Hay River (Xatl'o Dehe) is the gateway to the southern shore of Great Slave Lake. Sandy swimming beaches, a river delta and some fine fishing are just some of the natural wonders that can be found here. Transportation and transshipment of goods is the primary industry. Hay River offers highway access as well as the northernmost railhead for freight from the south. This is close to the headwaters of the Mackenzie River, which carries barge traffic to the Arctic. Tourism and a retail sector also provide employment. Hay River is also a key location for resource-based industries and a popular home base for rotational mine workers. There is a small fishing industry on Great Slave Lake and the primary catch is whitefish. Across the Hay River from the town is the Kat’lodeeche Reserve, one of only two Aboriginal reserves in the Northwest Territories..
The town is 134 km north of the Alberta border via the Mackenzie Highway. First Air and Buffalo Airways provide air connections to Yellowknife. There are four schools, Harry Camsell School: K-3; Princess Alexandra Middle School: 4-7; Ecole Boreal Francophone School: K-12; and Diamond Jenness Secondary School: 8-12. There are grocery stores, restaurants, a hospital, banks and an RCMP detachment. There’s high speed Internet, and plenty of community activities for all ages in this growing community with a mixed Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population.