Exploring Alberta’s Crown Land: Upper Clearwater/Ram – 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)

Upper Clearwater/Ram is a Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ) found in Central Alberta. Like other PLUZ, Upper Clearwater/Ram is a popular place for backcountry campers and off-road enthusiasts. It is most similar to Job/Cline PLUZ except that there more access to this PLUZ. The PLUZ is largely mountainous however there are flats between the valleys, Ya Ha Tinda Ranch to the south, and Abraham Lake to the north. After Kiska/Willson PLUZ, Upper Clearwater/Ram has the best access to Abraham Lake.

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 Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ?

Upper Clearwater/Ram contains upper subalpine, and alpine regions. 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 Upper Clearwater/Ram 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].

You will find good upper foothills terrain just east of Upper Clearwater/Ram in the Kiska/Willson PLUZ (you will likely drive through this PLUZ to access Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ). These regions will be less mountainous and more forested than the subalpine and alpine elevation levels.

What kind of wildlife exists in the Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ?

There are many different types of mammals that live within the Upper Clearwater/Ram 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 Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ including various sparrows and finches.

How big is Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ?

Upper Clearwater/Ram is a reasonably large Public Land Use Zone spanning approximately 1907 square kilometers (736 square miles) across the central, eastern slopes of the Alberta Rockies.

How to get to Upper Clearwater/Ram

Getting to Upper Clearwater/Ram is actually fairly simple.

Starting from the town of Nordegg, Alberta:

  1. Leave Nordegg heading west on the David Thompson Highway (Highway 11)
  2. Just outside Nordegg, turn south onto the Forest Trunk Road (Highway 40)
  3. After about 28.5km the road crosses a creek and takes a sharp curve. The North Ram access road is found in this 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.
    • Upper Clearwater Ram PLUZ extends along the base of the mountain range and the other side of the mountains.
    • Coordinates for North Ram Entrance: 52°17’04.2″N 116°00’13.5″W
  4. There is another road about 29.1km from the North Ram Access that heads much deeper into the Upper Clearwater Ram PLUZ. The road is called Township Road 36-2 and it located near the Ram Falls Airport & Ram Falls Provincial Park. Forestry Trunk Road will take a nearly 90 degree sharp turn right after this road (before if you coming from the south)
    • Coordinates for Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ Access: 52°05’24.5″N 115°52’48.9″W
  5. The Southern portions of the PLUZ can be accessed from the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch area on various roads and trails.

Starting from Sundre, Alberta:

  1. Head north out of Sundre on Highway 22
  2. Just outside of town, turn west onto Township Rd. 334. The road will eventually curve north
  3. Turn left immediately after the curve onto Range Road 72A and follow it through Bearberry
  4. Turn north again on highway 584 and follow it until it comes to a T intersection with the Forestry Trunk Road. Turn Northbound and the first major access road is approximately 81.7km up Forestry Trunk Road. (From this point, follow the Nordegg directions in reverse – bolded up above)

What is Allowed at Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ?

ActivityUpper Clearwater/Ram Rules
CampingRandom backcountry camping is allowed at Upper Clearwater/Ram 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 Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ. Acceptable OHV includes motorcycles, ATVs, Side by sides, and snowmobiles. Trucks and SUVs are not allowed off road at Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ. Boats are also not allowed to be used.
Non-Motorized ActivitiesHiking, Equestrian, and Cross Country skiing are allowed at Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ. Mountain biking at Upper Clearwater/Ram should be acceptable provided you aren’t constructing ramps and sticking to existing pathways.
HuntingHunting is permitted at Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ provided that you are following the Alberta Hunting Regulations.

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

Rules for Horses In Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ

Horses are permitted in Upper Clearwater/Ram, 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 allowed at Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ because generally trails are wide enough to support them.

What is near Upper Clearwater/Ram PLUZ?

Other PLUZ: Panthers Corners PLUZ (south), and Kiska/Willson PLUZ (north, east, west), Job/Cline PLUZ (northwest)

Nearby Parks: Thompson Creek Provincial Recreation Areas. Cutoff Creek, Eagle Creek, Hummingbird Public Land Recreation Area. Ram Falls Provincial Park. Banff National Park. Siffleur Wilderness Area. Ya Ha Tinda Ranch.

Closest Accommodations: Nordegg Lodge Hotel (North), Schott’s Lake Conference and Resort (South).

Closest Restaurant: The Nordegg Canteen (North), Bearberry Saloon Bar & Grill (South)

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

Closest Town(s): Nordegg, Bearberry, Sundre

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: Ya Ha Tinda, Abraham Lake, Bighorn Falls, Banff 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.

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