The Yellowknife settlement is considered to have been founded in 1934, after gold was found in the area, although commercial activity in the present-day waterfront area did not begin until 1936. Yellowknife quickly became the centre of economic activity in the NWT, and was named the capital of the Northwest Territories in 1967. As gold production began to wane, Yellowknife shifted from being a mining town to a centre of government services in the 1980s. However, with the discovery of diamonds north of Yellowknife in 1991, this shift has begun to reverse.
Traditionally, First Nations people of Yellowknives Dene culture had occupied this region; by the 1930s they had a settlement on a point of land on the east side of Yellowknife Bay, Dettah. The current municipal area of Yellowknife was occupied by prospectors who ventured into the region in the mid-1930s.
A Klondike-bound prospector, E.A. Blakeney, made the first discovery of gold in the Yellowknife Bay area in 1898. The discovery was viewed as unimportant in those days because of the Klondike Gold Rush and because Great Slave Lake was too far away to attract attention.
In the late 1920s, aircraft were first used to explore Canada's Arctic regions. Samples of uranium and silver were uncovered at Great Bear Lake in the early 1930s, and prospectors began fanning out to find additional metals. In 1933 two prospectors, Herb Dixon and Johnny Baker, canoed down the Yellowknife River from Great Bear Lake to survey for possible mineral deposits. They found gold samples at Quyta Lake, about 30 km (19 mi) up the Yellowknife River, and some additional samples at Homer Lake.
The following year, Johnny Baker returned as part of a larger crew to develop the previous gold finds and search for more. Gold was found on the east side of Yellowknife Bay in 1934 and the short-lived Burwash Mine was developed. When government geologists uncovered gold in more favourable geology on the west side of Yellowknife Bay in the fall of 1935, a small staking rush occurred. From 1935 to 1937, one prospector and trapper named Winslow C. Ranney staked in the area between David Lake and Rater Lake with few commercial results. The nearby hill known as Ranney Hill is his namesake and a popular hiking destination today. Although Con Mine was the most impressive gold deposit and its development created the excitement that led to the first settlement of Yellowknife in 1936–1937. Some of the first businesses were Corona Inn, Weaver & Devore Trading, Yellowknife Supplies and post office, and the Wildcat Cafe. Con Mine entered production on September 5, 1938. Yellowknife boomed in the summer of 1938 and many new businesses were established, including the Canadian Bank of Commerce, Hudson's Bay Company, Vic Ingraham's first hotel, Sutherland's Drug Store, and a pool hall.
The population of Yellowknife quickly grew to 1,000 by 1940, and by 1942, five gold mines were in production in the Yellowknife region. However, by 1944, gold production had ground to a halt as men were needed for the war effort. An exploration program at the Giant Mine property on the north end of town had suggested a sizable gold deposit in 1944. This new find resulted in a massive post-war staking rush to Yellowknife. It also resulted in new discoveries at the Con Mine, greatly extending the life of the mine. The Yellowknife townsite expanded from the Old Town waterfront, and the new townsite was established during 1945–1946. The Discovery Mine, with its own townsite, operated 81 km (50 mi) to the north-northeast of Yellowknife from 1950 to 1969.
Between 1939 and 1953, Yellowknife was controlled by the Northern Affairs department (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) of the Government of Canada. A small council, partially elected and partially appointed, made decisions. By 1953, Yellowknife had grown so much that it was made a municipality, with its own council and town hall. The first mayor of Yellowknife was John "Jock" McNiven. In September 1967, Yellowknife officially became the capital of the Northwest Territories. This important new status sparked what has been coined as the third boom in Yellowknife. New sub-divisions were established to house an influx of government workers.
In 1978 the Soviet nuclear-powered satellite Kosmos 954 crashed to Earth near Yellowknife. There were no known casualties, although a small quantity of radioactive nuclear fuel was released into the environment, and Operation Morning Light—an attempt to retrieve it—was only partially successful.
A new mining rush and fourth building boom for Yellowknife began with the discovery of diamonds 300 km (190 mi) north of the city in 1991. The last of the gold mines in Yellowknife closed in 2004. Today, Yellowknife is primarily a government town and a service centre for the diamond mines. On April 1, 1999, its purview as capital of the NWT was reduced when the territory of Nunavut was split from the NWT. As a result, jurisdiction for that region of Canada was transferred to the new capital city of Iqaluit. Consequently, Yellowknife lost its standing as the Canadian capital city with the smallest population.
Yellowknife has a subarctic climate (Köppen: Dfc) and averages less than 300 mm (12 in) of precipitation annually, as the city lies in the rain shadow of mountain ranges to the west. Thanks to its location on Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife has a frost-free growing season that averages slightly over 100 days. Most of the limited precipitation falls between June and October, with April being the driest month of the year and August having the most rainfall. Snow that falls in winter accumulates on the ground until the spring thaw.
Yellowknife is on the Canadian Shield, which was scoured down to rock during the last ice age. The surrounding landscape is very rocky and slightly rolling, with many small lakes in addition to the larger Great Slave Lake. Trees such as spruce and birch are abundant in the area, as are smaller bushes, but there are also many areas of relatively bare rock with lichen. Yellowknife's high latitude causes a large variation between day and night. Daylight hours range from five hours of daylight in December to twenty hours in June. Twilight lasts all night from late May to mid-July.
Yellowknife has very cold winters and mild to warm summers. The average temperature in January is around −26 °C (−15 °F) and 17 °C (63 °F) in July. According to Environment Canada, Yellowknife has the sunniest summer in the country, averaging 1034 hours from June to August. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Yellowknife was −51.2 °C (−60 °F) on 31 January 1947, and the highest was 32.5 °C (90.5 °F) on 16 July 1989. Yellowknife averages 2256.5 hours of bright sunshine per year or 43.5% of possible daylight hours, ranging from a low of 15.4% in December to a high of 63.0% in June. Due to its warm summer temperatures, Yellowknife is well below the arctic tree line in stark contrast to areas further east in Canada on similar parallels.
Yellowknife has a municipal government system and is governed by the Yellowknife City Council, which consists of an elected Mayor and eight Councillors. The Government of the Northwest Territories delegates powers to the municipality through legislative acts and regulations. Council meetings are held in the Council Chambers at City Hall on the second and fourth Monday of each month, and are open to the public. Municipal elections are held every three years. The current mayor of Yellowknife is Mark Heyck.
Yellowknife is represented in the territorial government by seven of the 19 Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories (MLAs). These MLAs are elected every four years and sit in the Northwest Territories Legislative Building, located in Yellowknife. The MLAs elect the Speaker of the House as well as six Cabinet Ministers and the Premier, which forms the Cabinet. In addition, a Commissioner is appointed by the Federal Government to fulfill a similar role to that of the Lieutenant Governor. The Northwest Territories is one of only two federal, provincial or territorial jurisdictions in Canada that operate under a consensus system of government.
The Northwest Territories is in the federal electoral riding of Northwest Territories and has one Member of Parliament and one Senator, currently Michael McLeod and Nick Sibbeston, respectively. Yellowknife is home to seven of the 19 electoral districts in the Northwest Territories, the Frame Lake, Great Slave, Kam Lake, Range Lake, Weledeh, Yellowknife Centre and Yellowknife South ridings.
As the largest city in the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife is the hub for mining, industry, transportation, communications, education, health, tourism, commerce, and government activity in the territory. Historically, Yellowknife's economic growth came from gold mining, and later government; however, because of falling gold prices and increased operating costs, the final gold mine closed in 2004, marking a turning point for Yellowknife's economy.
After a downturn in the 1990s during the closure of the gold mines and the downsizing of the government workforce in 1999, Yellowknife's economy has recovered, largely because of the diamond boom; the Ekati Diamond Mine, owned and operated by BHP Billiton (sold to Dominion Diamond Corporation in 2013), opened in 1998. A second mine, Diavik Diamond Mine, began production in 2003. Production from the two operating mines in 2004 was 12,618,000 carats (2,523.6 kg; 5,563.6 lb), valued at over C$2.1 billion. This ranked Canada third in world diamond production by value, and sixth by weight. A third mine, De Beers' Snap Lake Diamond Mine, received final approval and funding in 2005 and went into production in 2007. De Beers also applied in 2005 for a permit to open the Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine Project on the property formerly known as Kennady Lake. Upon receipt of approval, construction is expected to start in 2010 and the mine will reach full production by 2012. As well, growth and expansion in natural gas development and exploration sectors has contributed to this growth. Economic growth in the Northwest Territories was 10.6% in 2003.
The major employers in Yellowknife include: the Territorial Government, the Federal Government, Diavik Diamond Mines, Dominion Diamonds, DeBeers Canada, First Air, NorthwesTel, RTL Robinson Trucking, and the City of Yellowknife. Government employment accounts for 7,644 jobs, a large percentage of those in Yellowknife.
During winter, the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road is opened for semi-trailer truck traffic to take supplies from Yellowknife north to various mines located in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This ice road is usually open from the end of January through late March or early April, and Yellowknife becomes the dispatch point for the large number of truck drivers that come north to drive on the ice roads. During the 2007 ice road season, several drivers were featured on the History Channel TV series Ice Road Truckers.
Tourism is the largest renewable industry in the NWT and Yellowknife is the main entry point for visitors. Many of these tourists are Japanese, and come to experience the Northern climate and traditional lifestyle, as well as to see the Northern Lights. In 2004-05, visitors to the territory spent C$100.5 million.
The City of Yellowknife raises 50% of its operating revenue through property taxation. Both Yellowknife Education District No. 1 and Yellowknife Catholic School Board also raise a portion of their operating revenue through property taxation. Property taxes in Yellowknife are calculated through property assessment and the municipal and education mill rates. Mill rates in 2005 were 13.84 (residential) and 19.87 (commercial).
Canadian North, a regional airline, was headquartered in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Tower in downtown. The airline announced that when its lease was to expire in the end of August 2013, the airline will vacate the office and move it and 20 employees out of Yellowknife. The airline is now headquartered in Calgary.
Yellowknife was originally established as a supply centre for numerous gold mines operating in the region in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The following is a list of the major mines, all of which are now closed. There were also tungsten, tantalum and uranium mines in the vicinity. Most mines in the Yellowknife area are within the Kam Group, a part of the Yellowknife greenstone belt.
Policing in Yellowknife is provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP); Yellowknife is the headquarters for G Division, and houses more than 30 officers. The City of Yellowknife Municipal Enforcement Division (MED) is responsible for municipal bylaw infractions and traffic infractions (within city limits). The Yellowknife Fire Department handles the city's fire, ambulance, rescue, and hazardous materials responses. A point of debate in recent years has been the implementation of 911 services in Yellowknife (currently one must dial one of two local numbers) through a partnership with five other Northwest Territories communities; the cost of installation is currently estimated at around $1 million a year. There have been a number of incidents where emergency services have been either misdirected, or improperly dispatched. Health services are provided through the local Stanton Territorial Hospital. The Yellowknife Primary Care Centre has a broad range of practitioners including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, counsellors, dietitians and more. Services provided at the Yellowknife Primary Care Centre include mental health, diabetes education, diagnostic imaging, psychiatry and some home care services.
Electricity is provided to Yellowknife by Northland Utilities, serving 6,350 residential and 800 commercial customers. Yellowknife operates almost entirely on hydroelectricity from the Snare-Bluefish systems, provided by the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC). NTPC's local production capacity is 67.9 megawatts, 30.89MW from 10 generators at the Jackfish Diesel Plant, 28.8MW from Snare Lake, and 7.5MW from Miramar Bluefish.
Yellowknife's telephone services were established in 1947 by the independent Yellowknife Telephone Company, owned by investors mostly within the community. The system was sold at the end of 1963 to Canadian National Telecommunications, now Northwestel. Northwestel also provides manual mobile telephone service on VHF frequencies, and by the 1990s also provided cellular services that later were transferred to Bell Mobility.
Yellowknife's television services, in addition to over-the-air transmission begun in 1967, included the Mackenzie Media cable television system placed in service 1 September 1972, which was sold to Northwestel in late 1995.
In 2008 Northern based company Ice Wireless entered the market in Yellowknife, providing digital cellular products and services.
The City of Yellowknife provides pressurized potable water throughout the majority of the city, and has a network of gravity-fed sewage lines; trucked water and sewage is provided in areas not serviced by piped infrastructure. Sewage, with the aid of lift stations, is pumped to a series of lakes, referred to as Fiddler's Lake Lagoon, where it is held and allowed to naturally decompose. Water is obtained from the Yellowknife River and is disinfected with chlorine and liquid fluoride is added, but is not otherwise filtered or treated.
Residential garbage removal is through a user pay system, in which residents are allowed three 77 L (17 imp gal; 20 US gal) garbage bags per week; any additional bags must have a purchased tag. The City of Yellowknife Solid Waste Management Facility is located on the Ingraham Trail (Highway 4) 2 km (1.2 mi) north of the city; salvaging is encouraged, and the dump is infamous for the number of still useful items often found in it.
Yellowknife, while isolated geographically, has a modern transportation system. The Yellowknife Airport (IATA: YZF) is the busiest airport in northern Canada, having 70,699 aircraft movements in 2007 and handling over 400,000 passengers and 30,000 tonnes of cargo yearly. It has two asphalt runways, one 7,500 ft (2,300 m) strip and another of 5,000 ft (1,500 m); while the Yellowknife Airport is classified as an airport of entry by Nav Canada and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency, it is certified for general aviation aircraft only. The Yellowknife airport is designated by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as a forward operating location for the CF-18 Hornet. Despite its shorter runways, the airport can still accommodate 747s and other wide-body aircraft for emergency landings. Air traffic control services, Instrument landing system (Category 1), and radar services are provided by Nav Canada.
Yellowknife Transit is the public transportation agency in the city, and is the only transit system in the Northwest Territories.
Road construction in Yellowknife is often a challenge due to the presence of permafrost which requires that roads generally be regraded and resurfaced every 10 to 20 years. Most roads in Yellowknife are paved and road width varies from 9 to 13.5 m (30 to 44 ft). Winter snow removal is done on a regular schedule by the City of Yellowknife public works department. Speed limits are 45 km/h (28 mph) on most roads, 30 km/h (19 mph) in school zones, and 70 km/h (43 mph) on highways. School zones and playground zones are in effect 24 hours per day 7 days per week. The highway system in the NWT is maintained by the Government of the Northwest Territories. Highway 4 (Ingraham Trail) and Highway 3 (Yellowknife Highway) both run through Yellowknife and are all-weather roads. One well-known, almost infamous, road in Yellowknife is Ragged Ass Road, after which Tom Cochrane named an album.
Until 2012, Yellowknife did not have a permanent road connection to the rest of Canada's highway network, as the Yellowknife Highway relied, depending on the season, on ferry service or an ice road to cross the Mackenzie River. With the completion of the Deh Cho Bridge, which officially opened on November 30, 2012, the city now has its first direct road connection to the rest of the country.
Yellowknife, like most other urban centres, has distinct commercial, industrial, and residential areas. Frame Lake, Niven Lake, Range Lake, and Old Town are the residential sectors, with some of the population living in high-rises in the downtown core. Niven Lake is the only area under active development and expansion. Downtown Yellowknife is home to most of the city's commercial activity, though some retail does exist in Range Lake. Industrial activity is limited to the Kam Lake and airport subdivisions.
Jolliffe Island sits in Yellowknife Bay and is public land under the jurisdiction of the City of Yellowknife after a land purchase when Imperial Oil vacated the site. The island is surrounded by a community of houseboats who have been living off the grid since 1978. Their relationship with the city is complex and often strained as the houseboats are popular with sightseers, but at the same time they live outside of the city's tax jurisdiction while using city services leading to lawsuits and tensions with the City of Yellowknife.
As of 2012, there were 19,752 people and 7,286 (2011) households in the city. The population density was 142.86 people/km² (369.85 people/sq. mi). The 2006 Census found that 22.2% of residents identified as aboriginal.
In Yellowknife, the population is slightly disproportionate in terms of age distribution compared to the national average; the average age is 32.2, compared to a Canada-wide average of 39.5. As of the 2009 figures, 13.8% of residents were 9 or under, 6.2% were from 10 to 14 years old, 15.9% were from 15 to 24, 35.2% were from 25 to 44, 22.5% were from 45 to 59, and 6.4% were 60 or older. From 1996 to 2009, the average annual growth rate was 0.6% for the total population; broken down by age, it was -1.3% for < 15 years, and 6.9% for 60 years and older.
In 2006, two-person households with a least one child were the most common size at 36.2%. Overall just over one quarter of all households had only two occupants with no children. The average income in the city was C$57,246, and the average income for a family was C$124,200, with 10.6% of all families earning less than $30,000. Minimum wage in Yellowknife and the NWT is C$10.00. Average household expenditures were C$103,762 in 2007. In 2004, the unemployment rate was at 5.0%, an all-time low, and as of 2006 5.7%; the employment rate for males was 81.7%, for females it was 76.7%.
The crime rate in Yellowknife for 2009 was 42.3 (per 1,000 persons) for violent crimes, and 142.3 (per 1,000 persons) for property crimes. There were 324 births and 51 deaths in 2006.
Almost 82% of residents spoke English as their mother tongue and almost 4% spoke French. More than 4% spoke an aboriginal language as their first language, including 1.3% who spoke Inuktitut, another 1.3% who spoke Dogrib, and 0.6% who spoke North Slavey, 0.5% who spoke Dene/Chipewyan, and 0.4% who spoke South Slavey. Other languages spoken in Yellowknife include Tagalog at 2.3%, Vietnamese at 1.6%, Chinese at 1.1%, German at 0.7% and Spanish at 0.4%.
Yellowknife is home to just over 500 recent immigrants (arriving between 2001 and 2006) who now make up just under 3% of the population; 36% of these immigrants came from the Philippines, while 18% came from Ghana, 9% from Vietnam, 7% from the United States, and 5% came from China.
Almost 73% of residents identified as Christian while 24% said they had no religious affiliation in 2001. For specific denominations Statistics Canada found that 36% of residents identified as Roman Catholic, 11% as Anglican, 10% for the United Church, about 2% each as Baptist, Lutheran, and Pentecostal, and more than 1% for The Salvation Army. There were also 135 Buddhists, 125 Muslims, and 15 Jews.Back Bay Cemetery - pioneer graveyard, 1938
Bank of Toronto - log cabin bank, 1944
Canadian Pacific Airlines Floatbase - Old Town float plane base, 1946
Fireweed Studio - Giant Mine log cabin, 1939
Hudson's Bay Warehouse - Hudson's Bay Company trading post, 1945
School House - Yellowknife's first school, 1939
Old Fort Providence - first trading post in the region, 1789
Weaver & Devore Trading - in operation since 1936
The Wildcat Cafe - longest serving restaurant
Post Office - community post office since 1956
Folk on the Rocks is a local music festival that has been an annual occurrence since 1980. The event features a wide variety of musical acts; it is not limited to only Folk. In the past, it has drawn acts such as Buffy Sainte-Marie, the Trailer Park Boys, The Weakerthans, African Guitar Summit, Corb Lund, Fred Penner, Stan Rogers, Gord Downie, Tanya Tagaq, Dan Mangan, Sam Roberts Band, Sloan, The Strumbellas, Joel Plaskett, Ron Sexsmith and Hawksley Workman.
The Midnight Sun Golf Tournament, with games played through the city's well-lit summer nights, is also a significant cultural event.
During the winter, there is the Snowking Winter Festival, featuring a snow castle on Great Slave Lake which hosts a month of cultural activities
The Long John Jamboree, a new winter festival, took place March 23–25, 2012 on the frozen Yellowknife Bay next to the Snowking castle, in Yellowknife's Old Town neighbourhood. Events include an ice sculpture contest sponsored by De Beers Canada, cultural events like Dene hand games, games, live music, a beer garden, food vendors, skating rink, artist's market, and much more.
Yellowknife hosted the inaugural Arctic Winter Games in 1970, and has since hosted athletes and artists from circumpolar regions at the biennial multi-sport and multi-cultural event in 1984, 1990, 1998, and 2008.
In 2007 The White Stripes played in Yellowknife for their tour of Canada. The entire tour was recorded for a documentary called Under Great White Northern Lights.
NFVA Event Details. The Northern Frontier Visitors Association (2006) provides up to date information on events in and around the City.
The Old Town Ramble & Ride Festival started in 2006 and happens every summer for three days on the August long weekend. This beloved outdoor free festival promotes local art, culture, music, artisans, dance, storytelling, workshops, tours, children's area and more. oldtownyk.com
Some notable places to visit in Yellowknife include:The Wildcat Cafe, which first opened in 1937. The popular restaurant still operates in its original building during the summer, which was moved to its current location after being saved from demolition in the late 1970s. The Wildcat Cafe has been renovated from 2011 to 2013, and during these times there were a few ups and downs to get the place ready for open. The City hosted a grand opening of the new Wildcat Cafe on June 16, 2013.
The Gold Range Bar, (also known as The Strange Range and listed in the circa 1989 phonebook as such) one of the oldest and most colourful drinking establishments in the Northwest Territories and featured in Elizabeth Hay's novel "Late Nights On Air" and Mordecai Richler's novel Solomon Gursky Was Here.
Downtown contains the Capital Area Park, a short but pleasant stroll by City Hall, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, the Legislature, and the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre.
The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is a museum containing exhibits of the history and culture of Inuit, Inuvialuit, Dene, Métis and non-aboriginal peoples of the NWT. It's found just north of downtown on an attractive location overlooking Frame Lake.
Near the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, the Northwest Territories Legislative Building houses the territory's legislative assembly.
The Northern Frontier Visitors' Centre is also located near the Heritage Centre, and is an historic building constructed at the same time as the legislative assembly, and sided in the same distinctive grey zinc plating. The Visitors' Centre provides information on the area's attractions to travellers.
The Northern Arts and Cultural Centre, which is located in Sir John Franklin High School and is the city's largest indoor stage for theatre and musical presentations.
Other notable attractions include the Ingraham Trail, local fishing lodges, bush plane tours, the unique architecture of Old Town with the Bush Pilots monument, and any of the numerous lakes surrounding Yellowknife, many of which include beaches.Margot Kidder, film and television actress best known for playing Lois Lane in the Superman movies of the 1970s and 1980s, was born in Yellowknife.
Kevin Koe, World Champion Curler.
Shane Koyczan, poet of Anti Bullying poem To This Day among others.
Tobias Mehler, film and television actor best known for his roles on Battlestar Galactica and Stargate SG-1.
Vic Mercredi, Métis hockey player, first person born in the NWT to be drafted into the National Hockey League.
Dustin Milligan, film and television actor; lead actor in the first season of the Beverly Hills, 90210 spinoff.
John Sissons, politician and the first judge of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories.
Greg Vaydik, National Hockey League player
Max Ward, pioneering bush pilot and founder of Wardair airlines (later sold to Canadian Airlines).
The Yellowknifer, published by Northern News Services, is the major newspaper serving Yellowknife, published twice weekly on Wednesday and Friday. Northern News Services also publishes Northwest Territories News/North every Monday, which serves the entire NWT. As well, there is L'Aquilon, a French language newspaper published weekly.
Two magazines are based in Yellowknife: Above & Beyond - Canada's Arctic Journal and Up Here Magazine, both offering northern-related news and lifestyle articles.
No part of the Northwest Territories is designated as a mandatory market for digital television conversion; only CFYK-DT converted its main transmitter in Yellowknife to digital.
On August 10, 2012, NASA announced that the section of Mars where the Curiosity rover of the Mars Science Laboratory mission landed would be renamed Yellowknife, in recognition of the city of Yellowknife. Yellowknife is usually where scientists start geological mapping expeditions when researching the oldest known rocks in North America. Reno, Nevada, United States
Fairbanks, Alaska, United States
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