Glacier National Park (U.S.)

Glacier National Park is an American national park located in northwestern Montana, on the Canada–United States border, adjacent to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada—the two parks are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The park encompasses more than 1 million acres (4,000 km2) and includes parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains), more than 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals. This vast pristine ecosystem is the centerpiece of what has been referred to as the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem," a region of protected land encompassing 16,000 sq mi (41,000 km2).

The region that became Glacier National Park was first inhabited by Native Americans. Upon the arrival of European explorers, it was dominated by the Blackfeet in the east and the Flathead in the western regions. Under pressure, the Blackfeet ceded the m...Read more

Glacier National Park is an American national park located in northwestern Montana, on the Canada–United States border, adjacent to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada—the two parks are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The park encompasses more than 1 million acres (4,000 km2) and includes parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains), more than 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals. This vast pristine ecosystem is the centerpiece of what has been referred to as the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem," a region of protected land encompassing 16,000 sq mi (41,000 km2).

The region that became Glacier National Park was first inhabited by Native Americans. Upon the arrival of European explorers, it was dominated by the Blackfeet in the east and the Flathead in the western regions. Under pressure, the Blackfeet ceded the mountainous parts of their treaty lands in 1895 to the federal government; it later became part of the park. Soon after the establishment of the park on May 11, 1910, a number of hotels and chalets were constructed by the Great Northern Railway. These historic hotels and chalets are listed as National Historic Landmarks and a total of 350 locations are on the National Register of Historic Places. By 1932 work was completed on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, later designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, which provided motorists easier access to the heart of the park.

Glacier National Park's mountains began forming 170 million years ago when ancient rocks were forced eastward up and over much younger rock strata. Known as the Lewis Overthrust, these sedimentary rocks are considered to have some of the finest examples of early life fossils on Earth. The current shapes of the Lewis and Livingston mountain ranges and positioning and size of the lakes show the telltale evidence of massive glacial action, which carved U-shaped valleys and left behind moraines that impounded water, creating lakes. Of the estimated 150 glaciers over 25 acres in size which existed in the park in the mid-19th century during the late Little Ice Age, only 25 active glaciers remained by 2010. Scientists studying the glaciers in the park have estimated that all the active glaciers may disappear by 2030 if current climate patterns persist.

Glacier National Park still maintains almost all of its modern, original native plant and animal species (since discovery by Europeans). Large mammals such as American black bear, grizzly bear, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, mountain lion and mountain goats, as well as gray wolf, wolverine and Canadian lynx inhabit the park. Hundreds of species of birds, more than a dozen fish species, and a quite a few reptiles and amphibian species have been documented. Species of butterflies, pollinating insects and other invertebrates range in the thousands.

The park has numerous ecosystems, ranging from prairie to tundra. The easternmost forests of western redcedar and hemlock grow in the southwest portion of the park. Forest fires are annually common in the park. There has been a fire every year of the park's existence except for in 1964. In total, 64 fires occurred in 1936 alone, the most on-record. In 2003, six fires burned approximately 136,000 acres (550 km2), more than 13% of the park.

Glacier National Park borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada—the two parks are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and were designated as the world's first International Peace Park in 1932. Both parks were designated by the United Nations as Biosphere Reserves in 1976, and in 1995 as World Heritage Sites. In April 2017, the joint park received a provisional Gold Tier designation as Waterton-Glacier International Dark Sky Park through the International Dark Sky Association, the first transboundary dark sky park.

 Blackfeet camp at upper St. Mary Lake, c. 1916[1]

According to archeological evidence, Native Americans first arrived in the Glacier area some 10,000 years ago. The earliest occupants with lineage to current tribes were the Flathead (Salish) and Kootenai,[2] Shoshone, and Cheyenne. The Blackfeet lived on the eastern slopes of what later became the park, as well as the Great Plains immediately to the east.[3] The park region provided the Blackfeet shelter from the harsh winter winds of the plains, allowing them to supplement their traditional bison hunts with other game meat. The Blackfeet Indian Reservation borders the park in the east, while the Flathead Indian Reservation is located west and south of the park. When the Blackfeet Reservation was first established in 1855 by the Lame Bull Treaty, it included the eastern area of the current park up to the Continental Divide. To the Blackfeet, the mountains of this area, especially Chief Mountain and the region in the southeast at Two Medicine, were considered the "Backbone of the World" and were frequented during vision quests.[4] In 1895 Chief White Calf of the Blackfeet authorized the sale of the mountain area, some 800,000 acres (3,200 km2), to the U.S. government for $1.5 million, with the understanding that they would maintain usage rights to the land for hunting as long as the ceded strip will be "public land of the United States".[5] This established the current boundary between the park and the reservation.[6][7]

Far away in northwestern Montana, hidden from view by clustering mountain peaks, lies an unmapped corner—the Crown of the Continent.

George Bird Grinnell (1901)[8]

While exploring the Marias River in 1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition came within 50 mi (80 km) of the area that is now the park.[9] A series of explorations after 1850 helped to shape the understanding of the area that later became the park. In 1885 George Bird Grinnell hired the noted explorer (and later well-regarded author) James Willard Schultz to guide him on a hunting expedition into what would later become the park.[10] After several more trips to the region, Grinnell became so inspired by the scenery that he spent the next two decades working to establish a national park. In 1901 Grinnell wrote a description of the region in which he referred to it as the "Crown of the Continent." His efforts to protect the land made him the premier contributor to this cause.[11] A few years after Grinnell first visited, Henry L. Stimson and two companions, including a Blackfoot, climbed the steep east face of Chief Mountain in 1892.[12]

In 1891, the Great Northern Railway crossed the Continental Divide at Marias Pass 5,213 ft (1,589 m), which is along the southern boundary of the park. In an effort to attract passengers, the Great Northern soon advertised the splendors of the region to the public. The company lobbied the United States Congress. In 1897 the park was designated as a forest preserve.[13] Under the forest designation, mining was still allowed but was not commercially successful. Meanwhile, proponents of protecting the region kept up their efforts. In 1910, under the influence of the Boone and Crockett Club,[14] and spearheaded by George Bird Grinnell and Louis W. Hill, president of the Great Northern, a bill was introduced into the U.S. Congress which designated the region a national park. This bill was signed into law by President William Howard Taft in 1910.[15] In 1910 Grinnell wrote, "This Park, the country owes to the Boone and Crockett Club, whose members discovered the region, suggested it being set aside, caused the bill to be introduced into congress and awakened interest in it all over the country".[16]

 Many Glacier Hotel on Swiftcurrent Lake

From May until August 1910, the forest reserve supervisor, Fremont Nathan Haines, managed the park's resources as the first acting superintendent. In August 1910, William Logan was appointed the park's first superintendent. While the forest reserve designation confirmed the traditional usage rights of the Blackfeet, the enabling legislation of the national park does not mention the guarantees to the Native Americans. The United States government's position was that with the special designation as a National Park the mountains ceded their multi-purpose public land status and the former rights ceased to exist as the Court of Claims confirmed it in 1935. Some Blackfeet held that their traditional usage rights still exist de jure. In the 1890s, armed standoffs were avoided narrowly several times.[17]

The Great Northern Railway, under the supervision of president Louis W. Hill, built a number of hotels and chalets throughout the park in the 1910s to promote tourism. These buildings, constructed and operated by a Great Northern subsidiary called the Glacier Park Company, were modeled on Swiss architecture as part of Hill's plan to portray Glacier as "America's Switzerland". Hill was especially interested in sponsoring artists to come to the park, building tourist lodges that displayed their work. His hotels in the park never made a profit but they attracted thousands of visitors who came via the Great Northern.[18] Vacationers commonly took pack trips on horseback between the lodges or utilized the seasonal stagecoach routes to gain access to the Many Glacier areas in the northeast.[19]

 Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island

The chalets, built between 1910 and 1915, included Belton, St. Mary, Going-to-the-Sun, Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Sperry, Granite Park, Cut Bank, and Gunsight Lake. The railway also built Glacier Park Lodge, adjacent to the park on its east side, and the Many Glacier Hotel on the east shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. Louis Hill personally selected the sites for all of these buildings, choosing each for their dramatic scenic backdrops and views. Another developer, John Lewis, built the Lewis Glacier Hotel on Lake McDonald in 1913–1914. The Great Northern Railway bought the hotel in 1930 and it was later renamed Lake McDonald Lodge.[20] The Great Northern Railway also established four tent camps at Red Eagle Lake, Cosley Lake, Fifty Mountain and Goat Haunt. The chalets and tent camps were located roughly 10–18 miles apart, and were connected by a network of trails that allowed visitors to tour Glacier's backcountry on foot or horseback. These trails were also constructed by the railroad. "Because of a lack of federal funds Great Northern assumed financial responsibility for all trail construction during this period, but was eventually reimbursed as funding became available."[21] Today, only Sperry, Granite Park, and Belton Chalets are still in operation, while a building formerly belonging to Two Medicine Chalet is now Two Medicine Store.[22] The surviving chalet and hotel buildings within the park are now designated as National Historic Landmarks.[23] In total, 350 buildings and structures within the park are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including ranger stations, backcountry patrol cabins, fire lookouts, and concession facilities.[24] In 2017, Sperry Chalet closed early for the season due to the Sprague Fire which subsequently burned the entire interior portions of the structure, leaving only the stone exterior standing. Due to damage, the chalet was closed indefinitely and while the exterior stonework was stabilized in the fall of 2017.[25] The rebuilding process was completed during the summers of 2018 and 2019,[26] and a reopening ceremony was held in February 2020.[27]

 Road construction along the Going-to-the-Sun Road with Going-to-the-Sun Mountain in the background, 1932

After the park was well established and visitors began to rely more on automobiles, work was begun on the 53-mile (85 km) long Going-to-the-Sun Road, completed in 1932. Also known simply as the Sun Road, the road bisects the park and is the only route that ventures deep into the park, going over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, 6,646 ft (2,026 m) at the midway point. The Sun Road is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1985 was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.[28] Another route, along the southern boundary between the park and National Forests, is US Route 2, which crosses the Continental Divide at Marias Pass and connects the towns of West Glacier and East Glacier.[29]

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a New Deal relief agency for young men, played a major role between 1933 and 1942 in developing both Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. CCC projects included reforestation, campground development, trail construction, fire hazard reduction, and fire-fighting work.[30] The increase in motor vehicle traffic through the park during the 1930s resulted in the construction of new concession facilities at Swiftcurrent and Rising Sun, both designed for automobile-based tourism. These early auto camps are now also listed on the National Register.[22]

^ Schultz, James Willard (1916). Blackfeet Tales of Glacier National Park. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. ^ "History & Culture". National Park Service. Archived from the original on September 5, 2022. Retrieved April 19, 2015. ^ "American Indian Tribes". National Park Service. June 18, 2016. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019. ^ Grinnell, George Bird (1892). Blackfoot Lodge Tales (PDF). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 978-0-665-06625-2. Archived from the original on October 17, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2010. ^ Spence, Mark David (1999). Dispossessing the Wilderness. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-19-514243-3. ^ Weber, Samantha (April 23, 2019). "The Blackfeet Nation is opening its own national park". High Country News – Know the West. Archived from the original on April 23, 2019. Retrieved January 2, 2021. ^ Ashby, Christopher S. (1985). Blackfeet Agreement of 1895 and Glacier National Park (MS thesis). University of Montana. Archived from the original on July 24, 2021. Retrieved January 2, 2021 – via ScholarWorks. ^ Yenne, Bill (2006). Images of America-Glacier National Park. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Publications. p. Introduction. ISBN 978-0-7385-3011-6. ^ "Early Settlers". National Park Service. June 13, 2016. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019. ^ Hanna, Warren L (1986). "Exploring With Grinnell". The Life and Times of James Willard Schultz (Apikuni). Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 133–145. ISBN 978-0-8061-1985-4. ^ Grinnell, George Bird (May–October 1901). "The Crown of the Continent". The Century Magazine. 62: 660–672. Archived from the original on July 22, 2023. Retrieved April 13, 2010. ^ Robinson, Donald H. (May 1960). Glacier NP: Through The Years In Glacier National Park: An Administrative History. Glacier Natural History Association, Inc.In Cooperatin with theNational Park Service. p. 20. Retrieved January 2, 2021. ^ Spence, Mark David (July 1996). "Crown of the Continent, Backbone of the World". Environmental History. 1 (3): 29–49 [35]. doi:10.2307/3985155. JSTOR 3985155. S2CID 143232340.(registration required) ^ Grinnell, George Bird (1910). History of the Boone and Crockett Club. New York, New York: Forest and Stream Publishing Co. p. 9. ^ "People". National Park Service. August 22, 2016. Archived from the original on May 29, 2019. Retrieved May 29, 2019. ^ Grinnell, George Bird (1910). The History of the Boone and Crockett Club. New York, New York: Forest and Stream Publishing Company. p. 49. ^ Spence, Mark David (July 1996). "Crown of the Continent, Backbone of the World". Environmental History. 1 (3): 40–41. doi:10.2307/3985155. JSTOR 3985155. S2CID 143232340.(registration required) ^ Chacón, Hipólito Rafael (Summer 2010). "The Art of Glacier National Park". Montana: The Magazine of Western History. Montana.gov. 60 (2): 56–74. ^ "Many Glacier Hotel Historic Structure Report" (PDF). National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. July 2002. Retrieved April 13, 2010. ^ Harrison, Laura Soullière (2001). "Lake McDonald Lodge". Architecture in the Parks. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Archived from the original on May 14, 2013. Retrieved April 13, 2010. ^ Doran, Jeffrey J. (2023). Ramble On: How Hiking Became One of the Most Popular Outdoor Activities in the World. Amazon Digital Services LLC - Kdp. p. 140. ISBN 979-8373963923. ^ a b Djuff, Ray (2001). View with a Room: Glacier's Historic Hotels and Chalets. Helena, Montana: Farcountry Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-56037-170-0. ^ Harrison, Laura Soullière (1986). "Great Northern Railway Buildings". Architecture in the Parks. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Archived from the original on April 17, 2006. Retrieved April 13, 2010. ^ "General Management Plan" (PDF). National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. April 1999. p. 49. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 27, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2010. ^ Backus, Perry (September 25, 2017). "Glacier Park plans to begin stabilization efforts on Sperry Chalet in October". missoulian.com. Archived from the original on December 13, 2022. Retrieved October 31, 2017. ^ "Sperry Chalet Environmental Assessment Complete". National Park Service. May 17, 2018. Archived from the original on July 22, 2023. Retrieved June 6, 2018. ^ Wells, Sean (February 26, 2020). "Glacier National Park officials celebrate reopening of Sperry Chalet". Archived from the original on December 13, 2022. Retrieved April 2, 2020. ^ Guthrie, C. W. (2006). Going-To-The-Sun Road: Glacier National Park's Highway to the Sky. Helena, Montana: Farcountry Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-56037-335-3. ^ Cite error: The named reference GNP 2020 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Matthew A. Redinger, "The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Development of Glacier and Yellowstone Parks, 1933–1942," Pacific Northwest Forum, 1991, Vol. 4 Issue 2, pp 3–17
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