Todays post is going to be explaining the beginning of my adventures on the Winter Road. This is the road that we took to get from Fort McMurray, AB to Fort Chipewyan, AB and then further north to Fort Smith, NWT. It ends up being around a 9 hour drive one way. If you were to go at normal highway speed obviously it would be a lot quicker, but this road was not meant for racing haha
Since this is a winter road only, it does close down in the Spring of each year. Right now you would not be able to do this trip because the roads are mostly, if not all, melted. There is a list of things that you must have to drive on this road, just in case anything happens. Here is a couple for examples:
- Good snow tires
- Shovel and road flares
- A good/complete tool kit and tow rope
- Spare heavy duty winter clothing and footwear
- Extra food and at least a 24 hour supply of fuel
If you want to see the whole list you can click here.
For the first little while you are actually driving on sand dunes. Last year when my parents went, there wasn’t much snow so they could actually see them. When we went this year, there was quite a bit of snow but you could still see the sand along the banks and on the road.
The picture up above shows the sand in the snow, but it is also the first body of water that we drove across! I was terrified haha I know it is just a little stretch and obviously other vehicles have gone across it, but it is still scary! I found the road more active then I was anticipating. We saw other vehicles often enough that if you broke down, someone would eventually come along. Unless it happened at night, they recommend you don’t drive on this road at night due to it being unsafe.
There is also lots of wildlife on this road – I wish we would have seen more haha and caught more of what we did see on camera! This area is home to many Wood Bison which you can see in herds throughout the day if you are lucky or if you are out wandering the road at night you may run into one! Literally. They sometimes sleep standing up in the middle of the road and if it is snowing their coat will get covered in snow and they will blend right in! And these aren’t little guys, they will do some serious damage to your vehicle! The only way you can really spot them at night is if you see their eyes reflect the light from your vehicle. We were not lucky enough to see any living Wood Bison in their natural habitat. Actually according to a few locals, we just missed the herd!
We saw lots of owls and ptarmigan on the trip though.
Our first stop on day one was Fort Chip for some lunch – just a little reminder, if you ever do decide to do this trip, bring lots of food because the farther North you go, the more expensive it gets!
To get into Fort Chip, you drive across a very long frozen body of water and as soon as you get to the other side, you are in the Canadian Shield and the forest is so different! I thought that was pretty cool haha anyways, on this stretch of ice road only one vehicle is allowed to go at a time and I believe the speed limit was 15 km/h. So very slow! My dad rolled down the windows because the last time they came they could hear the ice cracking under them! That terrified me and luckily I didn’t hear anything this trip!
Up above is all pictures of Fort Chip. Very snowy when we went and it is just a little place! Such a tiny community and when we were in one of the two restaurants in the town, everyone knew each other haha small communities are cool like that.
So once we ate lunch, and looked around a bit we headed back out to get to our final destination!
Side note: I thought this sign was pretty cool … more stories attached to this in later posts! 😉
So off to the Fort Smith we went….ready for another slow (extremely bumpy) drive!
Have you ever driven on an Ice Road before? If so where was it and did you enjoy the experience?! Keep an eye out for future blog posts continuing the story of this trip!
Until next time,