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

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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 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

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Fun facts about Yellowknife, NWT

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