Named after the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Yellowknife the city, grew from a small mining town to the seat of government in Canada's Northwest Territories.
The Yellowknives mined copper from the area that surrounds today's town. Years later, non-natives would mine for gold and diamonds. After several gold and silver rushes ended, Yellowknife became the official seat of government and in 1967, the capital of the Northwest Territories.
Yellowknife hit the news in 1978 when Cosmos 954, a Soviet nuclear-powered satellite, crashed right outside of the city. There were no reported casualties, but radioactive fuel was released into the environment. Operation Morning Light, an attempt to reign in the fuel, was only partially successfully.
Today, Yellowknife is an ethnically diverse city with 11 official languages, including English and French. The recent discovery of diamonds north of Yellowknife may return the city to its original standing as a mining town.
Located on the north shore of Great Slave Lake and surrounded by many smaller lakes, Yellowknife provides the perfect setting for outdoor adventures. With Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south and Yukon to the west and Nunavut to the east, Yellowknife is a great central location for launching your northern Canada journey.
The city's position on the Canadian Shield creates rocky and mildly rolling surroundings. Canadian travelers and Northwest natives will experience a subarctic climate, minimal yearly precipitation and a short but productive frost-free growing season.
- In the summer, Yellowknife residents experience up to 20 hours of sunlight - a big difference from the average five hours in December!
- The original Lois Lane, Margaret Kidder, is a native of Yellowknife.
- Yellowknife was once known as the Canadian capital with the smallest population. That title has since been bestowed upon Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut.
Check out the following great things to do on your Yellowknife vacation:
- Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures
The Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures Program allows visitors to build their own adventure-filled vacation with various packages. In the winter and spring season (December through April), tourists have many trips to choose from. There are snowmobile excursions on the Great Slave Lake, Aurora Borealis viewing by snowmobile, ice road tours, dog sledding and snowshoeing excursions.
The summer and fall season (June through September) offers even more Canadian vacation adventures. Both experienced and new fishermen alike can enjoy Great Northern Pike fishing in both the four to 10 and 15-20 pound categories.
Others may enjoy birding and photography observations around Great Slave Lake, or sign up for an Eagle Tour or wood bison viewing. When it's time for dinner, hop on to the Great Slave Lake Fish Fry Dinner Cruise.
- Old Town
Visitors can immerse themselves in history when they visit Old Town, the original settlement of Yellowknife nestled in the North Arm of the Great Slave Lake. Walk through the quaint neighborhoods of Willow Flats and Peace River Flats and see the original homes of the old-time gold prospectors. Meet up with a native Northwesterner, who may live in one of the shanties left behind by prospectors.
Old Town is not completely old – there are new houses and new neighbors cropping up all the time. To return to a historic setting visit Weaver and Devoe, the original bush camp supply store for the entire town. At sunset, climb the Bush Pilot's Monument for an incredible view of Old Town.
- Bad Sam's / Gold Range Tavern
Yellowknife isn't just about the outdoors or Northwest history. Those looking for a contemporary night on the town should check out the Gold Range Tavern, officially known as Bad Sam's, in the Gold Range Hotel.
The tavern's nickname is "Strange Range," but it's not a weird place to be on a Saturday night. Locals and visitors alike flock to the Strange Range for a night of loud and brazen fun. Known as the hottest place to play in the Northwest Territories, local bands rock, drinks are served and people dance the night away.