The Mackenzie River Ferry and the Peel River Ferry have seen a spike in usage this tourism season, according to Merle Carpenter, regional superintendent for the Department of Infrastructure.
“Our numbers are pretty consistent and pretty high compared to previous years,” said Carpenter.
“They’re constantly around 500 to 600 a day since the opening of the ferry.”
The ferries were due for upgrades and four new engines were installed this spring, he said.
“We’ve put four new engines in and they’re quieter, and their energy consumption has dropped from 1,000 litres a day to 600.”
Carpenter said the ferry has been busy.
“The boats are constantly going back and forth and there’s traffic waiting on both ends to get on, so I think that’s a positive sign for tourism in the region,” he said. “The hotels are full, the campgrounds are full, I see lots of tourists and cyclists and a huge number of motorcyclists. I went to Tuk on Sunday and the point has a makeshift campsite or RV park. There were no parking spots.”
Despite the influx of people to the Beaufort Delta’s small communities, tourists say they feel they’ve been accommodated.
Ivan Fraser, a tourist from Rimouski, Que. who plans to cycle from Tuktoyaktuk to Ushuaia, Argentina, said despite there being many tourists, the roads aren’t too busy and there have been enough amenities along the way, such as campgrounds and potable water, to use.
“A lot of cyclists, like me, want to be one of the first to cycle the new highway,” said Fraser. “There are lots of tourists, I even met so many people from Quebec, which was surprising. I think everyone is just excited to see the new road.”
He thinks visiting the North is a unique experience, and that visitors aren’t too worried “if there are enough gas stations or restaurants.”
Former Inuvik resident Walter Leahman, who is visiting Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk and Ivvavik National Park, said there are many more tourists now than when he lived here 15 years ago.
He said he made reservations for their campsites beforehand and they haven’t had any trouble finding what they need.
“There are a lot of bikers, a lot of campers,” Leahman said. “But you can get all the service you need up here, there’s no gap there.”