Access to East Side of Glacier National Park Reopens

From the official press release . . .

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [March 17, 2021] – Glacier National Park announces access to the east side of the park will reopened on March 18 at Two Medicine, Cut Bank and St. Mary for foot traffic, skis and snowshoes. Regular winter closures remain in place. Chief Mountain Road will remain closed at the park boundary until road conditions permit.

The entrance at St. Mary allows vehicle traffic on Going-to-the-Sun Road for 1.5 miles until the winter gate closure at St. Mary Campground. Access past the gate is allowed by foot, skiing and snowshoeing as is typical of normal winter seasons. The St. Mary Campground remains closed to winter camping until further notice.

The roads into Cut Bank, and Two Medicine remain closed to vehicle traffic for the winter, but access by foot, skiing and snowshoeing is available past the gates as is typical of normal winter seasons.  Construction began on Many Glacier Road on March 15 and is closed to vehicular traffic and closed to hiker/biker traffic Monday through Friday through May 28.

Visitors are reminded that winter conditions are unpredictable and can quickly become dangerous. Visitors should prepare for icy conditions, high winds, and snow. Cellular communications in the park are extremely limited.

Access to the park east of the Continental Divide has been closed since March 2020 to protect the Blackfeet Indian Reservation population from COVID-19 due to high-risk members of the community. The decision to allow access to the east side was made after close consultation between health officials from the National Park Service, Indian Health Service, the Blackfeet Tribe, Glacier County and the state of Montana.

North Fork fires in Glacier Park still under investigation — $10,000 reward offered by NFLA

See below for the text of a press release announcing a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons who set a series of fires in Glacier Park last Thursday, July 23. Before you start wondering how the NFLA got so rich all of a sudden, we are acting as a representative for an anonymous donor. The donor will supply the reward money as needed — up to $10,000. Crimestoppers will manage everything, including the reward payout…

Remains of Ford Creek Cabin after July 23 arson fire - taken July 26, 2020 - GNP
Remains of Ford Creek Cabin after July 23 arson fire – taken July 26, 2020 – GNP

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [July 28, 2020] – Glacier National Park and Flathead Crimestoppers are asking the assistance of the public in providing information on multiple suspected arson fires started in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park last week. The North Fork Landowners Association is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for the fires.     

 Early in the morning of July 23, a local resident woke rangers at Polebridge Ranger Station reporting a nearby fire. Later, the Numa Ridge fire lookout reported smoke near Ford Creek. Rangers and NPS fire crews eventually found a total of eight fire sites along the Inside North Fork Road between Logging Creek and Kintla Lake. Most had begun in dry logs or brush, but one fire destroyed a historic structure. All the fires were extinguished shortly after being discovered. 

The historic Ford Creek patrol cabin was a total loss when rangers arrived on scene. The cabin was built as a “snowshoe cabin” in 1928 and has been used for decades for winter backcountry patrols. The structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as having architectural and historic significance, exemplifying the rustic architecture of early park backcountry structures, and the history of Glacier National Park’s development and administration. The cabin site is approximately eight miles north of Polebridge on the Inside North Fork Road. 

 On the evening of July 22, suspicious fires were also reported at the Glacier Gateway Elementary school and at the Summit Mountain Lodge at Marias Pass.  Fire investigators are working together to see if those fires may be related. 

 Anyone witnessing suspicious activity on the night of July 22 or early morning of July 23 in the Polebridge or North Fork area is encouraged to call Flathead Crimestoppers at 406-752-TIPS (8477).  All calls remain anonymous. Glacier National Park also has a tip line established, 406-888-7077, if you would like to talk with a park ranger. 

Official Press Release (PDF format)

Glacier Park’s Polebridge entrance to reopen June 15, with restrictions

I received the following note from Jim Dahlstrom, the North Fork District Ranger, concerning the reopening of Glacier Park’s Polebridge entrance on Monday, June 15.

Jim will be available to answer questions about this issue at the NFLA general membership meeting, 8:00pm, Sunday, June 14 at Sondreson Hall. He is the first item on the agenda.

Please note that Sondreson Hall is operating under some COVID-19-related usage restrictions, including a 50-person maximum capacity limit. See “COVID-19: Sondreson Hall Use Restrictions and Guidelines” for details.

…I wanted to pass along some information for you to share at your upcoming meeting this Sunday, regarding Glacier National Park’s phased reopening plans.  I’m sure you’ve seen some of the info we have posted on our website, but to further explain specifically what we’ll be doing in the North Fork this summer (a press release will be going out tomorrow, but not including all of the information here):

  1.  The North Fork area will open on June 15th as a day use only area.  No overnight camping in the frontcountry campgrounds or backcountry.  Backcountry camping should be available about the last week in June, and I would expect we will open our frontcountry campgrounds shortly thereafter.  No fees will be collected, and this year we will have a strict limit to the number of vehicles allowed beyond the gate at one time in the North Fork.  We will start with 150 cars and see how congested that is, and may adjust down if we find that to be unmanageable.  We will allow a limited number of vehicles to form a queue, and when an appropriate number of vehicles leave the area, we will allow the requisite number of vehicles in.  Be aware that we have a total of about 100 parking places in the whole area, including Bowman, Kintla, and Logging Creek, and several small trailheads.  Over the past 3 years, we have averaged around 300-500 vehicles per day, with parking lots turning over about 2-3 times per day.
  2. The Ranger Station will not be open to the public.  This is an effort to attempt to reduce exposure to our employees.  Information and publications will be available outside and rangers will be stationed at both the window and outside on the lawn to answer questions.  The public restrooms at Polebridge will be open, and cleaned and disinfected 3x per day.  Vault toilets at the developed areas will get the same treatment 2x per day.  Water will be available at the campgrounds and sanitizing pumps in key locations.
  3. At 4:30 every day, the inbound gate at Polebridge will be closed and a sign placed indicating its hours as a day use only location.  Visitors in the North Fork after 4:30 will be allowed to exit at their leisure, but again, no overnight use is permitted.
  4. No boating on any North Fork lakes will be available initially.  The AIS inspection station in Apgar is currently the only one operating in the park (and only for non-motorized boating) due to reduced staffing and limited emergency response throughout the park.  I would expect that additional park waters will open incrementally as the season progresses.  At this time, we will not be able to issue any NF resident annual passes for boating as well, as it would complicate visitor perceptions.  NPS employees are not allowed to participate in recreational boating as well, except on Lake McDonald.

This is a lot of information to digest, so if anything is unclear please reach out to me. I’ll  be available by cell the rest of the weekend, and I am more than happy to come to the meeting to deliver this information in person.  Just say the word and I’ll be there.