Putting Hay River on Canada’s bucket list

From left, tour group leader Tracey Therrien, Carol Van Tighem, tour guide Tom Makepeace, Michael Paull, Colleen Paull, Paula Scott, Hugh Scott, Rod Bradfield, and Gordon Van Tighem. The group is part of the inaugural excursion by Bucket List Tours.
Angele Cano/NNSL photo

A group of seven – not in the artistic sense – assembled last week to experience adventures they might not have known about before.

That’s the reason Tracey Therrien of Hay River decided to start up her own tour company – Bucket List Tours – to offer windows to northern life and natural splendour. She’s included everything in her tour of the South Slave, from salt plains, sinkholes and remnants of the glacier era to a toe-dip in Great Slave Lake at Hay River.

On Aug. 17, a small group filed out of a luxury bus onto Hay River’s public beach to hear tour guide Tom Makepeace talk about the town as a transportation hub of the north. They sat in a circle across from the Northern Transportation Company Ltd. (NTCL) shipyard to hear about the history of transport barges, NTCL and the Hudson’s Bay Company before dipping their toes into the lake.

“(The North) is something I’m very passionate about,” said Therrien. “I absolutely love it and I want people from all over the world to experience it as much as possible.

Therrien, who has lived in the NWT for 28 years, was a travel agent for 15 years. While in that profession, she branched off into marketing, which forced her to learn extensively about the communities in the North and what they had to offer.

“My visitors wanted to know about Nahanni and Tuk,” said Therrien. “The demand was there for that knowledge.”

After 12 years in tourism, she became an exclusively northern travel agent before deciding to branch out on her own. Before starting her tour group company this year, Therrien first began taking small groups to see the sights in Fort Smith, Hay River, Enterprise and Fort Providence, and included an attraction she calls one of tourism’s best kept secrets.

“Wood Buffalo National Park is an absolutely stunning part of the world,” she said. “There’s so much in that region you have to have at least two days to experience it.”

Members of last week’s inaugural tour group hailed from eastern and western Canada, as well as the North, including Colleen and Michael Paull from Edmonton.

“We like to do things that are a little out of the ordinary,” said Michael Paull. “I call something on your bucket list something you can’t do on your own, an adventure.”

While awed by the natural wonders they visited, the couple was equally impressed by northerners’ enthusiasm to share their knowledge about the region’s attractions.

“People can hardly wait to tell you what they know about the place,” said Colleen Paull. “Their knowledge and friendliness gave you a good feel for the place.”

— by Angele Cano