This town of 3,600 lies 118 kilometers (73 miles) north of the border, 1,070 kilometers (665 miles) north of Edmonton  and 500 kilometers (310 miles) from the territorial capital of Yellowknife . Hay River is a vital transportation link for waterborne freight bound for communities along the Mackenzie River and throughout the western and central Arctic.
Within the town limits, several distinct communities surround the delta, which was formed where the Hay River flows into Great Slave Lake. Most modern development, including motels , restaurants , and government offices, is located in New Town, on the west bank of the Hay River.
A bridge links New Town to Vale Island, where the airport, campground, and excellent beaches are located. Also on the island are the communities of Old Town, which was partially destroyed by flooding in 1963, and West Channel Village, which grew around the commercial fishing industry.
Across the mouth of Hay River is Katl’odeeche (Hay River Dene Reserve), the only native reserve in the Northwest Territories .
Hay River Visitor Information Centre (73 Woodland Dr., 867/874-3180, www.hayriver.com , mid-May–mid-Sept. daily 9 a.m.–9 p.m.) is at the south entrance to town. It has bundles of brochures and books, and, almost as importantly, the coffeepot is always on.
Hay River Airport is on Vale Island, a $15 cab ride from town. During freeze-up and breakup of the Mackenzie River, road traffic through to Yellowknife  is blocked, and Hay River Airport becomes the center of frenzied activity; freight and passengers arriving by road from the south transfer to planes for the short hop over Great Slave Lake. First Air (800/267-1247, www.firstair.ca ) flies once or twice daily between Hay Riverand Yellowknife.
The bus depot is at the south end of Vale Island. Greyhound departs daily for Edmonton  (16 hours). Connecting with the Greyhound services is Frontier Coachlines (867/873-4892), using the same depot.