Known to Native Americans as the "Shining Mountains" and the "Backbone of the World", Glacier National Park preserves more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The landscape is a hiker's paradise that is traversed by more than 740 miles of maintained trails. You can explore Glacier's natural resources on foot, or on these pages:
The park is named for its prominent glacier-carved terrain and remnant glaciers descended from the ice ages of 10,000 years past. Bedrock and deposited materials exposed by receding glaciers tell a story of ancient seas, geologic faults and uplifting, and the movement of giant slabs of the earth's ancient crust overlaying younger strata. The result of these combined forces is some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet.
In 1932 Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park, across the border in Canada, were designated Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. This designation celebrates the longstanding peace and friendship between the two nations. Both parks have since been designated International Biosphere Reserves and together were recognized in 1995 as a World Heritage Site. Clearly this resource is deserving of world-class recognition.
Scientific Research in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has a proud legacy of research and scientific accomplishment dating back to the period prior to World War II. Although a formal research program did not exist in the park until the mid 1960s many research projects and investigative surveys were carried out during the first half of the twentieth century by independent and academic investigators. The application of knowledge gained through science is essential for effective park management.
Recent Science Initiatives in the National Park Service
A further boost to park-based science was provided through the inauguration of a Service-wide comprehensive Inventory and Monitoring Program. The biological inventory phase of this initiative was implemented in 1999 to secure basic descriptive information about natural resources occurring throughout the nationwide system of national parks, monuments and historic sites. Glacier National Park received funds to begin this work in 2001. The second phase of the program involves long-term ecological monitoring known as "Vital Signs Monitoring". Glacier National Park is part of the Rocky Mountain Inventory and Monitoring Network headed by Mike Britten.
Another initiative established under the Natural Resource Challenge program is creation of a national network of Learning Centers. National Park Service Research Learning Centers are designed to increase the effectiveness and communication of research and science results in national parks through facilitating the use of parks for scientific inquiry, supporting science-informed decision making, communicating the relevance of and providing access to knowledge gained through scientific research, and promoting science literacy and resource stewardship. An important theme underlying the Learning Center concept is multidisciplinary collaboration and the involvement of natural resource agencies among all levels of government, including regional Native American tribes and educational institutions. Implementation of this initiative varies widely among different parks. Glacier National Park converted two Mission 66 houses in the headquarters area at West Glacier to office space and temporary facilities for visiting scientists. The Glacier National Park unit, aptly named the "Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center" (CCRLC), serves Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Grant-Kohrs National Historic Ranch, and Little Bighorn National Battlefield. The Director of the CCRLC is Tara Carolin.
If you have questions about Nature, Science or Research in Glacier, or any other general questions about the park, please e-mail us. A park naturalist will respond or forward it to the most appropriate park office for response.