Yellowknife is one of two northern capitals that took me a long time to visit. Fortunately it was in the summer when the bugs were mostly gone and the temperatures were very pleasant. I’m not sure I’d want to be up there around the winter solstice but I would love to visit the city to catch the Northern Lights a little later in the year. Yellowknife is the closest city of any size to the North Pole – at least in North America! Here are 28 fun, weird and interesting facts about Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories.
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Yellowknife is 3,062 kilometres (1,902 miles) away from the North Pole.
Yellowknife sits on the shore of Great Slave Lake (the ninth largest lake in the world) near the outlet of the Yellowknife River. The lake is about the same size as Belgium. It’s also the deepest lake in North America boasting a depth of 614 metres (2,014 feet).
The population of Yellowknife in 2022 was 21,720. It’s the largest city in the Northwest Territories. Yellowknife has almost half the population of the entire Northwest Territories.
Yellowknife is the capital of the Northwest Territories. Seven out of the nineteen members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories are from Yellowknife.
Yellowknife became the capital of the Northwest Territories in 1967.
The name Yellowknife comes from a Dene band, the Yellowknives. They are long gone. They are actually very much alive and well as a number of commenters in March 2014 have pointed out to me!! It seems like I’ll have to eat a slice of humble pie. (At least I now have an invite to visit Dettah and N’Dilo.)
Languages spoken in Yellowknife include English only – 79.6%, French only – 4.3% and 14.7% speak other languages which include Filipino, Vietnamese, German, Dene, Dogrib and Inuktitut.
Thirty five percent of the population is under 25 years of age. Only 3.6% of the population are over 65 (695 people in total).
The major employers in Yellowknife include the Territorial Government, the Federal Government, Diavik Diamond Mines, BHP Billiton, First Air, Northwest Tel, RTL Robinson Trucking and the City of Yellowknife.
Yellowknife has a gold mining heritage. In the 1930’s mine tunnels burrowed beneath the city streets.
Yellowknife – the Diamond Capital of North America
Yellowknife is called the Diamond Capital of North America. There are three operating diamond mines close by. Canada has ranked as high as third in diamond production by value and sixth by weight because of the diamonds from these mines.
In 2010 a 78-carat diamond was discovered at the Ekati Diamond Mine.
There are a number of ice roads that allow land transportation to occur during the winter around Yellowknife. On the edge of Great Slave Lake the Dettah Ice Road connects Yellowknife to the First Nations community of Dettah.
There is a paved highway all the way to Yellowknife from northern Alberta. Four airlines offer daily jet service to the city.
Not much daylight in Yellowknife in winter
On the winter solstice the sun rises at 10:08 AM and sets at 3:06 PM. On the summer solstice the sun rises at 3:39 AM and sets at 11:39 PM.
There are only 10 days of measurable bright sunshine in December.
The lowest temperature ever recorded in Yellowknife was -51°C (-60°F) on January 31, 1947.
The hottest recorded temperature in Yellowknife was 32.5°C (90°F) on July 16, 1989. The average high temperature in July is 21.1°C.
On average there are five thunderstorms a year in Yellowknife.
In January there are on average 17 days with windchill below -40°C.
The most snow ever recorded in a single day was 24 cm on February 20, 1982.
As of October 2023, Yellowknife recorded more than 800 smoke hours (and still counting), doubling the 2014 record.
Northern lights in Yellowknife
Yellowknife is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights. The ideal time to see them is from mid-August till the end of September and from mid-November until mid-April. There are lodges like where you can watch the northern lights all night long from the comfort of your room.
The Canadian Championship Yellowknife Dog Derby is held annually at the end of March. The race covers 150 miles on Great Slave Lake and takes place over three days.
Yellowknife is a superb spot for fishing. You can catch 35 kg lake trout from Great Slave Lake as well as monster-sized northern pike. There are over twelve fishing lodges just minutes away from Yellowknife by floatplane.