The Laird Highway to the Northwest Territories

Trip Start Sep 13, 2008
Trip End Oct 04, 2008

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Flag of Canada  , Northwest Territories,
Thursday, September 25, 2008

We left the hotel at 09:15 after filling up with fuel and checking the tyres before heading out onto the gravel road we would be spending most of our day on. We left Fort Nelson heading west along the Alaska Highway (Highway 97) until we reached the junction with the Laird Highway (Highway 77) that turn into Highway 7 when you cross the border into the Northwest Territories.

Highway 77 was very tedious with little scenery apart from the trees either side of the road. The only wildlife we saw was two Bison sat on the side of the road. The road was busier than I had expected with a number of logging trucks and Oil and Gas workers heading out to their relevant plants, though this was far fewer than on the Alaska Highway. The road is paved until the border with the Northwest Territories, were there is a rather small and unimpressive sign marking the border crossing.

Once in the Northwest Territories the road becomes Highway 7 (The Laird Trail). The scenery on this road is more of the same, but the road becomes allot more challenging due to the bumps, soft spots and slick areas of the highway. The gravel section of the highway continues for 219km until you reach the junction with the Mackenzie Highway (Highway 1). At this point we were grateful of the paved surface that the Mackenzie Highway provides between the junction and Fort Simpson. This section of road even though paved is still very bumpy with potholes caused by permafrost along the 45km stretch to the Laird River crossing.

In summer Fort Simpson is accessed by using a ferry to cross the huge Laird River. In winter when the river freezes the ferry is removed and an ice road is constructed. The ferry crossing is free and only takes approx 10mins unless you just miss it and have to wait for it to cross and then return.

Once across the Laird River it is a further 15km into Fort Simpson, which lies on the junction between the Laird and Mackenzie Rivers. The town of Fort Simpson is fairly small considering it is the main service centre for several hundred miles in all directions. There is one main street, with approx half a dozen shops. The side roads are where the residents of Fort Simpson live. Fort Simpson has a population of 1200, but this increases in the summer months.

We booked a B&B - Janors Guest House which was very comfortable and all needs catered for. We had access to a kitchen, where we were able to make our own breakfast with goods that are supplied by the hosts. We were even able to do some much needed laundry! The cost per night was $125.

Distance Travelled - 512Km
Time Taken - Approx  7.5 Hours
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