a collection of shacks, school buses and garden sheds on the edge of Old Town, Yellowknife.

It was at this point that I realized the extent to which people fall in love with Yellowknife. It’s definitely an eclectic mix of outdoor lovers, hippies, artist, ex-miners, woodsman, anarchists, business folks and gentle first nations peoples making up 21,000 souls in this charming, organic northern community.

yellowknife_49_tim van horn

The big money and big houses of Calgary are in single digits in Yellowknife, allowing this blue collar town to have an unpretentious down-to-earth feel to it. I fear for the Yellowknife secret to catch on and turn into a Kelona, BC of the north, with Jet ski’s, Land Rover’s and pink stucco houses dotting the landscape.

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A man canoes home just a mere 15 minutes by canoe from Old Town, Yellowknife, to his house boat in the outlying islands.

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A barge has been reinvented into a house boat, adding character, life and charm to the humble Yellowknife waterfront.

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Roger, the “Fishman” makes his living from selling fish from the back of his truck in Old Town. Some people fear the long term effects of Greater Slave Lake water quality from the Fort McMurray Tar sands development. With water draining from Lake Athabasca into Greater Slave Lake, continuing on into the Arctic Ocean. Folks in the Fort Chipewyan area are all ready asking for an environmental review in regards to the Tar sands.

roger the fishman yellowknife

Yellowknife “Con mine” landmark

The tallest structure in the Northwest Territories could become a condominium tower, a climbing gym or even a 25-story vertical garden, according to a preliminary study of ways to save the Robertson shaft headframe in Yellowknife. The city prepared the pre-feasibility report with potential ideas for preserving the headframe, which was part of the Con gold mine until it closed in 2003. The headframe was slated to be demolished last year, as part of the Con Mine cleanup. But residents lobbied council to save the structure, arguing that it’s a prominent landmark in Yellowknife’s skyline and part of the city’s mining history.

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A locked gate with no trespassing signs at the Con mine on the south side of Yellowknife.

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No trespassing signs still hang from trees despite Con Mine’s last day for hard rock miners was November 28, 2003. Only the Giant Mine operation keeps Yellowknife on the page as a gold mining town.

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The Giant Mine was a large gold mine located at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Gold was discovered on the property in 1935 by Johnny Baker, but the true extent of the gold deposits were not known until 1944 when a massive gold-bearing shear zone was uncovered beneath the drift-filled Baker Creek Valley. The discovery led to a massive post-war staking boom in Yellowknife. Giant Mine entered production in 1948 and ceased operations in 2004. It produced over 7,000,000 ozt (220,000 kg) of gold.


teepee with raven on rock old town yellowknife

Welcome to Ndilo Yellowknife’s Dene First Nations

welcome to Ndilo yellowknifes dene first nations

A Ford 150 awaits snowfall!

homemake ski truck in yellowknife

Ravens are part of the community and First Nations folklore, though most people would just as see them run out-of-town once and for all.

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An aging mural in Old Town depicts the early days of Yellowknife.

mural in oldtown yellowknife _tim van horn

The Inuit art windows at the Yellowknife Courthouse

courthouse art

Post 1, Claim No. 082288 marker behind city hall is testament to Yellowknife’s gold rush days.

post one, yellowknife

On the left a totem pole from the Old Town, on the right a totem pole uptown Yellowknife near city hall.

Totem Pole

The post office

yellowknife_3_tim van horn

The Northwest Territories Legislative Building is the home of the Government of the Northwest Territories. The most recent building was built in 1993 and commenced usage in 1994. The Government has used many permanent and temporary facilities throughout its history. The current building is two stories tall with two round halls, the Great Hall and the Caucus Room. The building is perched just metres away from Frame Lake.

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Main Chamber used light and art to create an unique airy room. Much thought has been taken in every detail of the cultural assets of the Legislature building, all of which have a tie to the people and land of the NWT. Of all of the Legislature building I’ve toured this past year, NWT Legislature building genuinely does feel as though its about and for the people. Though out the building are strong connections to the folklore of the First Nations Peoples, giving the building an earthy, spiritual, welcoming air to it.


Tanned Seal skin acts as art in Legislature building.

leg building yellowknife

The Causus room has unique acoustical qualities, on the walls you’ll find a large collection of A.Y Jackson (Group of Seven) paints depicting Yellowknife and the northern landscape.


The round halls of the Legislature building are decorated with artwork and cultural displays from northern artist.


Lit’l Bear Art Gallery in the main street has international clientelle.

craver yellowknife_tim van horn

RCMP Memorial

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Pilots Monument in Old Town.

bush pilots of canada

Public art is spread throughout the city.

public art yellowknife


The Wildcat Cafe is a vintage log cabin structure and represents the mining camp style of early year Yellowknife. The structure is a City of Yellowknife Heritage Building, designated in 1992. The cafe first opened in 1937 by owners Willie Wylie and Smokey Stout.

the wild cat cafe in yellowknife

The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the Government of the Northwest Territories’ museum and archives.

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Johnson’s Building Supplies is shut down in the Old town, make shift rainier stand guard over the once bustling entrance way.

building supplies

Faces I Met In Yellowknife


A portrait series full of honesty and frankness.




mother and daughter

brother and sister

elder two


Amos Scott


Archie is from Romania and drives for the Diamond Cabs.

archie the cab driver

A candlelight vigil this evening at the Yellowknife Women’s Society to honour the lives of murdered or missing aboriginal women in Canada

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Louis cuts and knotches fence poles for his wife’s grave in the First Nations community of Ndilo

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Yellowknife On A Saturday Night!

pouring bubbly

I was lucky enough to tag along with my couchsurfing friends to an engagement house party in Old Town. With being in town less than three hours it was a great way to meet a slice of the local arts and culture scene. I met film makers, writers, airline personel, photographers and a number of beautiful young families.

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Kids are welcome and help keep things in order at this house party!

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The girls chat over a glass of wine.

the party_tim van horn

Groom-to-be Brent, poses beside a carving that he had sculptured for his wife-to-be Kate. Brent had the carver combine an elephant, polar bear and a seal into one flowing piece.

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Cab Ride To The Gold Range Hotel – Flag Of The Day

canadian flag taxi_tim van horn

The Gold Range Hotel is a Yellowknife Institution. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into by agreeing to go to the “Range” with my new found friends I met at the engagement party. They insisted that I needed to go to the “Range”, to get to meet the locals. I thought the place would be packed full of old miners with walls lined with gold pans and photographs of the good old days. Instead I was greeted with mixed reactions with my two camera setup by a somewhat questionable stare. Once everyone knew just a photographer doing a story on Yellowknife we proceeded to chat, have fun and get to know one another. It was a definitely a full house at the Gold Range Hotel this saturday night, with possibly every character in Yellowknife out on the dance floor or playing pool.

gold range yellowknife

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That fist was for me!!!

the gold range

The Dance Floor was a shaking and a moving.

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the gold range hotel on a sat night

The boys play a friendly game of pool.

pool match

The Band played a lot a great classic rock songs, getting the whole house moving.

band_tim van horn

A full moon shines over Yellowknife, no sign of the northern lights tonight.

moonlight in yellowknife

Early morning fog makes the morning commute all the more interesting. Yellowknife’s road tops are as smooth as possible, however what is underneath them is constantly heaving and shifting with the permafrost making for a roller coaster road. Man can only conquer so much!

foggy morning drive_tim van horn

The Yellowknife River has enough room for everybody to enjoy.

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canow on the yellowknife river_tim van horn


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A modern day marker and a longtime traditional inuksuk mark the same trail to Cameron Falls.

hiling to cameram falls_tim van horn

A partridge blends in well with the fall foliage.

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A whiskey Jack makes friends easily with us as we share a granola bar with him.


With very little top soil, the vegetation has to hang on for dear life, grabbing hold of splits in the rocky ground with a maze of roots.

fallen pine tree_tim van horn

Cameron Fall is a 15 minute drive north of Yellowknife.

the falls

river foam

With having not worked in over a year my funds are somewhat tight right now, so I decided I’d try something different for the Yellowknife tour. I had picked up a hitch hiker (Glen) back in NFLD in June and he was heading to St. John’s to stay on someone’s couch that he connected with on the website http://www.couchsurfing.com. Basically you look up the town or city you’re wanting to visit and scope out a couch that might work for you. I hit the jackpot by meeting Pablo and Lesley on couchsurfing.com, they were not only very sweet, they included me in meals, their buddies engagement party and drove me around Yellowknife and area in their beat up pickup truck. It was a hoot. Overall it was a great exerience that got me into so many places I just wouldn’t have gotten by staying in a starchy hotel.

Thanks to them and their roommates I am able to bring you this quality blog post!

Thanks Pablo, Lesley, Ian and Jess!!!!

My couch! I had my best sleep in two months on this couch.

my couch in yellowknife

Lesley and Pablo on one of our Yellowknife tours.

lesley and pablo in yellowknife

yellowknife hillbillies

yellowknife hillbillies_1


4 Responses to “72 hours in Yellowknife, NWT”

  1. 1 Pablo
    October 9, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Come back anytime. Couchsurfing.com, don’t forget it!

  2. 2 Jessica Patterson
    October 10, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Thank you for the beautiful photos of Yellowknife in the fall!! We do not see enough of those…ps i love the BINGO pics…..by far my favourite.

    Do come back….let us know when you are coming back again…Jess and Ian.

  3. October 13, 2009 at 4:56 am

    What a cool way to see a city. Great pictures Tim!

  4. October 17, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Nice photo but dont forget to visit my site

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