28 Fun, Weird & Interesting Facts About Yellowknife

Yellowknife from the air
Yellowknife from the air

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.

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

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you very much for your support.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Yellowknife is just a short drive and a portage away from Hidden Lake Territorial Park – one of the prettiest places I’ve ever paddled. Another fabulous canoe trip that starts an hour from Yellowknife takes you from the Cameron River Ramparts to Yellowknife over several days.

The Cameron River Ramparts were much bigger than I anticipated
The Cameron River Ramparts were much bigger than I anticipated

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.

Yellowknife Cultural Crossroads
Yellowknife Cultural Crossroads

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

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.

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

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest board.

Fun facts about Yellowknife, NWT

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

  2. @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.

  3. @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!

  4. @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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    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.

  7. 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!

  8. @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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. @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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. @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.

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

  16. 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!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

My Cart Close (×)

Your cart is empty
Browse Shop