Hay River

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Hay River is a town in the Northwest Territories in Canada. First settled in the 1860s as a fur trading post, it grew into a town and is nowadays one of the two regional centers Fort Smith being the other. The town is an important lake harbor, railway terminal, and freight-distribution center. The town has a population of around 4,000 people but it welcomes many more tourists every year who come to experience the beauty of the town and the culture of its people.

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Hay River:table of contents

1. Visitor Information Center

The Visitor Information Center should be your first stop when you arrive in Hay River. Erected in 1984, it serves as a convenient location for tourists to learn about the town and its attractions plus any other information they may require to make their stay a memorable one. The staff is friendly, welcoming, and knowledgeable with the region’s best attractions at their fingertips. The center has free Wi-Fi and if you are travelling in a camper, you can top up your water tank and drain your septic tank. There are also washroom facilities and an artisan shop where the best local art is available.

2. Hay River Historical Museum and Heritage Centre

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The Hay River Museum on Vale Island in an old building built in 1948. Opened on 1st July 2000, it showcases the history, culture, and heritage of the region. Its location by the Hay River also aids in highlighting the role that the river played in the development of the region as a vital economic resource to all generations that have settled in the region. The museum has a large collection of artifacts and displays depicting various periods in the history of the town. There are also exhibits on the culture of the region’s indigenous communities.

3. Great Slave Lake

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Hay River is one of the towns on the shores of the Great Slave Lake, a large freshwater lake almost the same size as Belgium. It is the second largest lake in Canada after the Great Bear and the 11th largest in the world. It is also the deepest lake in North America with a depth of 615 meters at its deepest part. The lake is integral to the culture and history of the region making it a must visit while in Hay River. It is home to many fish species including the arctic grayling, northern pike, and trophy-sized trout which lure anglers from across the globe. It is also a haven for a variety of watersports including kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, and swimming.

4. K’atl’odeeche First Nation Reserve

The area around Hay River has long been a gathering place for the South Slave Dene. They were attracted to the region due to the abundance of fish in the lake and in the river during the summer months. In the winter, they moved further east where there were good hunting and trapping spots. From the 1890s they settled in Hay River permanently on the East Bank of the Hay River. The reserve can be reached by an access road just off Highway 5. Visit the reserve and learn more about the Dene history and culture through displays, stories, and dances at the visitor Resource Center.

5. The Hay River

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The Hay River originates from northern Alberta flowing west into British Columbia before curving northwards towards the Northwest Territories. It passes through two picturesque waterfalls, the Louise and Alexandra Falls, before making its way into the town of Hay River where it empties its waters into the Great Slave Lake. The river has a total length of 702 kilometers with a drainage area of over 48,000 square kilometers. Also known as Kata’odeeche in South Slavey, the river has a tea-like colour due to the presence of lignins and tannins in the soils through which it flows. The river is a popular recreation spot for a variety of activities including camping, fishing, boating, and many more.

6. Fisherman’s Wharf Market

The Fisherman’s Wharf Market is an outdoor market that takes place every Saturday during the summer months. It takes place at Vale Island on the riverside and is the best location to experience the authentic taste of Hay River. From fresh-caught fish to farm produce, the wharf market has it all. There are also other vendors selling an assortment of arts, crafts, and even baked goods. The market is usually packed making it the best place to mingle with the locals as you sample the best products from the town. The market is open from 10 am to 2 pm, however, it is advisable that you go early and shop at a leisurely pace.

7. The Hay River Territorial Park

The Hay River Territorial Park is an outdoor lover’s paradise located on Vale Island in Hay River. About 10 kilometers from the Visitor’s Information Center, it is one of the most popular campsites in the region with some of the most breath-taking views. There are 35 powered campsites some located right on the beach making it a popular park especially among campers. The park offers visitors great views of the lake and the barges and fishing vessels on the lake as they relax and enjoy life at a leisurely pace. When it gets hot, one can always take a dip in the cool waters of the lake. For anglers, the park is the best base for your fishing trip being close to the lake and also not far from the city.

8. Old Town

The City of Hay River is separated into the old and new towns on each side with the Merlyn Carter Airport and the Hay River in-between. The old town is located on Vale Island at the river’s mouth and is linked to the mainland by a bridge. The old town was the original town center but repeated flooding forced the move to higher ground. Many people, however, still call it home with homes built on pilings to prevent losses in case of flooding. Considered by many as the nicest part of town, it is home to the public beach, freight trains, and the Marine Transportation Services.

◎ Closing

Hay River is a year-round paradise with beautiful sandy beaches and magnificent waterfalls. During winter, the Aurora dances overhead on the clear dark night skies and the Hay River is transformed into one of the best snowshoeing locations in the north. The town also has a rich culture and is home to many annual festivals, feasts, and traditional games. Visit Hay River and immerse yourself into the many activities that have earned it the moniker, ‘Hub of the North’.

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