All About Abraham Lake – A Crown Land Favourite

If you follow the Crown Land Camping Alberta Facebook group at all you will find that Abraham Lake is definitely one of the more popular destinations in the Alberta Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ). The lake is located alongside several PLUZ including Kiska Willson PLUZ, Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ, and Job/Cline PLUZ (technically doesn’t have any shoreline but it is very close and overlooks the lake). The David Thompson Highway runs along the northern shore of the lake and offers some amazing views if it is more of a road trip that you are searching for!

Public Lands Camping Pass Required

As of June 1, 2021 – The Alberta government charges PLUZ users to random camp along many of the PLUZ in the Rocky Mountains. This is to help cover expenses associated with maintaining the land and providing services.

You can purchase a Public Lands Camping Pass here (~$20/3 days or ~$30/year)
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Abraham Lake itself is actually a man made reservoir created in 1972 as part of the Bighorn Dam project in order to produce energy through hydroelectricity from the North Saskatchewan River.

The Abraham Lake Bubbles (Winter)
Jakub Fryš, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the things that Abraham Lake is well known for is the impressive methane bubbles that can be found caught in the ice in the wintertime. These bubbles are the result of decomposing sediment and organic materials on the bottom of the lake. The bubbles get caught on the clear layer of ice on the top of the lake and it makes for some extremely impressive phenomena. Photographers flock to Abraham Lake in the wintertime to photograph the incredible bubbles. In the wintertime, Abraham lake is a popular skating destination.

Always ensure that the ice is adequately thick prior to stepping out onto the ice. The bubbles are beautiful but definitely not worth risking your life for.

Summer Activities at Abraham Lake
Diego, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Due to its location in an west/east mountain valley, Abraham Lake is quite windy however which good in the wintertime because it cleans the snow off of the ice. If you are kayaking of canoeing on the lake in the summertime, the wind is enough to potentially capsize your boat so you will want to be wearing a life jacket.

Crown Land enthusiasts love the lake because of the vast range of outdoor activities in the area including fishing, camping, and hiking.

For those looking to fish Abraham Lake, the lake is home to many species including rainbow trout, lake trout, and mountain whitefish. In the wintertime, Abraham Lake is a popular destination for ice fishing.

Due to its location alongside several PLUZ, there are opportunities to ride OHV near the lake but note that you can’t ride an OHV below the high water mark or on the lakebed. If you are camping in one of these PLUZ you will need to set up at least 100m from the lake.

Wildlife at Abraham Lake

If you were to decide to head up to Abraham Lake there is a very good chance that you will spot some of the local wildlife. Bears, elk, moose, deer and bighorn sheep all call the area home. Be watchful however because there are also mountain lions in the Canadian Rockies and they do look for people separated from the group. You will definitely want to keep children and pets nearby whenever possible.

Why is the region known as David Thompson Country
Explorer & Cartographer David Thompson’s 1814 map of west of Lake Winnipeg. This is present day Saskatchewan and Alberta.

David Thompson Country is what Alberta calls the tourism region in the Nordegg/Rocky Mountain House area.

David Thompson himself was a British explorer, surveyor, and cartographer who was instrumental in the mapping of the North American west. He arrived in Canada in 1770 to be employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company. He ended up mapping much of western Canada and even down into the United States (Idaho/Montana/Oregon). He was the first person to map many of the Rocky Mountain rivers in Alberta and British Columbia.

His work played a huge role in the expansion of the fur trade in the west. He also made large contributions in the negotiation of the Oregon Treaty (1846) which settled a border dispute between the United States and Canada in the British Columbia/Washington region.


Due to his heavy involvement in shaping the newly established west, Canada was able to establish efficient fur trading in the Rocky Mountains and many places are named after him today. David Thompson Country, David Thompson Highway, the Thompson River, and even Thompson Falls, Montana are all named in honour of David Thompson.

This section was inspired by reading an article published by the local Wander Woman Travel Magazine who did an article on Abraham Lake – It is worth checking out that website because they also have some good content on Abraham Lake.


In conclusion, if you are looking for an amazing place to camp this summer or just get away for the day – Abraham Lake is an incredible destination that is sure to inspire awe. Just remember: leave the lake cleaner than you find it for future Albertan’s to enjoy.

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