5 things you didn’t know about Yellowknife
I knew Yellowknife was going to be cold. I waddled off the plane wrapped up like a California roll, barely able to move for layers of snuggly material.
But, still. -33 is the kind of chill that takes your breath away. It felt as though the air was freezing in my lungs. It was the coldest place I'd ever been, and it brought a kind of festive excitement with it, despite the fact it was only March. I felt like I'd arrived somewhere at the end of the world. Somewhere wild.
That was my first surprise, but there were so many more to come.
On our first morning, we were taken out on a City Tour by Kyle from Yellowknife Online, the go-to source for all things Yellowknife. Having lived by the mighty Great Slave Lake for most of his life, he was the perfect person to drive us around the city and surrounding areas in his cosy Jeep. During the 2-hour tour, he took us to local favourite eateries, abandoned mines and the Ice Road, sharing the fascinating history of the area as well as charming details of its current residents.
Most people come to Yellowknife for the aurora - but after our time with Kyle, it became obvious that there’s plenty more to enjoy besides. Here are just five surprising things I learned about Yellowknife on the tour.
1.) The city gets its name from the yellowy colour of the copper knives that a local Dene tribe who lived and traded here used to use.
2.) First Nations people have lived around Yellowknife for a long time, but the town was only really established along with the discovery of the first gold mine in the '30s. Gold is still mined today, as are diamonds - in fact, the Northwest Territories are the world's third biggest producer of diamonds in the world.
3.) In winter, the lakes freeze over, giving the floating houses the deceptive appearance of being moored. Their residents have to be careful - the houses can tip over and freeze in a certain position if they're not careful!
4.) In the 1800's, the province of the Northwest Territories took up most of Canada. It's shrunk over the years, as Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba have grown. Four entirely new provinces have been carved out of it; Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nanavut, and the Yukon.
5.) Visit in March for the SnowKing Festival. The giant snow castle is built every year by the local legend himself, the Snow King, and his team. What started as a hobby in his youth has now become a full-on festival of local culture and music.
Many thanks to Kyle from Yellowknife online for taking us out on a tour - getting to know the history of the place and its various inhabitants on the first day really helped us get our bearings. Find out more about Yellowknife Online and the City Tours here.