60th Parallel to Hay River
The wood-and-stone structure marking the 60th parallel is a welcome sight after the long drive north through northern Alberta up the Mackenzie Highway. North of the border, the highway number changes from 35 to 1, and the road follows the Hay River 118 kilometers (73 miles) to Great Slave Lake. This stretch is known as the Waterfalls Route, for the impressive falls along the way.
Just beyond the border is the 60th Parallel Visitors Centre (867/875-5570, mid-May–mid-Sept. daily 8:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m.), well worth a stop just to have a chat with the friendly hosts. The center offers maps and brochures, camping permits, fishing licenses, and displays of local arts and crafts. And the coffeepot is always on, accompanied by freshly made scones, if you’re lucky.
Behind the center is the 60th Parallel Campground (mid-May–mid-Sept., unserviced sites $15), a small facility beside the Hay River.
Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park
North of the border, the Hay River has carved a deep gorge into the limestone bedrock. Punctuating the river’s flow are two dramatic waterfalls that formed a major barrier for early river travelers, forcing a portage along the west bank. Encompassing both falls, and equally impressive, is Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park.
From the first day-use area, a short trail leads to a viewing platform overlooking Alexandra Falls, where the peat-colored Hay River tumbles 34 meters (112 feet). Louise Falls, three kilometers (1.9 miles) downstream, is not as high, but its intriguing steps make it just as interesting.
Louise Falls Campground (mid-May–mid-Sept., unserviced sites $17) has water, pit toilets, and bug-proof cooking shelters.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition