Houseboats on the bay…


As someone who lives on a boat part of the year and loves it, it’s probably not that surprising that I’ve always been fascinated by houseboats — and would love to spend some time in one.

This summer our trip to the Northwest Territories to see family meant that we flew in and out of Yellowknife, which is 250 miles from the Arctic Circle.

This gave us a chance to see a unique community of houseboats in Yellowknife Bay, right near Old Town — Yellowknife’s original centre.

Old Town was founded in the 1930’s when gold was discovered in the area, and is situated on the shore of Great Slave Lake, a body of fresh water the size of Ireland.

I took this photo from the top of “the Rock”, a six-story rock hill in the centre of Old Town.

The image shows part of a community of houseboats that float between Old Town and nearby islands. It is made up of some 40 fully framed houses mounted on floating, anchored barges. Some are simple, one-story cabins. Others are elaborate, two-storey bungalows. I love the bright colours many are painted.

Who lives here? A mix of artists, professionals and government employees who largely work in town.

As the homes are offshore, they are not legally part of the municipality of Yellowknife so their owners don’t pay municipal taxes. But they also don’t receive services such as electricity, gas and garbage collection. Households are run on a combination of solar electricity, propane, diesel generators and wood stoves, and must deal with their own waste disposal.

In winter, they contend with extreme temperatures. Great Slave Lake is frozen six to seven months of the year. In winter, the boats remain frozen in place by ice one-to-two-metres thick. Without central gas heating, these homes can get nippy.

Some of the owners operate Bed and Breakfasts from their houseboats, giving visitors to the North the opportunity for a unique living experience.

I was curious to find out more about what these houseboats are like inside. If you are too, have a look at this short video. The video features the houseboat that is second from the top left in this image.

Having seen this I still love the idea of staying in one of these — in the summer. I think I will pass on the winter stay.

5 thoughts on “Houseboats on the bay…

  1. What a totally charming little community, and so colorful. It’s fascinating to see a little slice of life from those who live “unconventionally.”

  2. Like you Sherry, I have a fascination for houseboats of all kinds and these are incredible. So big, they look as if they would topple over! Being originally from England I have a hankering to one day go on a canalboat or narrowboat. Now I would like to go to to Yellowknife too! Thank you for a great photo and such an interesting post.

  3. Such an intriguing way of life…makes me wonder if they are responsible for providing their own utilities and waste if they are more conservative in use than those of us with the conveniences provided by our cities. This view is simply beautiful…it strikes me as a “puzzle” picture. Loved reading about these year round living conditions. Thank you for sharing, Sherry!!

  4. I must admit, these colorful houses on water are always a delight to see. There are none around my area. So fascinating to see, but very chilly too many months of the year for me.

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