The Visitor Information Centre
Your first stop when you arrive in town should be the Visitor Information Centre (VIC). The VIC was erected in 1984 as a convenient location for tourists to learn about the town and surrounding attractions. Stop by and gather information, shop for work by local artists, use the free WIFI, get potable water or dump the sewer for your camper. There’s always a strong cup of coffee on and knowledgeable staff who will help make your stay an adventure to remember.
Come and explore our outdoor market, which showcases a number of local vendors who provide residents and visitors alike with fresh fish, produce, baked goods and local arts and crafts. Take a drive down to Vale Island and you will find it situated along the river near all the local fishing boats. Our Fisherman’s Wharf takes place every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm during the summer months and we recommend you go early as it is always a hub of activity!
Hay River Museum
If you are interested in learning about the history of Hay River, our Museum is the place to go! Located on Vale Island, our heritage building was once the old Hudson Bay store. It was donated to the Hay River Museum Society and on July 1st 2000 it opened its doors. Since then our museum hosts a number of events, exhibits and artifacts. Please check the Hay River Museum’s website for a complete listing of events at http://hayrivermuseum.com/events/
NWT Centennial Library
While exploring the downtown core, take a detour to our public library. Our library was built from stone during the Centennial year and is another historical treasure of our small town. It is also our social hub as it provides the community with resources, services and various programs, such as author visits and local art displays.
Hay River Golf Course
For those who love to golf, Hay River has a stunning golf course. Located on the Mackenzie Highway you will find our nine-hole course, which features an air conditioned log club house where you can rent clubs, power carts and/or purchase food. For those who are travelling with a trailer, you also have the option to camp at the golf course.
Great Slave Lake
Hay River is situated right along the Great Slave Lake, which is the fourth largest lake completely inside of Canada and the sixth deepest lake (615 meters) in the world. This impressive body of water expands 456 kilometers long, 240 kilometers wide and has a surface area of 28, 568 square kilometers. Not only does our Great Slave Lake provide us with beautiful, sandy beaches, it also provides our community with natural resources, economic opportunities and recreational pursuits.
Trans Canada Trail
Hay River has a network of more than 20 kilometers of walking/hiking trails with scenic vistas of the river where you may regularly spot a wide variety of local wildlife from beavers and other fur bearers once the backbone of Canada’s economy, or any of the local bird populations including majestic eagles, down to tiny colorful Finches. Follow the interpretive signage throughout the trails that detail the local flora, fauna, culture, history and geography of the area. Hay River’s trails are part of the Trans Canada Trail system, one of the world’s most ambitious trail systems.
Hay River’s boat launch and recreation area is Porritt landing. Located just north of the rail crossing on Vale Island, you can launch your boat and enjoy cruising out to Great Slave Lake or partake of the excellent angling opportunities the river has. You can expect to catch your limit of Pickerel (Walleye) or perhaps some Jackfish (Northern Pike). Trouble finding them? Ask one of the friendly locals where the fish are at, we don’t keep secrets like that!
Hay River Territorial Campground
Located on Vale Island the campground is directly adjacent to the beach with easy access to town while still having a remote location feel. Group camping areas are also available right on the beach.
West Channel Fishing Village
Hay Rivers origins are in the fishing industry, originally established in the late 1940’s, and remnants of those times remain in the West Channel. It is a scenic drive where you may see old vessels whose days are gone by from a time when men were steel and boats were wood.
Visit the Old Town settlement of Hay River across the west channel and onto Vale Island located in the mouth of the Hay River. The flooding in 1963 forced the town to move up river to higher ground but many still call Old Town their home. This quaint section of Hay River has many houses that are built on pilings to ensure that they are not flooded out. The island is home to the public beach, airport, Marine Transportation Services, Coast Guard and the CN rail head end of Canada’s most Northern rail line. In the winter there is a few ice roads connecting the town to the K’atl’odeeche First Nation and West Point First Nation.
Marine Transportation Services (MTS)
Watch the barges load up with goods in the channels of the Hay River. The barges will head across Great Slave Lake, up the Mackenzie River and out to the Arctic Ocean. View the line of large boats that have been taken out of the water for the winter. The boats are lifted out of the water by a massive dry dock system known as a Synchro Lift. Formerly known as the Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL) the company was founded in 1931 and declared bankruptcy in 2016. The Government of the Northwest Territories now owns and runs the barging company.
Canadian Coast Guard Base
The Port of Hay River is home to the Canadian Coast Guard who are responsible for keeping the vital Mackenzie-Athabaska and Arctic Coast waterways safe for navigation. Though more than a thousand kilometres from the ocean, this base is busy during the short shipping season, maintaining more than 3,000 navigation and shore aids. The office also handles marine communications, oil spill response, search & rescue and government wharves.
CN Railhead End
Hay River is the northern most rail line in Canada. CN’s tracks end on Vale Island where fuel is offloaded to storage tanks on the edge of the river. Fuel is transported via barges to Northern communities and mining locations.
K’atl’odeeche First Nation Reserve
The K’atl’odeeche First Nation Reserve is home to the South Slave Dene, who have occupied these lands for thousands of years. The Reserve is located on the East bank of the Hay River, right across from town and can be reached via an access road just off Highway 5. There are interpretive displays and information about the history and culture of the South Slave Dene. The Visitor Resource Centre offers the opportunity to witness artisans creating and selling their work, storytelling sessions with Dene Elders and drum dances. Surrounding the centre are teepees, walkways, cooking fires and picnic tables with a gorgeous view of the river. There is also a Trans Canada Trail from the New Village out through the Old Village to the edge of the lake at the East Channel. Make sure you check in at the Band Office and let them know you are on the Reserve.
Diamond Jenness Secondary School
Named after one of Canada’s most distinguished anthropologists who documented Aboriginal life in Canada’s North for over 5 decades. The high school was designed by famous Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal and built in 1971. Hay River’s iconic purple school has also been featured in the book Moira’s Birthday by famous American-Canadian children’s author Robert Munsch. The colour of the school was chosen through a classroom poll by students before it was built. The building was recently renovated and upgraded with the help of its original architect to maintain the look and integrity of the original design.
Hay River Recreation Centre
Newly built recreation facility features an Aquatic Centre, NHL regulation sized ice service, walking track & curling rink right in the heart of downtown Hay River. The centre also has multiple conference centre facilities of different sizes available, with the ability to hold events of up to 460 people.
Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI)
The Northern Farm Training Institute is a non-profit society created by local Métis and northern farming expert, Jackie Milne, in 2013. The institute operates on a 260-acre campus in Hay River, Northwest Territories providing immersive farm training to people committed to improving local food systems. The vision of NFTI is to be a holistic farm and educational centre genuinely empowering people to transform their lives. They support a vibrant regenerative landscape while building productive local farms and thriving, healthy communities.
The Fish Trackway
Search for the fossilized impressions in the limestone at the top of Alexandra Falls believed to be the footprints of an ancient lobe-finned fish, known as a Sarcopterygian. These impressions are between 370 to 380 million years old. Over 400 million years ago Hay River and the surrounding area was submerged beneath a shallow, brackish sea during the Devonian era. This primordial sea deposited layer upon layer of sediment capturing and fossilizing the teeming life during this time of Earth’s history. The Hay River has eroded through these layers of sedimentary rock to reveal many fossilized treasures. Make sure you keep a look out for fossils, who knows you might make the discovery of a lifetime.
The Hay River
The Hay River (in South Slavey: Kátå’odehche) has its origins in the muskeg of north western Alberta, flows west to British Columbia, then curves northward and returns to Alberta. The river travels in a north by northeast course towards the Northwest Territories. After passing over two main waterfalls, the Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls, it flows through the town of Hay River and discharges into Great Slave Lake. The Hay River gets its tea-like colour because of the presence of humic substances, tannins and lingnins. These compounds are found naturally in the soils through which the river flows. Hay River has a total length of 702 kilometres (436 mi) and a drainage area of 48,200 square kilometres (18,600 sq mi).