Spring Plowing in Glacier National Park
Contact: Melissa Wilson, 406 888-7895
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Officials at Glacier National Park report that park road crews have begun spring plowing. While plowing of the Going-to-the-Sun Road (Sun Road) beyond Lake McDonald Lodge begins on April 1, park crews are currently plowing the Chief Mountain Road. Weather permitting, the plowing of other park areas, such as Many Glacier and Two Medicine, will begin in early April.
“With plowing underway, this is a good opportunity to remind the public that the Sun Road is under rehabilitation. Visitors should only expect to drive as far as Avalanche and Jackson Glacier Overlook this spring. Weather permitting, this year, the entire Sun Road will open to vehicular traffic on Friday, June 13, which follows the guidelines of the Sun Road’s Final Environmental Impact Statement,” Acting Superintendent Stephanie Dubois noted.
Dubois continued, “There will still be great recreational opportunities in Glacier this spring. Visitors can hike or bike beyond vehicle closures, with the exact distance dependant upon plowing crews and construction contractors.” Signs will indicate when closures for hikers/bikers are in effect and caution should be exercised. Visitors are also reminded that when park roads are closed to vehicle use, pets are prohibited on them.
On the Sun Road’s west side, the segment from Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche is traditionally free of ice and open to vehicles by late April. On the east side, there will likely be two separate segment openings- first, the segment from the St. Mary campground to Rising Sun, and subsequently from Rising Sun to Jackson Glacier Overlook. Other park roads, or segments of them, including the Chief Mountain Road, will open to vehicle traffic when conditions allow for safe travel. However, as Many Glacier provides critical winter range for wildlife, the Many Glacier Road does not open to vehicles until the third weekend of April each year to reduce stress on wildlife. Therefore, weather permitting, the Many Glacier Road will open on April 19. Park campgrounds are also plowed as necessary to meet their scheduled opening dates.
“Despite the road rehabilitation, our park road crews still must work in the same arduous conditions as in past years to ensure that, weather permitting, we are prepared for June 13. Safety remains our top priority and we will again utilize avalanche forecasting technicians to help monitor conditions through avalanche zones,” Dubois commented.
She added, “We are fortunate to have a talented and dedicated road plowing crew here at Glacier. The effort that it takes to prepare park roads for the summer season is amazing. We wish that everyone could have an opportunity to witness the crew’s hard work. However, with contractors likely on the road, and with the potential for avalanches, we are unable to hold a public “Show Me Day” this year. Photos of the plowing effort will be posted regularly to the park’s Web site.”
Several park roads, including the Camas Road and Cut Bank Road, are not plowed, but rather are allowed to melt out, with vehicles allowed on them only once the roads have dried. The Inside North Fork Road is also allowed to melt. Once free of snow and ice, the road will be assessed to determine its suitability for vehicular traffic. If the road is safe, it will open. However, if its condition deteriorated over the winter, the road will remain closed until repairs can be made, which will likely not occur this summer.
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. Visitors should also be aware of wildlife on the roads. Please report any bear or mountain lion activity or sighting, regardless of the location, to a park ranger.
Current road conditions are 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.
Information on current road conditions is also available on the park’s road status Web site http://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm. This page is updated as conditions change. Travelers may also call park headquarters at 406-888-7800 for current road and weather conditions.
- NPS -
Did You Know?
Lake McDonald is the largest lake in the park with a length of 10 miles and a depth of 472 feet. The glacier that carved the Lake McDonald valley is estimated to have been around 2,200 feet thick.