Glacier National Park...
Sep 19, 2009
|Today Larry, Onyx and I traveled once again to see Glacier National Park. We first visited the park in 2006, but the weather was poor and visibility consisted of low lying clouds and sprinkles of rain. In fact, we were forced to turn around at Logan Pass. Today we were blessed with wonderful weather most of our trip. Toward the end of the day we were chased by a small storm and did eventually get a few raindrops. And once we dropped down the far side of Logan Pass, we encountered gusts of heavy wind. Brrr, it was cold for a few of our last stops, but worth every one of them! We took over 250 pictures today so I narrowed it down to about 30. Hope that's not too many for you! In case you know nothing about this absolutely beautiful area I've posted some history on it below. I found it to be interesting. Hopefully you will too!.....
Recent archaeological surveys have found evidence of human use dating back over 10,000 years. These people may have been the ancestors of tribes that live in the area today. By the time the first European explorers came to this region, several different tribes inhabited the area. The Blackfeet Indians controlled the vast prairies east of the mountains. The Salish and Kootenai Indians lived and hunted in the western valleys. They also traveled east of the mountains to hunt buffalo.
In the early 1800’s, French, English, and Spanish trappers came in search of beaver. In 1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition came within 50 miles of the area that is now the park.
As the number of people moving west steadily increased, the Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai were forced onto reservations. The Blackfeet Reservation adjoins the east side of the park. The Salish and Kootenai reservation is southwest of Glacier. This entire area holds great spiritual importance to the Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai people.
The railroad over Marias Pass was completed in 1891. The completion of the Great Northern Railway allowed more people to enter the area. Homesteaders settled in the valleys west of Marias Pass and soon small towns developed.
Under pressure from miners, the mountains east of the Continental Divide were acquired in 1895 from the Blackfeet. Miners came searching for copper and gold. They hoped to strike it rich, but no large copper or gold deposits were ever located. Although the mining boom lasted only a few years, abandoned mine shafts are still found in several places in the park.
Around the turn of the century, people started to look at the land differently. Rather than just seeing the minerals they could mine or land to settle on, they started to recognize the value of its spectacular scenic beauty. Facilities for tourists started to spring up. In the late 1890's, visitors arriving at Belton (now called West Glacier) could get off the train, take a stagecoach ride a few miles to Lake McDonald, and then board a boat for an eight mile trip to the Snyder Hotel. No roads existed in the mountains, but the lakes allowed boat travel into the wilderness.
Soon people, like George Bird Grinnell, pushed for the creation of a national park. Grinnell was an early explorer to this part of Montana and spent many years working to get the park established. The area was made a Forest Preserve in 1900, but was open to mining and homesteading. Grinnell and others sought the added protection a national park would provide. Grinnell saw his efforts rewarded in 1910 when President Taft signed the bill establishing Glacier as the country's 10th national park.
After the creation of the park, the growing staff of park rangers needed housing and offices to help protect the new park. The increasing number of park visitors made the need for roads, trails, and hotels urgent. The Great Northern Railway built a series of hotels and small backcountry lodges, called chalets, throughout the park. A typical visit to Glacier involved a train ride to the park, followed by a multi-day journey on horseback. Each day after a long ride in the mountains, guests would stay at a different hotel or chalet. The lack of roads meant that, to see the interior of the park, visitors had to hike or ride a horse. Eventually, the demand for a road across the mountains led to the building of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was a huge undertaking. Even today, visitors to the park marvel at how such a road could have been built. The final section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, over Logan Pass, was completed in 1932 after 11 years of work. The road is considered an engineering feat and is a National Historic Landmark. It is one of the most scenic roads in North America. The construction of the road forever changed the way visitors would experience Glacier National Park. Future visitors would drive over sections of the park that previously had taken days of horseback riding to see.
Fortunately for us, we visited today, as the Going-to-the-Sun road is closing at midnight September 20th between Avalanche and Logan's Pass for some accelerated road work. There will still be access from the East entrance at St. Mary's to Logan Pass, but that stretch of road is quite different than traveling in from the West entrance. Still beautiful, but not the same dramatic views. It was getting quite late when we arrived at the end of our journey so we decided to not go back over the mountain but skirt around the edge of it. Wow, it was a LONG trip back home. Not sure I would go that way again. But, we had a wonderful day anyway.
Bottom line, I highly recommend that at least once in your lifetime each & every one of you come and experience Glacier's pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes. Totally awesome!!!!