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Hay River, known as "the Hub of the North" is a town in the Northwest Territoriesmarker, Canadamarker, located on the south shore of Great Slave Lakemarker, at the mouth of the Hay River. The town is separated into two sections, a new town and an old town with the Hay River Airportmarker between them. The town is in the South Slave Region, and along with Fort Smithmarker is one of the two regional centres.


Hay River has a population of 3,648, and the nearby Hay River Reservemarker (Katl'odeeche First Nation) another 309, according to the 2006 Census. The aboriginal population in Hay River is 1,600, up from 1,565 at the 2001 Census, and is made up of First Nations, Métis people and Inuit. The main languages in the town are South Slavey, Chipewyan, Michif and English.


The area has been in use by First Nations, known as the Long Spear people as far back as 7000 BC.

According to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories 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.

However, according to the town, the first permanent settlement in the area of Hay River was established in what is now the Katl'odeeche First Nation. 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. This was followed in 1893 by the Anglican Mission, at the request of Chief Chiatlo in 1893 with the Roman Catholic Mission and the Hudson's Bay Company arriving later.

A school, health centre and the Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker followed, and as part of the Canol Road project the United States Army Corps of Engineers built a runway on Vale Island. In the late 1940s the Government of Canada built a gravel road, now the Mackenzie Highway, from Grimshawmarker, Albertamarker to Hay River making it the first community in the NWT to be linked with southern Canada.
Hay River connection to the Arctic Ocean
In 1959, the Northern Transportation Company Limited located their 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 Rivermarker, via Inuvikmarker and Tuktoyaktukmarker and the communities of the Arctic Oceanmarker, as far east as Taloyoakmarker, Nunavutmarker and west to Barrowmarker, Alaskamarker.

By 1964, as part of the Pine Point Minemarker development, the Mackenzie Northern Railway was constructed. The railway, through Canadian National Railway in Edmontonmarker, 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.

In 1978, Hay River along with, the now abandoned, Pine Pointmarker hosted the fifth Arctic Winter Games.


The community has a full hospital, the H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital, a woman's shelter/transition house, a dental clinic and an ambulance service. The RCMP detachment has eight members and the South Mackenzie Correctional Centre is located here. There are two grocery stores in Hay River, including the Northern Store, branches of both the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the Royal Bank of Canada and both True Value and Home Hardware. There is also a small Museum detailing the history of Hay River and the Hudson's Bay Company in Old Town.

Airlines servicing Hay River include the locally based Buffalo Airways, who provide scheduled flights to Yellowknife as well as charter services and a courier service throughout the north. Both First Air and Canadian North provide scheduled services to Yellowknife with connections elsewhere, while Canadian also provides direct flights to Edmonton. Other companies offering charter services in Hay River include Landa Air, Carter Air Services (fixed-wing aircraft), Denendeh Helicopters and Remote Helicopters.

Religious services include a Catholic church, an Anglican/Grace United church, a Baptist church, a Pentecostal church, and a Community Fellowship within New Town. There is also a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall along the highway coming into town. On the Katl'odeeche First Nations Reserve there are a small Catholic church, and a larger Pentecostal church. There is also an Anglican church that was destroyed in the 2008 Hay River ice breakup. The religious diversity in Hay River exceeds the outward appearance given by these services.


The town is part of the South Slave Divisional Education Council and supports four schools, Harry Camsell School, Princess Alexandra Middle School, Ecole Boreal Francophone School and Diamond Jenness Secondary Schoolmarker. Harry Camsell is for primary school and serves students from kindergarten to Grade 3. Princess Alexandra, named for and opened by Princess Alexandra in 1967, is a middle school and serves Grade 4 to Grade 7., Ecole Boreal is a French Immersion school that was opened in 2005 and works with students of all grades, Diamond Jenness, named for Diamond Jenness and opened in 1973, is the high school and serves Grade 8 to Grade 12. The town also supports a Community Learning Centre and a Career Centre.

Media and communications

Radio stations in Hay River include, CBDJ-FM (93.7) broadcasting CBC Radio One, CJCD-FM (100.1), owned by Vista Broadcast Group, broadcast from Yellowknifemarker, and CKLB-FM (101.9) a community radio station aimed at First Nations people also from Yellowknife, CFMI-FMmarker from Vancouvermarker and CKHR, a community radio station in Hay River.

The town controls television broadcasting and it is paid for through property taxes and includes, CIHC-TV, a community channel, CBEBT-1marker from Yellowknife is the CBC North channel and CH4435marker (Télévision de Radio-Canada) broadcasting in French.

The Hub is an independent, weekly newspaper published by Chris Brodeur. Besides Hay River, the paper is available in Yellowknife, Enterprisemarker, Fort Smith, Inuvik, Fort Providencemarker, Fort Resolutionmarker and Grande Prairie.

Internet services are provided by SSI Micro and Bell Sympatico, land based telephone by Northwestel and cell phones by NMI Mobility.


Hay River has a subarctic climate with summer lasting for about three months. Although winter temperatures are usually below freezing, every month of the year has seen temperatures above 10˚C (50˚F). Rainfall, which can occur throughout the year, averages 203.1 mm (8.0 in) and snowfall 125 cm (49.2 in). From December to January on average there are 58.7 days when the wind chill is below −30, which indicates that frostbite may occur within 10 – 30 minutes.

Notable people

  • Paul Delorey, professional curler and current speaker in the Northwest Territories Legislature, represents Hay River North
  • Jane Groenewegen, current member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories from Hay River South
  • Rob McVicar, goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks
  • John Pollard, member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories from 1987 until 1995
  • Geoff Sanderson, former NHL player
  • Donald Morton Stewart, former mayor and speaker of the Northwest Territories Legislature

See also


  1. MACA Regions
  2. 2006 Canada Census, Hay River Reserve
  3. 2001 Canada Census
  4. Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, Hay River profile
  5. Hay River history
  6. NTCL services
  7. Infrastructure profile
  8. Northwestel
  9. Department of Justice
  10. Buffalo Airways passenger services
  11. Buffalo Airways courier service
  12. First Air
  13. Canadian North
  14. South Slave Divisional Education Council
  15. Harry Camsell School
  16. Princess Alexandra School - About our school
  17. Princess Alexandra School
  18. Diamond Jenness School - About our school
  19. Diamond Jenness School
  20. Hay River profile
  21. The Hub
  22. Wind Chill Hazards and Risk of Frostbite

Further reading

  • DiLabio, R. N. W. Kimberlitic Indicator Minerals in the Geological Survey of Canada's Archived Till Samples Results of Analysis of Samples from Victoria Island and the Hay River Area, Northwest Territories. [Canada]: Geological Survey of Canada, 1997.

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