GNP bridge construction projects begin July 18

According to the official press release, the bridge work in Glacier Park starts off with a couple of items on the “Inside North Fork Road”…

Glacier National Park is starting a construction project to rehabilitate 13 bridges throughout the park. The work will take place over the next two years with funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law through the Federal Lands Transportation Program.

The improvements to the bridges will include bridge deck and approach repairs, timber pile replacement and repairs, timber curb replacement, painting, concrete repair, stone masonry repairs, erosion control measures, and more.

Construction begins on two Inside North Fork Road bridges on July 18. The Inside North Fork Road is managed for a rustic experience and is currently open to vehicles in certain sections and provides pedestrian, bicycle, and emergency vehicular access in other sections. Visitors will have pedestrian and bicycle access to Dutch Creek, Anaconda Creek, and Camas Creek.

The Fish Creek Bridge will have limited delays in traffic until it is fully closed to motorized, pedestrian, and bicycle access on September 6, 2022, after Fish Creek Campground closes for the year.

Read more . . .

Glacier National Park Announces Plans for 2022 Ticket System

Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going-to-the-Sun Road

From today’s press release . . .

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [December 13, 2021] – Visitors to Glacier National Park in 2022 can expect to use a ticket system to access portions of the park from May 27 through September 11, 2022.

This will be the second year of the pilot ticket system in the park, designed to manage high traffic volumes within the park and avoid gridlock.

    • To alleviate congestion, one ticket per vehicle will again be required to enter the Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) at the West Entrance, St. Mary Entrance, and the new Camas Entrance.
    • In 2022, a ticket per vehicle will also be required at the Polebridge Ranger Station to visit the North Fork area of the park.
    • The GTSR and North Fork tickets will be two separate tickets. The park anticipates a portion of tickets becoming available by early March. Like last year, visitors will need to set up an account on Recreation.gov to obtain tickets. Although the park does not charge for the tickets, Recreation.gov charges a $2 nonrefundable service fee.
    • Tickets will not be required at the St. Mary Entrance prior to the full opening of the GTSR, typically in late June. Once snow removal and road preparations are complete and the road opens to vehicle traffic to Logan Pass, tickets will be required at the St. Mary entrance through September 11, 2022.
    • The park will offer three-day tickets for GTSR rather than the seven-day ticket offered last year, and one-day tickets for the North Fork.
    • The Apgar and Sprague Creek campgrounds will require advance reservations in addition to Fish Creek and St. Mary campgrounds. Reservations will be available on Recreation.gov in 2022. Rising Sun and Avalanche campgrounds will remain first come, first served. The park anticipates all campgrounds to be operating in 2022.

The 2021 pilot of the ticket system successfully reduced traffic on GTSR during peak hours and circumvented the need to fully close access to GTSR due to congestion an estimated 35 times. This was a major accomplishment despite 2021 visitation numbers currently boasting the second highest on record for the park. Avoiding gridlock also ensured access to emergency vehicles and prevented severe vehicle back-ups onto Highway 2 outside the park.

In addition to the ticket, each vehicle entering the park is required to have an entrance pass for any entry point into the park. These passes could include any one of the following: a $35 vehicle pass, good for seven days; a valid Interagency Annual/Lifetime Pass; or a Glacier National Park Annual Pass.

Visitors with lodging, camping, transportation, or commercial activity reservations within the GTSR corridor can use their reservation for entry in lieu of a $2 ticket. (The North Fork area does not offer lodging, transportation or commercial services, and camping is first come, first served.)

Park shuttles will operate in 2022. Service levels are still to be determined.

The park anticipates continued congestion at Two Medicine and Many Glacier. As in past years, entry will be temporarily restricted when these areas reach capacity. Visitors are encouraged to plan their visit outside of peak hours (10:00 am to 2:00 pm). Visitors with service reservations (e.g. boat tours, lodging, horseback ride, guided hikes) in these valleys will be permitted entry during temporary restrictions.

Park staff are currently working on details for a utility project this summer that may require the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road to be closed at night, except for emergency vehicles. More details on this project will be forthcoming, but visitors should anticipate a late night through early morning closure from Apgar to Lake McDonald Lodge from June to September.

Recreation.gov is the designated partner of 12 federal agencies for making reservations at 4,200 facilities and activities, and over 113,000 individual reservable sites across the country. While they are a close partner, their website is not operated by Glacier National Park.

Additional details about the ticketed system are still in development. The park website will provide updates as more information becomes available.

Kate Hammond named Glacier Park’s interim superintendent

Kate Hammond
Kate Hammond

Kate Hammond, deputy regional director for the National Park Service’s intermountain region, will be Glacier Park’s interim superintendent . . .

Glacier National Park has named a temporary successor to replace outgoing Superintendent Jeff Mow, who recently announced his retirement from the park’s top administrative position, which he’s held since 2013.

Kate Hammond, who since 2016 has served as the National Park Service’s deputy regional director of the intermountain region, supervising park units in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, and who formerly worked as superintendent at Little Bighorn Battlefield Center in Montana and at Valley Forge National Historical Park near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will assume the interim position after the new year, when Mow’s retirement takes effect.

Although Mow will retire as chief of Glacier Park, he spent the summer on a temporary detail overseeing the National Park Service’s Alaska region, an administrative maneuvering that came just as the agency’s Crown Jewel debuted its controversial new ticketed entry system.

Continue reading . . .

Glacier Park to keep ticketed entry for 2022 season; will likely include Polebridge entrance

View East into Glacier NP from Glacier View Mtn, April 16, 2017 - W. K. Walker
View East into Glacier NP from Glacier View Mtn, April 16, 2017 – W. K. Walker

No real surprises here, except for the hint that the Polebridge entrance might be included in the ticketed entry system this summer. Reportedly, the park is not, in fact, just “exploring the possibility,” they are going to do it . . .

Glacier National Park will require tickets to enter the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor in the 2022 summer season, park spokeswoman Gina Kerzman confirmed Friday.

The park is also exploring the possibility of a ticketed entry system for the Polebridge entrance up the North Fork, she confirmed, but cautioned that has not been finalized.

Last summer Glacier often had the entrance to Polebridge closed by early morning, as parking lots filled at Bowman and Kintla lakes. The park required tickets to enter the Sun Road corridor from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Continue reading . . .

Glacier Park offers free transit to residents under pre-evacuation orders

For North Forkers under pre-evacuation orders, here is some very good news from Pete Webster, Acting Superintendent, Glacier National Park. Short version: If you are under pre-evacuation orders, you can get a temporary permit at West Glacier that will let you travel both ways on the Camas Road.

Read on…

Here is a message to share with the North Fork community.

We have been communicating with the Hay Creek Fire Incident Team, Forest Service, and Flathead County on fire conditions and projections, as well as pre-evacuation warning needs. We recognize the pre-evacuation warning is an early notice for folks to prepare for actual evacuation. While actual evacuation may be days or weeks away, pre-evacuation may require several trips back and forth to North Fork properties. As such we have come up with a system to support pre-evacuation travel needs that includes Camas Road for North Fork residents within the pre-evacuation warning zone. Those qualifying residents who identify themselves at West Glacier as pre-evacuation residents will be issued a temporary permit at the West Entrance that will let them travel Camas Road each way. [emphasis added]

Residents do need to recognize that traffic at West Glacier will be heavy at times, MDT US-2 construction has been active at West Glacier, and the Camas Road construction has delays and may not be easy travel as well. My understanding is the fire incident will be grading and providing dust abatement on the bad section of the North Fork Road south of the Camas Bridge, beginning this weekend perhaps.

Monday-Thursday nighttime closures on Camas Road will remain in effect for public traffic 7pm-6am, including pre-evacuation travel for North Fork residents. Although do note, the fire incident team and the evacuation team are coordinated with the Camas construction, so the nighttime Camas closure can be adjusted to support emergency egress should that be necessary.

We are paying close attention and are in direct communication with all aspects of the Hay Creek Fire.

Thank you,

Pete Webster
Acting Superintendent
Glacier National Park

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.