Spring Plowing Underway at Glacier
Contact: Melissa Wilson, 406 888-7895
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Glacier National Park Superintendent Mick Holm reports that crews have started spring plowing efforts on the park’s east side. Crews have completed plowing Chief Mountain Road and are currently plowing the Two Medicine Road. On April 2, crews will begin plowing the Going-to-the-Sun (GTTS) Road on both the east and west side.
Park officials hope to open the Two Medicine Road to Running Eagle Falls within the next few days and the GTTS Road to Rising Sun on April 1. Chief Mountain Road and the remainder of Two Medicine Road will be open when they are free of ice, which is expected within the next two weeks.
Holm remarked, “It is always a tremendous undertaking to plow the park’s roads. Crews work as quickly as conditions allow. Even though snow pack is below last year’s level, spring weather and last November’s storm damage will also play critical roles in our plowing progress.”
“Safety is always our top priority and avalanches pose a considerable potential hazard to our crews. We utilize spotters to mitigate the potential dangers, but when conditions are cloudy and spotters cannot see the start zones, crews can only plow the road if the avalanche hazard is low. Therefore, weather in the next few months will greatly impact our progress.”
“Additionally, this year, not only do we face the traditional plowing challenges, but we have obstacles resulting from last November’s storm. On the east side, there are six repair sites, including one washout over 100 feet where both lanes were lost. There are also a significant number of large debris piles from the storm on the west side which froze in place before they could be removed last fall. The piles will need to be removed with bulldozers, which will require extra time and attention. Additionally, we may have to do slope stabilization in these areas before we can allow access to the alpine section.”
“Despite these challenges, we are committed to providing access across the GTTS Road with minimal impact to our summer visitors. To achieve this goal, we are bringing some seasonal road crews on earlier than in previous years. The bridge that will span the major east side washout has already been delivered to Rising Sun on the park’s east side.”
“Additionally, in order to provide vehicular access on the road, the contractor will most likely need to work extended hours to help us meet our commitment.”
“We have also postponed the start of a major rehabilitation project, so that we can concentrate on the flood damage. Once we have established access across the GTTS Road, this 3.5 mile project will begin near the West Side Tunnel.”
“Further, to ensure public safety and to allow the crews to concentrate on meeting our summer commitment, there will be no “Show Me Day” this year. Nevertheless, the public can monitor the crew’s progress via our Web site; we will regularly post photos to the site.”
On the west side, vehicles will be allowed access to Avalanche when the segment from Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche is free of ice; this traditionally occurs by late April. The next opening will be to Logan Pass. On the east side, officials expect to allow vehicular access to Rising Sun, and subsequently to Jackson Glacier Overlook.
“It is also important to remember that before the road can be completely open, there are significant other works that our crews must perform. This includes installing guardrails, repairing potholes, culvert clearing and bridge repair, road sweeping, sign installation, and clearing of parking lots,” noted Holm.
In addition, we have contractors working on both the west and east side of the park. Currently, a contractor is working above Avalanche trying to stabilize a major slide that resulted from the November storm.
Several park roads, including the Camas, Cut Bank, and Inside North Fork Roads, are allowed to melt out. Vehicles are only allowed on them once the roads have dried. Park campgrounds are plowed as necessary.
Pedestrian and bicycle use will again be allowed on park roads prior to public vehicle access except where plowing crews are on duty and/or where snow pack is destabilized by plowing and causes unnatural risks. Signs will indicate when closures are in effect and caution should be exercised.
When park roads are closed to vehicle use, pets are prohibited on them.
Visitors should always be alert for snowplows and other heavy equipment on park roads as well as areas of ice and/or slush, avalanche zones and/or fallen rock. Additionally, spring snowstorms can cause hazardous driving conditions and/or temporary road closures.
Park visitors should remember to keep alert for wildlife, including bears. Please report any bear or mountain lion activity or sighting to a park ranger.
For information on current road conditions, visit the park’s road status Web site http://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm. This page is updated as conditions change.
Current road conditions are also available by calling 511, the Montana Department of Transportation Traveler Information System. If your phone does not support 511, call 1-800-226-7623. Both numbers are toll-free. Select “Glacier Park Tourist Information” from the main menu to hear Glacier’s road report.
Travelers may also call park headquarters at 406-888-7800 for current road and weather conditions.
Did You Know?
Did you know that eight inches of snow fell during one night in Glacier's high country in August, 2005? The weather forced hundreds of backpackers out of the backcountry.