Waiparous: Our Favourite Free Camping Site on Crown Land

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Shortly after settling into Calgary I was taken to what would become my most frequented camping spots; a beautiful stretch of crown land called "Waiparous". Before moving to the west coast from Ontario I had no idea what 'crown land' even was, but it had slowly come to be a frequent term in my vocabulary as my adventures often start with a search for crown land along my potential route.

Crown Land by definition is...

Crown land, also known as royal domain or demesne, is a territorial area belonging to the monarch, who personifies the Crown. It is the equivalent of an entailed estate and passes with the monarchy, being inseparable from it. Today, in Commonwealth realms such as Canada and Australia, crown land is considered public land and is apart from the monarch's private estate.

But, my definition would be something like...

Crown Land, also known as fun land, is a territorial area open for use by the people in our country. It is free of fees and open to camping and various outdoor adventures.

Definitely not as official, but a good summary.

 "So... we just keep driving on this frozen river?"

"So... we just keep driving on this frozen river?"

 Green and White Areas are primarily Crown Land but each area will differ.

Green and White Areas are primarily Crown Land but each area will differ.

Crown Land is essentially a large plot of land that's open for public use. It's typically more wild and less groomed (a benefit in my eyes), doesn't have the amenities of a paid campground such as bathrooms, showers, pre-cut wood, etc. but, to me, it's better in that it's more true to being outdoors and, essentially, what camping is all about.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes a campground is nice (particularly after spending days in the wild or on crown land) but, to me, I prefer to have to work for my comforts. Enjoying a beer beside the fire at the end of a long day is always more satisfying when you know you had to work for it.

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When I was living in Ontario I wasn't as 'outdoorsy' as I have become and I spent a majority of my time in cities or back home on the St. Lawrence River. Since moving to Alberta, we've almost made a game out of exploring the vast amount of crown land in the area.

Our go-to is Waiparous as it's only 45 minutes away, has a beautiful landscape overlooking the mountains, and typically isn't as busy as the spaces closer to the mountains. For us, Waiparous is like our summer home and we've come to fall in love with the same cliff-side locations.

 The view from one of our favourite spots in Waiparous we've titled "Cliff Spot 1"

The view from one of our favourite spots in Waiparous we've titled "Cliff Spot 1"

 The view from "Cliff Spot 2"

The view from "Cliff Spot 2"

Aside from the beautiful, cliff-side camping spots, Waiparous is also known to be a hot-spot for off road and target practice. Although some people could find the noise of engines and gunfire off-putting in such a serene environment, it's avoidable if you avoid holidays, and even then, people do tend to be respectful once the sun starts setting. Also, if you find yourself in the midst of what sounds like a scene from Mad-Max, it's entertaining to laugh about the stereotypes of Alberta and smile as the true colours of 'berta life emerge.

 The "squad" at the time along "Cliff Spot 2"

The "squad" at the time along "Cliff Spot 2"

Although these Albertan stereotypes are prevalent in the area there's also the more athletic and adventurous types that have found a frozen waterfall to climb during the winter. We actually didn't know of the waterfall when we discovered the location as we were originally just driving the trails to see what the end of the traill would bring. To get here one has to cross a few rivers and drive along long stretches of ice but, somewhat surprisingly, my little RAV had no problems and we were able to watch these athletes conquer the giant falls.

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Waiparous is only an extremely small sample of the crown land or public land that covers 89% (!!) of Canada. Once you get a taste of the freedom felt on our public land the quest to discover more becomes addictive. Although I've only scratched the surface, the remarkably beautiful natural features in these areas just leave me wanting to explore more.

 Caroline, another example of crown land further north of Calgary.

Caroline, another example of crown land further north of Calgary.

Finally, if you are going to begin exploring Crown Land (you should) keep the golden rules in mind and always educate yourself on the local laws, warnings, and environmental notices. Similar to camping anywhere else, leave no trace and ideally leave the area better than you left it. Also, Crown Land laws, regulations and warnings change in each province and change with the seasons. Before you head out look up your province's website and educate yourself; you don't want to be the jerk that starts the next forest fire or drives through a protected natural environment.

Again, this is just a small taste of the available crown land across the country. Province by province the landscapes change and therefore each area will provide their own set of beautiful qualities. Myself, I can't wait to explore them, and would love any suggestions of crown land to camp in while I travel across Canada this summer. Have a favourite free camping site? Let me know! Let's go camping.

Now get out and explore! Thanks,
Dylan