Annual Spring Plowing Gets Underway in Glacier National Park
Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406 888-5838
Contact: Wade Muehlhof, 406 888-7895
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Glacier National Park road crews are beginning spring snow plowing and caution that although winter snow pack, to-date, is relatively low, spring weather in the park is always unpredictable. Park officials emphasize that winter snow pack is not necessarily a good indicator of conditions that may be encountered over the next few months in higher elevation sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road (Sun Road) during the annual road clearing. Regardless of relatively dry conditions in the valley bottoms, crews will still need to cut through deep snow, ice and perennial snow drifts at higher elevations on either side of Logan Pass. Additionally, spring snow storms and new snow accumulation are contributing factors to the annual push to safely open the entire road to two-way motor vehicle traffic.
Plowing of the Sun Road beyond Lake McDonald Lodge is scheduled to begin Thursday, April 1 and proceed to Avalanche Creek. This will allow access by HK Contractors, Inc., to continue drainage and sub-base road rehabilitation along Upper McDonald Creek beyond Avalanche Creek. Again this year, the vehicle gate at Avalanche Creek will remain closed for motor vehicles until the entire Sun Road opens across Logan Pass.
At the earliest this year, snow and road conditions permitting, the entire Sun Road may open over Logan Pass for two-way traffic on Friday, June 18. Prior to this date, accelerated road work will be allowed to accommodate the ongoing Sun Road rehabilitation. If weather and road conditions permit, contractors will be allowed to work between Big Bend and Logan Pass and between Siyeh Bend and Logan Pass without public traffic until June 18th. The opening of the entire Sun Road on or after June 18 will depend on plowing progress and overall road and snow conditions at that time.
Park crews began plowing in Apgar Village near West Glacier and on the Chief Mountain Road near the park’s northeast corner on Tuesday, March 16. Plowing of other east side park roads, such as Two Medicine, the east side of Sun Road to Rising Sun, and Many Glacier will begin, in sequential order, once Chief Mountain Road plowing is completed. On the east side of the Sun Road, the segment from St. Mary Campground to Rising Sun Campground will open for vehicles, and subsequently, the road will then open from Rising Sun to Jackson Glacier Overlook. Weather and snow conditions permitting, the east side crew will provide initial access above Siyeh Bend for HK Contractors, Inc. to prepare for 2010 road work east of Logan Pass.
On the Sun Road’s west side, the segment from Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche Creek is traditionally free of ice and open to vehicles by late April. When road conditions and construction permits, the road will be opened at Lake McDonald Lodge for vehicle traffic as far as Avalanche Creek; however, vehicle access will remain at Avalanche until the entire Sun Road opens over Logan Pass.
Other park roads, or segments of respective roads, including the Chief Mountain Road, will open to vehicle traffic when conditions allow for safe travel. However, as Many Glacier Valley provides critical winter range for wildlife, the Many Glacier Road does not open to motor vehicles until the third weekend of April each year at the earliest to reduce stress on resident wildlife. Park campgrounds are also plowed as necessary to meet their respective opening dates.
The Inside North Fork Road and the Cut Bank Road are allowed to melt out; however, given the lack of snow this spring, the Camas Road will be plowed beginning April 1.
“With spring plowing getting underway and summer approaching, this is a good time to remind the public that the national historic landmark Sun Road remains under rehabilitation. Park visitors should expect to drive only as far as Avalanche and Jackson Glacier Overlook this spring until the entire Sun Road opens for two-way vehicle traffic across Logan Pass. Despite the Sun Road rehabilitation, our road crews still must work in the same challenging conditions as in years past. Safety remains our top priority and we will again use avalanche forecasting technicians to help monitor conditions in avalanche zones throughout the spring opening process,” Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright noted.
He added, “We are fortunate to have talented and very dedicated road plowing crews at Glacier. The effort that it takes to prepare park roads for the summer season is quite amazing. Photos and video clips of plowing will be posted on the park’s web site so people can track progress and see the conditions.”
Cartwright continued, “There will still be great recreational opportunities in Glacier this spring. Visitors can hike or bicycle beyond vehicle closures when crews are not working; exact distances will depend on plowing crew locations and construction activity.” Signs will indicate when caution should be exercised and when closures for hikers/bicyclists are in effect. Visitors are also reminded that when park roads are closed to vehicle use, all 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, 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 park roads. Please report any bear or mountain lion activity or sighting, regardless of the location, to a park ranger.
Spring access updates will be provided. 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 park 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.
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Did You Know?
Grizzly bears in the park have a wide variety of food sources, including glacier lily bulbs, insects, and berries. They may also make an early season meal of mountain goats that were swept down in avalanches over the winter.