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Hugging the shimmering freshwater sea of Great Slave Lake, Hay River is the crossroads of the Northwest Territories – a fishing, tourism and transportation mecca surrounded by wilderness that’s only an easy day's drive (or quick flight) from the big cities of Western Canada. This bustling town, population 3,600, has lots to boast about.
Enjoy some of the best fishing in Canada on Great Slave, North America's deepest lake. The waters here are swarming with monster Lake Trout, feisty Pike and succulent Whitefish, just waiting for you to wet your line. Several premier fishing lodges are found nearby, and local fishing guides can take you on half-day or day-long outings on the lake or to the nearby headwaters of the Mackenzie River. Don’t want to venture out on the water? There are plenty of local fish and other tasty treats available at Hay River's Fisherman's Wharf market.
As befits a lakefront community, Hay River enjoys the best beach in the North – miles of dunes stretching out along Great Slave Lake, ideal for camping and strolling. Other hiking options abound in the area, including treks through nearby Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, with stellar views of two waterfalls and the Hay River Canyon.
The nearby river – the namesake of the town – is a leading attraction, with its deep canyons, stunning waterfalls and top-notch fishing. You can rent a canoe and paddle down from Paradise Gardens, or, for a speedier adventure, take a jet boat tour upriver to stunning Louise Falls.
This is a hub of First Nations culture. Tours are available at the Dene Cultural Institute on the nearby K'atl'odeeche Reserve, and a beautiful array of Indigenous arts and crafts are for sale in local shops.
What else will you find here? The best golf course in the North, with lush rolling greens bathed by the midnight sun. The headquarters of Buffalo Airways, star of the popular TV reality-show Ice Pilots NWT, which flies a fleet of classic aircraft beloved by aviation aficionados. And of course, amazing wilderness and comfortable campgrounds, plus a wide array of B&Bs and other cozy accommodations to rest your head after a busy day. Hay River is also just hours away from Wood Buffalo National Park, the biggest national park in Canada.