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Are the highways open? Here’s the quickest way to tell

A map of highway conditions as they were on the morning of August 9, 2023.
A map of highway conditions as they were on the morning of August 9, 2023.

One question appears more than any other in our inbox right now: is the highway open?

Whether it’s Highway 3 outside Yellowknife, Highway 5 outside Fort Smith or anywhere else in the NWT, the answer is not always obvious.

This week, for example, two different territorial departments issued updates within 20 minutes of each other, one stating Highway 3 was closed and the other stating it was open. Things can change quickly this wildfire season and roads are opening and closing multiple times per day.

The Department of Infrastructure places highway closure updates on Twitter, the territorial government usually (but not always) uses its main Facebook page to offer updates, and NWT Fire similarly carries notices of most highway closures.

But so far this summer, our reporters have found that the single most reliable guide to the highways is the GNWT’s highway conditions map.



Pay less attention to the text around the map, which sometimes can end up out of date. Focus on the map itself and find the stretch of highway you’re looking for.

If that stretch is green or yellow (normally it’s yellow), the highway is open and you are good to go – with the warning, again, that things can change fast.

If the highway is shaded red, it’s closed. All we’ve been doing in that situation is refreshing the map every 30 minutes or so until it changes.

For travellers seeking formal confirmation that an NWT highway is closed or open, the highway conditions map – in our experience – has the information first and is accurate. We recommend it.