Exploring Alberta’s Crown Land: Kiska/Willson – Public Land Use Zone

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)

Kiska/Willson is a Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ) found in Central Alberta. Like other PLUZ, Kiska/Willson is a popular place for backcountry campers and off-road enthusiasts. This may be the most popular PLUZ in Alberta both due to its sprawling nature, and vast diversity/accessibility in terrain. It wraps around several other PLUZ so naturally there are many different roads that go into this PLUZ. Kiska/Willson is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Alberta.

See Also: Ultimate List of All PLUZ (Crown Land) In Alberta

Official Crown Land Camping Alberta Facebook Group
The Wild Albertan has partnered with the Crown Land Camping Alberta Facebook group with the intention of sharing our crown land experiences and to become better stewards of all of the beautiful crown land that Alberta has to offer!

This group is the largest crown land group in Alberta and has been instrumental in my adventures in Alberta’s Public Land Use Zones.

Read about my experience with Crown Land Camping Alberta

What is the Ecology of the Kiska/Willson PLUZ?

Kiska/Willson is contains upper foothills, subalpine, and alpine regions. The upper foothills contains a lot of plateaus and grasslands. You will find blueberries, raspberries, bearberries, and saskatoon berries in this region. The low lying areas are largely damp muskeg – something that moose and deer love. The subalpine regions are found higher in elevation than the upper foothills but below the alpine region. The subalpine zone has cooler/wetter summers and colder winters. Vegetation in this region is largely lodgepole pine forests at lower elevations, and spruce and fir trees found higher up. Lastly, the alpine region of Kiska/Willson PLUZ exists above the treeline on the mountains. Climate is similar to the subalpine regions. These cold temperatures ensure that snow remains on top of the mountains well into the summer. Only low lying plants and lichens are able to grow in the alpine regions[1].


What kind of wildlife exists in the Kiska/Willson PLUZ?

There are many different types of mammals that live within the Kiska/Willson PLUZ including black bears, grizzly bears, moose, elk, deer, wolves, and mountain lions. In higher regions, you will also find mountain goats and bighorn sheep. There is also a vast variety of birds that reside in the Kiska/Willson PLUZ including various sparrows and finches.

How big is Kiska/Willson?

Kiska/Willson is a large Public Land Use Zone spanning approximately 1023 square kilometers (395 square miles) across the central, eastern slopes of the Alberta Rockies. Kiska/Willson is one of the sprawliest PLUZ.

Kiska/Willson actually shares borders with: Job/Cline PLUZ, Blackstone/Wapiabi PLUZ, Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ, Panther Corners PLUZ, Dormer/Sheep PLUZ, and even Ghost PLUZ. Kiska/Willson PLUZ wraps around the northern banks of Abraham Lake.

How to get to Kiska/Willson

Kiska/Willson is very accessible and can be accessed from Sundre (Cochrane via AB22) or from Nordegg.

Starting from the town of Nordegg, Alberta: Congratulations, you are already in the Kiska/Willson PLUZ! If you want to find more camping though:

  1. Leave Nordegg heading west on the David Thompson Highway (Highway 11). Highway 11 will be in Kiska/Willson PLUZ until right before Abraham Lake. Any of the turnoffs will be Crown Land along this stretch.

To access some of the land south of highway 11:

  1. Leave Nordegg heading west on the David Thompson Highway (Highway 11).
  2. Turn south onto the Forestry Trunk Road (Highway 40/734) just west of Nordegg.
    • The first 13.5km is Crown Land before Forestry Trunk Road leaves crown land for 4.7km. You will know that you are outside the PLUZ because there will be a river.
    • After the Forestry Trunk Road returns to the PLUZ, you have 3.3km of Kiska/Willson PLUZ on the west side of the road. Forestry Trunk Road will then curve back out of the PLUZ for 5km.
    • After it returns a second time to the PLUZ, there is 5.9km of crown land on both sides of the road before it leaves the PLUZ again for 1.1km. You will know where this is because on the non-crown land side, the road crosses a creek and takes a sharp curve. The North Ram access road is found in this 1.1km stretch and it follows the creek into North Ram. This road also heads into the largest area of Kiska/Willson PLUZ so there’s going to be lots of crown land down that road.
      • Coordinates for North Ram Entrance: 52°17’04.2″N 116°00’13.5″W
    • After the Forestry Trunk Road returns to the PLUZ a third time, you have 4.2km of crown land on both sides of the road. There are several access roads branching off in the stretch which will take you further into the crown land. The left branch is a lot longer and it leads to further branching. The next 17.7km of Forestry Trunk Road Kiska/Willson PLUZ.
      • Coordinates for larger access roads: 52°14’24.8″N 116°01’23.0″W
    • After the Forestry Trunk Road returns to the PLUZ for the forth time, you will have 17.4km of beautiful crown land in every direction. You will know you are in the right spot because of the Ram Falls Airport & Ram Falls Provincial Park. There’s plenty of access roads right through this stretch but the one right at the beginning leads to several different routes and as long as you take them southbound, you will be in the PLUZ. The Forestry Trunk Road will once again leave the PLUZ for 5.8km
      • Coordinates of potential camping area access road: 52°07’31.9″N 115°53’25.2″W
    • When it returns for the fifth time, there is 3.9km of crown land on both sides of the road. After this, it doesn’t return to the Kiska/Willson PLUZ for 95.2km (When Navigating from Sundre – Start here and read the directions from here in reverse)
    • When it does eventually return, it is a very brief 1.1km section of crown land. After this, the road heads into Ghost PLUZ.
  1. Starting from Sundre
    • Head north out of Sundre on Highway 22
    • Just outside of town, turn west onto Township Rd. 334. The road will eventually curve north
    • Turn left immediately after the curve onto Range Road 72A and follow it through Bearberry
    • Turn north again on highway 584 and follow it until it comes to a T intersection with the Forestry Trunk Road. Aside from the short 1.1km stretch of Kiska/Willson, the entirety of the PLUZ is north. The first time the road enters the PLUZ will be 57.8km up the road.
    • Use the Nordegg directions backwards from the Bolded bullet point above to find awesome crown land in Kiska/Willson

What is Allowed at Kiska/Willson PLUZ?

ActivityKiska/Willson Rules
CampingRandom backcountry camping is allowed at Kiska/Willson PLUZ provided that all campsites and fires are set back at least 1km from any Recreation Area, Provincial Park, or public roadway. Additionally, all camping must be at least 100 meters back from any lakeshore.
Motorized ActivitiesOff Highway Vehicles (OHV) are allowed to be used at Kiska/Willson PLUZ. Allowable OHV includes motorcycles, ATVs, Side by sides, and snowmobiles. Trucks and SUVs are not allowed off road at Kiska/Willson PLUZ. Boats are also not allowed to be used.
Non-Motorized ActivitiesHiking, Equestrian, and Cross Country skiing are allowed at Kiska/Willson PLUZ. Mountain biking at Kiska/Willson should be acceptable provided you aren’t constructing ramps and sticking to existing pathways.
HuntingHunting is permitted at Kiska/Willson PLUZ provided that you are following the Alberta Hunting Regulations.

FishingFishing is permitted at Kiska/Willson PLUZ provided that you are following Alberta’s Fishing Regulations.
Note that Alberta could alter these regulations at any time

Rules for Horses In Kiska/Willson PLUZ

Horses are permitted in Kiska/Willson, however they must be tied up at least 100 meters back from any lakeshore. Alberta Parks doesn’t want horses tied to trees however because this can damage the trees. Many people will tie their horses to their trailers instead, but if you do this – the horse must not be able to reach the drip line of any tree (basically not under the canopy of any particular tree). Additionally, equestrians cannot use electric fences at all on any Crown Land in the Bighorn Backcountry.

Horse drawn wagons are permitted at Kiska/Willson PLUZ since many of the trails are wide enough for them.

What is near Kiska/Willson PLUZ?

Other PLUZ: Blackstone/Wapiabi PLUZ (north), Job/Cline PLUZ (northwest), Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ (wraps around to the east), Panther Corners PLUZ (west), Dormer/Sheep PLUZ (southwest), and Ghost PLUZ (south)

Nearby Parks: Blackstone, Crescent Falls, Wapiabi, Goldeye Lake, Provincial Recreation Areas. Blackstone Gap, Cutoff Creek, Eagle Creek, Hummingbird Public Land Recreation Area. Ram Falls Provincial Park. Jasper National Park & Banff National Park.

Closest Accommodations: Nordegg Lodge Hotel (northern area of PLUZ), There isn’t really much accommodations within reasonable distance to the south

Closest Restaurant: The Nordegg Canteen (northern area of PLUZ), Bearberry Saloon Bar & Grill (southern area of PLUZ)

Closest Gas Station: Bighorn Service (29039 David Thompson Hwy, Nordegg, AB T0M 2H0)

Closest Town(s): Nordegg, Rocky Mountain House

Closest Major Population Center (Population 25,000+): Red Deer

Closest Hospital Emergency Room: Rocky Mountain House Health Centre (If you are on the north end of the PLUZ but east of Abraham Lake), Seton – Jasper Healthcare Centre (if you are west of Abraham Lake), Myron Thompson Health Centre – Sundre (if you are in the southern regions of the PLUZ)

Nearby Destinations: Ram Falls Provincial Park, Jasper National Park



[1] Willoughby, Michael. “RANGE PLANT COMMUNITY TYPES and CARRYING CAPACITY for the SUBALPINE and ALPINE SUBREGIONS.” Sustainable Resource Development Public Lands and Forests Division, no. 3, 2006. Open Alberta.