Inuvik achieved village status in 1967 and became a full town in 1970 with an elected mayor and council. In 1979, with the completion of the Dempster Highway, Inuvik became a part of Canada's highway system, and simultaneously the most northerly town to which one could drive in the summer months although an ice road through the Mackenzie River delta connects the town to Tuktoyaktuk, on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, in the winter.
Between 1971 and 1990, the town's economy was supported by the local Canadian Forces Station (originally a Naval Radio Station, later a communications research/signals intercept facility) and by petrochemical companies exploring the Mackenzie Valley and the Beaufort Sea for petroleum. This all collapsed in 1990 for a variety of reasons including disappearing government subsidies, local resistance to petroleum exploration, and low international oil prices.
Access is via the Dempster Highway for the majority of the year. The highway is closed during the time of freeze-up (roughly late-October to mid-December), for ice to form and allow ice bridges, and thaw (roughly mid-May to mid-June) to allow the ferry to run. At these times, there is air access only.
When the Mackenzie River is ice-free, Northern Transportation Company Limited provides a commercial barge service from Hay River, on Great Slave Lake to the regional terminal in Inuvik. The annual sealift moves supplies as far east as Taloyoak, Nunavut and west to Barrow, Alaska.
A distinct feature of Inuvik is the use of "utilidors" -- above-ground utility conduits carrying water and sewer -- which are covered by corrugated steel. They run throughout town connecting most buildings, and as a result there are many small bridges and underpasses. The utilidors are necessary because of the permafrost underlying the town.
Another feature is an Inukshuk placed outside the Mackenzie Hotel, which was rebuilt in 2006.
A great majority of roads are paved, and there are both concrete and metal-grill sidewalks alongside the roads.
Inuvik celebrates Muskrat Jamboree each year in late March or early April. Most events are held on the Mackenzie River. Several community groups operate concessions in tents, preparing hot soup, bannock, coffee and tea and other warm refreshments. Inuvik's 50th anniversary homecoming is planned for the week of July 11-21, 2008.
Another facility, called the Inuvik Family Centre, was recently completed, at a cost of $8.5 million.
It contains a very modern pool, gym, squash court, hot tub, sauna, steam room, space for community meetings and a very twisting 2-storey waterslide.
Popular eating and drinking establishments include The Mad Trapper (named after Albert Johnson "Mad Trapper of Rat River"), the Nanook Lounge, The Roost, The Cafe Gallery, and the new Mackenzie hotel, which has a lounge bar and restaurant.
The town is served by the Inuvik Drum, community newspaper published weekly by Northern News Services.