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Yellowknife from the air
Yellowknife from the air

28 Fun, Weird & Interesting Facts About Yellowknife

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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.Because Yellowknife is the closest city of any size to the North Pole – at least in North America – I thought it was very apropos to feature the city just before Christmas.

Here are 28 fun, weird and interesting facts about Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories.

Yellowknife at last
Yellowknife at last via a 4 day canoeing trip on the Cameron River

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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).

28 Fun, Weird and Interesting Facts About Yellowknife, NWT
Aerial view of Yellowknife as you fly in

The population of Yellowknife in 2021 was 20,340. 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.

Colourful houseboats in Yellowknife
Lots of boating takes place out of Yellowknife

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 Frame Lake trail overlooking downtown Yellowknife
The Frame Lake trail overlooking downtown Yellowknife – Photo credit: Scott Lough on Flickr

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.

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.

28 Fun, Weird and Interesting Facts About Yellowknife, NWT
Did you know you can live on a houseboat in Yellowknife?

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.

Yellowknife in winter
Yellowknife in winter – Photo credit: Natstradamus on Pixabay

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.

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 Blatchford Lake Lodge where you can watch the northern lights all night long from the comfort of your room.

28 Fun, Weird and Interesting Facts About Yellowknife, NWT
Northern Lights just outside of Yellowknife – Photo Credit: James Mackenzie/NWT Tourism

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.

Dogsledding near Yellowknife
Dogsledding near Yellowknife – Photo credit: Taik Lee from Pixabay

If you’re an adventurous eater you’ll love Yellowknife. Try the muskox or bison. Fish lovers can enjoy Arctic char, whitefish, pickerel, lake trout and northern pike.

The Gold Range Bar is one of the oldest drinking spots in the Northwest Territories. It’s featured in two novels – Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay and Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler.

Yellowknife Cultural Crossroads
Yellowknife Cultural Crossroads

Sister cities of Yellowknife include Reno, Nevada, Fairbanks, Alaska and Yakutsk, Sakha Republic in Russia.

Vic Mercredi, a Métis hockey player is the first person from the Northwest Territories to be drafted by the NHL. Other residents of notoriety include Les Stroud, Max Ward and Margot Kidder.

Do you have any more fun or interesting facts about Yellowknife to share?

A good place for a meal - The Wildcat Cafe in Yellowknife
A good place for a meal – The Wildcat Cafe in Yellowknife – Photo credit: David Mark from Pixabay

Further reading about Canadian cities

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28 Fun, Weird and Interesting Facts About Yellowknife, NWT

  1. I grew up on Latham Island in Yellowknife back in the 70’s.
    I highly recommend a trip there.
    I can provide you with tons of tips about interesting places to visit, like tin can hill and ragged ass road and Lois Land and Stan the Man’s Shack.
    YOu must vist the Strange Range for a drink or you are a double weenie.

  2. I grew up on Latham Island in Yellowknife back in the 70’s.
    I highly recommend a trip there.
    I can provide you with tons of tips about interesting places to visit, like tin can hill and ragged ass road and Lois Land and Stan the Man’s Shack.
    YOu must vist the Strange Range for a drink or you are a double weenie.

  3. That sounds like a fun place. It’s more diverse and younger than I would have expected. Really far north cities are fascinating. I’d love to check it out.

  4. Great fun facts! The mines under the streets sound scary, but everything else sounds fascinating. I’d love to experience their summer temperatures instead of my hot and humid ones…. and I’d certainly love to see the Northern Lights. Anything Arctic is on my wish list. Hope you get to go there soon 🙂

  5. @Unimpressed And maybe you could take the time to scroll down to the end of the post – or actually read the post – so you could see the link to every one of the images. I ALWAYS DO THAT and I don’t go leaving snarky comments behind an anonymous name. That’s as gutless as it gets.

  6. Every March Yellowknife hosts an annual 3 day winter festival called the Long John Jamboree. The Jamboree has a sub-event call the DeBeers Inspired Ice – NWT Ice Carving Championships. Spectacular ice carvings from world class carvers!! Also, as a correction to one of your points above…the Yellowknives Dene First Nation are still here in the area proud and strong. Thanks for posting all the interesting facts!

  7. I was born and raised in Yellowknife and I am a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. We are not long gone. Ndilo is also a community of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and not just Dettah.

  8. so when are you coming up to Yellowknife? I would love for you to see the community, bring you to see Dettah & N’Dilo, the two aboriginal communties that the Yellowknives Dene decentants live, Actually they dont’ just live only there but pretty much like regular people they live within Yellowknife as well, in other communties etc. It woudl be good to have you come up, maybe you could join us in our annual biking from Yellowknife to Hay River in June? If you want more information please email me and I will send you the links.

  9. @Leah Good news. I am coming up to Yellowknife in August though I only have one free evening. I have a canoe trip planned along part of the Ingraham Trail. I do love the sound of your bike ride though and if you’re looking for riders I’d be happy to share via my social networks.

  10. Just to add a couple of things. I believe the highest recorded temperature in summer for Yellowknife was 40 c! When I was a baby -, one New Year’s Eve, mom picked me up from the babysitter’s place. She had said, with the wind chill, it was -90 f (which converted is -67.8 c). Sure glad I was a baby! Thank you for posting Yellowknife facts. So enjoyed it.

    1. Actually it hit 40C last summer, and was a record breaker. Also -51 is not -60 F Once the temp reaches -40 it’s the same in Fahrenheit. And the sun doesn’t set in summer not fully. And yes Yellowknives Dene are alive and well just like many of us First Nations that people seem to think have gone extinct.

  11. @Christel I would have been very concerned as a young mother with a baby and such cold temperatures. I’m betting she was pretty darned happy when that cold spell broke. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  12. I thought we were also sister cities with Kampala , Uganda. Our old mayor pat macman setbthat up I thought. Always hit me as strange why she would pick Kampala, nice place good beer and cheap grub I spend a few weeks there in 1992.

  13. @Greg Just now I have been trying to confirm that – but nothing I click on downloads. I also spent about 10 days in Kampala a few years ago – and I too find it interesting how these “sisters” relationships begin. Some of them certainly seem to fade away over time.
    Thanks for stopping by today.

  14. Great site, still miss Yellowknife, I guess I always will. Thank you for promoting one of the greatest cities in Canada, safe travels

    1. I also remember in 1972 Mayor Fred Henne calling Penticton B.C. Yellowknife’s sister city to the south!

  15. I also remember in 1972 Mayor Fred Henne calling Penticton B.C. Yellowknife’s sister city to the south!

  16. @Jim I am looking forward to visiting the city this summer. After reading Late Nights in Air I have always wanted to see the city. Visiting in spring when the Northern Lights are amazing but the temperatures are warmer also has a great deal of appeal. One year!Thank you for your contribution.

  17. Where the hell are the fun facts about Regina!!!!! who care about Saskatoon. why is it Regina always gets the short end of the stick?

  18. You forgot to mention the Midnight Sun Golf Tournament and Caribou Carnival. (My favorite CC event – the “Ugly Truck and Dog” contest? There are so many truly neat and unique things about Yellowknife, especially the many interesting folk who live there. You might want to revisit, if you ever have the opportunity.

    1. @Lynne Yellowknife certainly has its’ share of quirky events. I love the sound of The Ugly Truck & Dog! I am planning to be up in Yellowknife in August though I don’t have much time for the city on this trip.

  19. @Rob You have a point. They have been on my “to research” list for a very long time. If you want to get the ball rolling, can you give me one interesting fact about Regina. I’ll aim to have something up by the end of March.

  20. You never covered the Egg Rolls. You only order 1 – even if you are really hungry. I believe you get them at the “Strange Grange” as the natives of that lovely city call it.

  21. Worthy of mentioning is four time Olympians, the Firth sisters, Sharon and Shirley who pioneered the sport of cross country skiing and spent 18 years winning medals for Canada – and many outstanding honours sinsce then, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. Originally from Aklavik, Sharon Anne Firth currently resides in Yellowknife, mentoring young people for the Government of the Northwest Territories.

  22. @Tammy As I’m a very keen cross country skier I find this particularly interesting. I am impressed at the hardiness of the people who live in Yellowknife in the winter. And these sisters would have to be incredible athletes as I think xcountry skiing is one of Olympic sports that requires such endurance, strength & stamina. Thanks so much for your input.

  23. If it wasn’t for the Dene, there would be NO YELLOWKNIFE. No Yellowknife, no article. Giving thanks to the original inhabitants wouldn’t hurt once in awhile…have a beautiful evening!

    1. @Leslie This post was written a while ago – so that’s part of the reason. The other part is I could have made it 100 facts – but I have found that people generally like shorter posts. Thank you too for stopping by.

  24. Thank you so much for your blog. As a born and raised Yellowknifer I thoroughly enjoyed it. Other residents of notoriety are Alex Debogorski (The Ice Road Trucker) and Buffalo Joe from the hit show Ice Pilots. Another interesting tidbit, Robert Slaven, a former resident of Yellowknife participated in Jeopardy! The Ultimate Tournament of Champions. He ended up being a quarter finalist. Also worth mentioning is the Wild Cat Cafe which is housed in a (now restored) vintage log cabin representing the mining days of Yellowknife. Also, Bullocks Bistro is a quirky (yet pricy) place that is known for fish and chips. It was once honored with having the best fish and chips by Readers Digest and is also housed in a heritage building. At least two of the original businesses when Yellowknife became established (approx 1937) are still in operation. They are the Wildcat Cafe and Weaver and Devore. As strange as it sounds being so far north, in the late 70’s/ early 90’s someone actually owned a pet lion with whom they would take for walks down the street! There is so much more to share, but I though I would highlight a few more items for you.

  25. Did you know that In the Dogrib language, the city is known as Somba K’e (Som-ba Kay) (“where the money is”)? There are 11 official languages in the Northwest Territories. We are also known for several world class athletes. For example, Kevin Koe (a former world champion for curling who now plays out of Alberta) grew up in Yellowknife.

  26. @Curlze Fantastic facts. Thank you – and all new info for me and I expect for my readers. I had no idea that there were 11 languages. Are they official in that the NWT government provides services in all of them?

  27. @Curlze What a thoughtful comment to leave. When I’m in Yellowknife this summer I’ll have to try Bullocks Bistro – and I’m assuming that the fish comes from Great Slave Lake. As my husband is a geologist I think we’ll have to check out the Wild Cat Cafe as well.
    I can’t imagine the laws allow for pet lions anymore. What a sight that would have been!

  28. @Rachel I just ran the numbers through an online C/F calculator again and although I appreciate that -40 F = -40 C, according to the calculator -51C is in fact -59.8F.
    Forty centigrade in Yellowknife doesn’t not sound good though at least you have Great Slave Lake to cool off in.
    I obviously didn’t do enough research and had bad info re: the Denes but I do appreciate that there is a large population of First Nations People; I look forward to meeting many of them on my short visit this summer.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to comment.

  29. My niece, Sydney Turner is the first Yellowknife born Dene girl to jump her horse at Spruce Meadows

  30. Let me know when you get to Yellowknife. If you’re interested, I’d love to have a quick interview with you about your blog and your experiences here.

  31. I lived in Pine Point, then moved to Penticton BC. I do remember being in Yellowknife, at the city hall, and it had Penticton listed as a Sister city as well!

  32. Nice to share the post! if you want to know more interesting facts and places then visit at

  33. I grew up on Latham Island, right down the street from N’Dilo, which was nicknamed Rainbow Valley when I was a kid. I learned to do all sorts of wrong things with a vehicle on ice thanks to the ice road between Yk and Dettah… Thank you Yellowknives!

    A couple blocks away from home was my first job, dishwasher at WildCat Cafe. Across the street from the cafe, we used Max Wards floatplane dock for cold water starts when waterskiing before all the ice was gone.

    The record heat waves in Yk feel hotter than those of the south because nights don’t cool down thanks to the sun that stays up most of the summer. The only place I’ve ever tee’d off for 18 holes after 8 pm.

    Thank you for the blog. Lovin the memories it brings back.

    Not sure why Saskatoon was mentioned but a little something about Regina… its the city that rhymes with fun, I now live 2 hours south of there and well… now I see a LOT of the sun, but never when I come out of the late movie… or the bar.

    I miss Yellowknife. It will always be where I am from. Look forward to one day returning.


    1. I was born and raised up in Yellowknife and yes the mine tunnels are all under the streets and when they were dynamiting the walls you sure felt them. One thing you forgot on your list is that the people in Yellowknife are the most friendly and welcoming people you will ever meet. You would definately not regret going up to see my beautiful home town.

  34. The link I clicked on said 25 Fun, Weird, and Interesting Facts About Yellowknife. But this has 28 facts instead, but I’m not complaining. XD

  35. You should also mention that Margot Kidder, famous for being the only Lois Lane that mattered, is from Yellowknife.

  36. Northwest Territorian[5]Official languages

    North Slavey
    South Slavey

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