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Articles on John Denison

January 10, 2001: Ice Road Engineer Dies - John Denison helped engineer the NWT's first ice road, -Yellowknifer

John Denison began building an ice road leading to a Great Bear Lake silver mine in the late 1950s. The road was aptly nicknamed the Denison Ice Road and in 1998 he received the Order of Canada for his involvement and ingenuity in building winter roads.

Denison died on the evening of Jan. 6 in Kelowna, B.C. He was 84.

Working with Byers Transport, a company that pioneered the building of ice roads in the North, Denison and his road crew worked through the darkest, coldest days of winter building the 520-km road from Yellowknife and beyond the Arctic Circle to Great Bear Lake.

The former RCMP officer first moved to Yellowknife in 1946 to work at the local detachment.

He left the Mounties a year later after conducting a long search on the Barren Lands for a missing trapper.

"During that search he froze his fingers, his feet and face and decided that it was just too much, being a Mountie in the North," said Denison's widow, Hannah, from her Kelowna home.

The couple left Yellowknife later that year, bound for Edmonton where they married.

Only a few years passed before Denison, in search of work, returned to the North, putting his background in mechanics to use in the Northern transportation industry.

Once the ice road work was complete - he also worked on a road to Tundra Mine and Discovery Mine - Denison returned to Kelowna, where his wife and four children were living.

He stayed in the Okanagan until his death last weekend.

A book, Denison's Ice Road, was written by Edith Iglauer detailing his adventures while at work.


Dawson Creek: Northern Trucker Named to Order of Canada, Vancouver Sun, August 18, 1998

A former Dawson Creek resident has been named to the Order of Canada for his work in helping to open up the Far North in the 1960s.

John Denison, 82, was instrumental in building a winter truck route north of Yellowknife that followed the frozen but fragile lakes up to Coppermine on the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake. "I felt a little embarrassed about it but I'm not anymore," he said from his home in Kelowna where he is now retired.

Denison's exploits were the subject of a CBC television documentary and a book, Denison's Ice Road, written by New Yorker magazine writer Edith Iglauer. Both came out in the 1970s.

Known as "Big John," Denison first started trucking in 1947 when he and his brother, Harry, bought an old army truck and covered a route from Peace River, Alta. to Hay River, N.W.T. In 1952, he moved to Dawson Creek where he spent nine years working on the Alaska Highway.