2011 Spring Plowing is Underway in Glacier National Park
Contact: Ellen Blickhan, 406-888-5838
WEST GLACIER, MONT – Glacier National Park road crews have begun spring snow plowing on the park's roads and are finding substantial amounts of snow. Flattop and Many Glacier Snotel sites, snow measuring stations, are showing between 20 and 40 percent above normal snow water equivalent. Last week, USGS snow survey crews recorded 100 inches of snow on the ground at Siyeh Bend, two miles east of Logan Pass, and 140 inches of snow at the 7,500 foot elevation nearby.
Park crews began plowing the Chief Mountain Road, near the park's northeast corner on Tuesday, March 15. The crews then focused their efforts on the Two Medicine Road. Instead of the three foot drifts they normally encounter at this time of year, the crews were plowing drifts up to eight feet deep. As soon as weather and road conditions permit, visitors will be able to drive to Running Eagle Falls. The Many Glacier Road will be the focus of east side plowing efforts this week. At present, crews are encountering drifts over ten feet deep. The Many Glacier Road will not open to motor vehicles until the third weekend of April at the earliest, to reduce stress on wildlife in critical winter range.
On the west side, the crews have completed plowing Apgar Village and one lane on the Camas Road. The Camas and Inside North Fork Roads will be allowed to melt out prior to opening. Plowing of the Going-to-the-Sun Road (Sun Road) began on Friday, April 1, beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge. Crews are encountering 12-36 inches of snow with two to six inches of ice on the road surface. Once the crews plow beyond Avalanche Creek, HK Contractors will continue rehabilitation of the Sun Road along Upper McDonald Creek and on both sides of Logan Pass.
Because of the contract to rehabilitate the Sun Road, the earliest possible opening of the road in its entirety would be June 17, weather and road conditions dependent. Spring snow storms play a large factor in safely opening the Sun Road to two-way motor vehicle traffic. Once the plow crews are working in the higher elevations, visitors will be able to drive to Avalanche Creek on the west side and Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side.
"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. 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," Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright noted.
Cartwright continued, "There will 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." 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.
For photos, video clips and plowing status, visit the park's home page web site http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm.
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.