town in Northwest Territories, Canada

The town of Hay River is a town of 3,500 people (2017) in Northwest Territories in northern Canada. It is a drivable northern destination for ice fishing and sport fishing.

Dog sledding at the Hay River Winter Carnival


Alexandra Falls

Hay River is a small town on the shore of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories on Canada. The town is home to the Northern Transportation Company Limited, and serves as a transportation hub of the north, as goods are transferred from rail and truck to barges to be sent across Great Slave Lake, up the Mackenzie River and to many isolated northern communities and industrial sites. It has all-season road access, making it a destination in both summer and winter, uninterrupted during the spring breakup and fall freeze up seasons. Northern towns are often not very pretty, but the surrounding area is often breathtaking.


The area has been in used by First Nations (Aboriginals), known as the Long Spear people, as far back as 7000 BC. The first permanent settlement in the area of Hay River was established in what is now the Katl'odeeche First Nation or Hay River Reserve. This was sometime between 1892-93. This first settlement was established by Chief Chiatlo and a group of people by the building of log cabins and bringing dairy cows.

The first buildings were those of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1868 followed by a Roman Catholic Mission in 1869 and an Anglican Mission in 1894.

A school, health centre and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police followed, and as part of the Canol Road project the United States Army Corps of Engineers built a runway on Vale Island. In 1948 the Government of Canada built a gravel road, now the Mackenzie Highway, from Grimshaw, Alberta to Hay River making it the first community in the NWT to be linked with southern Canada. The settlement's role as terminus of all-season trucking, and the establishment of a commercial fishing industry, started an economic boom.

In 1959, the Northern Transportation Company Limited located its main base in Hay River and over the years developed the facilities. Today the base is the major staging point for the annual sealift along the Mackenzie River, via Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk and the communities of the Arctic Ocean, as far east as Taloyoak, Nunavut and west to Utqiagvik, Alaska.

By 1964, as part of the Pine Point Mine development, the Mackenzie Northern Railway was constructed. The railway, through Canadian National Railway in Edmonton, makes Hay River the northernmost point in Canada, and all of North America, which is connected to the continental railway system. The Alaska Railroad is located farther north but is orphaned from the network.


Hay River has a subarctic climate with summer lasting for about three months. Winter temperatures are usually below freezing. Rainfall, which can occur throughout the year, averages 217.4 mm (8.5 in) and snowfall 138.9 cm (54.7 in). From December to January on average there are 71.8 days when the wind chill is below −30°C, which indicates that frostbite may occur within 10 – 30 minutes.

Get inEdit

Drive from Edmonton (approximately 12 hours) or Yellowknife (approximately 5 hours). Fly direct from Edmonton on Northwestern Air (a small northern airline) 5 days a week. Fly from Yellowknife on First Air or Landa Aviation (you can get to Yellowknife from the south on Westjet or Air Canada).

Get aroundEdit

By car is the best way, but taxis are not very expensive. Most areas are accessible if you don't mind walking.


Church in Hay River
  • Wildlife: moose, bear, deer, wood buffalo
  • The natural world: the northern lights, spring ice jams, Alexandra Falls, and Louise Falls on the Hay River, pressure ridges on Great Slave Lake
  • Great Slave Lake is the deepest lake in North America and the ninth largest lake in the world.
  • There is also a museum detailing the history of Hay River and the Hudson's Bay Company in Old Town.


Ice fishing in Hay River

Excellent summer and ice fishing on Great Slave Lake for whitefish, lake trout, and perch. Ice fishing tours and bombardier tours in the winter on Great Slave Lake. Summer sport fishing and tours of the eastern arm of the lake, and commercial fishing demonstrations. Contact Great Slave Lake Tours +1 867 874-3617.


  • Local fish in the West Channel Fishing Village or at The Docks
  • Local art and food in the summer at the Fishermen's Wharf
  • Typical small town stores like Home Hardware, Fields and NorthMart
  • Local art at the Hay River Tourism Centre
  • There are two grocery stores in Hay River, including the Northern Store.
  • There are branches of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the Royal Bank of Canada.




Hay River Beach with Great Slave Lake in the background


The community has a full hospital, the H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital, a dental clinic, an ambulance service, and an RCMP detachment.

Go nextEdit

Check out:

Routes through Hay River
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This city travel guide to Hay River is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.