David Thompson Country is a network of wilderness parks in the Alberta Rockies region on the eastern slopes and foothills of the Canadian Rockies. This is a large region but its eastern boundary is about an hour and a half drive west of Red Deer, along the David Thompson Highway (Highway 11).
Towns & villages
- 1 Nordegg − small hamlet and former coal mining town
- 2 Cline River − small settlement west of Nordegg
David Thompson County is a name used in reference to a recreation area and series of parks west of Rocky Mountain House along the David Thompson Highway (Highway 11). The area is less developed than areas further south such as Kananaskis County. The hamlet of Nordegg serves as the dividing line between the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountain foothills to the east.
The area derives its name from David Thompson, a British-Canadian fur trader, surveyor, and cartographer who mapped 4.9 million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles) of North America. Thompson used Rocky Mountain House, a fur trading post, as a launching point to find passage to the Pacific Ocean, and travelled west through the area to the headwaters of the Columbia River.
From the east, drive west from Red Deer, midway between Calgary and Edmonton, along Highway 11. One can also approach from the west via the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) from Banff National Park; however, a parks pass is required to travel Highway 93 and the small portion of Highway 11 within the park.
The Forestry Trunk Road (Highway 734) is a gravel road that runs north-south from Nordegg and provides additional access to the area.
- 1 Abraham Lake (35 km west of Nordegg along Hwy 11). An artificial lake along the North Saskatchewan River and Alberta's largest reservoir. The lake has the blue colour of other glacial lakes in the Rocky Mountains. During the winter, trapped methane from decaying plants on the lake bed causes frozen bubbles to form under the ice on the lake's surface. This phenomenon creates bubbles that become trapped within the ice, in suspended animation, just below the surface as the lake begins to freeze.
- 2 Brazeau Collieries Historic Mine Site (Nordegg National Historic Site), 4002 Stuart Street, Nordegg. The Brazeau Collieries Historic Mine Site is a Provincial and National Historic Resource; there are guided tours of this industrial coal mine site during the summer months. The tours are two-hour-long guided walks. Journey through a 1950s coal briquette plant or tour the auxiliary buildings to discover how this remote facility operated and go into a mine entrance. Tours of the Brazeau Collieries Historic Mine Site start at the Nordegg Heritage Centre.
- 3 Crescent Falls (Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area) (27 km west of Nordegg; 2.5 km from Hwy 11). A series of two waterfalls located on the Bighorn River. Camping and hiking available.
- 4 Ram Falls (64 km south of Nordegg on Hwy 734), ☏ +1 403-845-8349. Camping and hiking available. There is no drinking water or firewood available on site, so please plan ahead and bring your own before you visit. Cellphone reception is also very limited in Ram Falls Provincial Park, so it is best to print a map instead of relying on GPS.
- 1 Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve. The Kootenay Plains were visited by David Thompson in the early 1800s. The area has long been important to Aboriginal people; several sundance lodges are located on the plains. The reserve protects an area that is significant for historical, native and environmental reasons while the nearby Kootenay Plains Provincial Recreation Area provides a basecamp from where to explore it. Activities include birding and backcountry hiking, including a 5-km trail from the day use parking area to Siffleur Falls. Public access in the reserve is restricted to foot only and overnight camping and open fires are prohibited in Ecological Reserves.
- Hiking. David Thompson Country offers numerous hiking opportunities for both day and overnight excursions.
- Horseback riding
- 2 McKenzie’s Trail West, Cline River, ☏ +1 403-721-7433. Family-run outfit with a 50-year history of guiding unique Wilderness Horseback Vacations into some of the most untouched and spectacular wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. McKenzie’s offers a variety of hourly trail rides in scenic locations, a genuine Cowboy BBQ, as well as host a variety of special events.
- 3 Ram River Tours (South Ram Outfitters) (30 km south of Nordegg on Hwy 734, watch for signs), ☏ +1 403-844-0408. Offers day rides, back-country and base camp cabin rentals, camping available.
The David Thompson Resort has a restaurant, but otherwise, either eat a meal Rocky Mountain House or bring your own food beforehand.
- Miners' Cafe, 3 Stuart St, Nordegg (Nordegg Museum and Visitor Information Centre), ☏ +1 403-721-2277. M-Tu Th-Su 9AM-6PM. Famous for its pies, also serves soup and sandwiches. Closed Wednesdays.
- 1 David Thompson Resort, Cline River, ☏ +1 403-721-2103, toll-free: +1-888-810-2103, fax: +1 403-721-2267, firstname.lastname@example.org. Features a 45-unit hotel, a 108-site campground with showers, washrooms, firewood, laundry, and fully serviced cabins. Fuel and restaurant on site.
- 2 Aurum Lodge, 374021 Hwy 11 (near Cline River, about 44 km west of Nordegg), ☏ +1 403-721-2117, email@example.com. Check-in: 3:30PM, check-out: 10:30AM. Established 1999. Eco-tourism country inn and cabin in the Rocky Mountains, close to Banff National Park. Overlooking Abraham Lake, the lodge is surrounded by mountains and forests. Open year-round, rooms in the lodge come with partial meal service whereas self-contained units in a duplex cabin and apartment include kitchens for guests wishing to prepare their own meals. Advance reservations are requested and minimum stays apply. $219-299.
- 3 Cheechako Cabins, 205 Grouse Meadow Lane, Nordegg, ☏ +1 403-721-2230. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Each cabin is self-contained with a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom, electric heat, wood-burning stove, propane BBQ, and private deck. There are 3 cabins available for short- or long-term stays. No wi-fi.
- 4 Expanse Cottages, 305 Shunda Creek Road, Nordegg, ☏ +1 403-550-4682, toll-free: +1-877-706- 5701.
- 5 HI-Nordegg / Shunda Creek Hostel, 321 Shunda Creek Road, Nordegg, ☏ +1 403-721-2140, toll-free: +1-888-748-6321, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 5PM, check-out: 10AM. $30+.
- Nordegg Vacation Rentals, Nordegg, toll-free: +1-855-NORDEGG (6673344), email@example.com. Several properties to choose from, All properties have wood burning fireplaces and outdoor fire pits and are a great home base for exploring the West Country on foot, bike, skis, horse, quad, or snowmobile.
David Thompson Highway
- 6 Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area (5 km east of Nordegg on Hwy 11). Small, quiet campground has access to canoeing, kayaking, and hiking, or head downstream to find a good fishing hole.
- 7 Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area (24 km west of Nordegg on Hwy 11, 4 km north on access road).
- 8 Dry Haven Provincial Recreation Area (18 km west of Nordegg on Hwy 11). Small campground has open and treed sites suitable for tents and RVs. Fishing and hiking opportunities abound in the surrounding area.
- 9 Fish Lake Provincial Recreation Area (Shunda Lake) (6 km west of Nordegg on Hwy 11, 2 km south on access road). Over 100 sites, including power, unserviced, waterfront and pull-through sites. You may canoe or boat using an electric motor on the lake, which is stocked with rainbow trout. There is hiking, mountain biking, swimming, and access to OHV trails in the area.
- 10 Goldeye Lake Provincial Recreation Area (11 km west of Nordegg on Hwy 11). Goldeye Lake is a popular with canoeing, swimming and excellent fishing. Nearby hiking trails include Coliseum Mountain, Baldy Mountain, Bighorn River at Crescent Falls and Siffleur Falls.
- 11 Kootenay Plains Provincial Recreational Area (Two O-Clock Creek Campground) (61 km west of Nordegg on Hwy 11). The Kootenay Plains are significant for local First Nations (indigenous) people because of the grave sites on the plains. The nearby ecological reserve protects the area's unique grassland vegetation.
- 12 Saunders Provincial Recreation Area (22 km east of Nordegg on Hwy 11, 4 km south on Saunders Alexo Road). This recreation area (accessible by road and water) provides access to the North Saskatchewan River for canoes, kayaks, rafts and river boats. The trip to Rocky Mountain House takes approximately 8 hours by canoe.
- 13 Thompson Creek Provincial Recreation Area (83 km west of Nordegg on Hwy 11). On the banks of the North Saskatchewan River in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. There are over 50 well-treed sites, suitable for RVs and tents. A trail leads to scenic views of the river valley.
Forestry Trunk Road
- 14 Aylmer Provincial Recreation Area (12 km south of Nordegg on Hwy 734). Unserviced campsites but be prepared getting here with a vehicle that is capable for winding gravel roads. Situated next to the North Saskatchewan River, Aylmer is an excellent site for canoeists looking to start their journey or have a break on their trip along the river.
- 15 Brown Creek Provincial Recreation Area (45 km north of Nordegg on Hwy 734). small, treed campground provides opportunities for activities in the surrounding area: fishing, mountain biking, OHV trails (outside the recreation area), wildlife viewing and backcountry skiing.
- 16 Elk Creek Provincial Recreation Area (80 km south of Nordegg on Hwy 734; 77 km southwest of Rocky Mountain House via Hwy 752). Small unserviced campground, fishing nearby at the Elk Creek Fish Pond
- 17 Peppers Lake Provincial Recreation Area (84 km south of Nordegg on Hwy 734). Small campground has quiet, treed sites with close lake access. Go fishing or tour the shoreline by canoe or electric powered boat. An equestrian staging area is 2 km away.
- 18 Ram Falls Provincial Park (64 km south of Nordegg on Hwy 734), ☏ +1 403-845-8349. Over 50 sites and is a mix of first-come, first-served sites and sites available for reservation. You must register yourself for the first-come, first-served, so bring cash or cheque if you plan to take advantage of them. The campground has vault toilets, and there is no firewood or drinking water available on site. As the evenings can get quite chilly in the early and later parts of the season, it is advised that you bring an ample supply of firewood.
David Thompson Country is quite isolated, so cell coverage can be spotty, especially the further west you travel and the further you venture from Highway 11. Most campgrounds have a manual water pump, but it is recommended to bring your own drinking water. The Forestry Trunk Road is a gravel road with no cell coverage, so heed the signs and be aware that it is an active logging and oil exploration road. The nearest hospital, and other amenities, are in Rocky Mountain House.
Continue west to Banff National Park and the Icefields Parkway.
|Routes through David Thompson Country|
|ENDS at N S ← Banff National Park ←||W E||→ Rocky Mountain House → Red Deer|