The North Fork
The North Fork is one of the most uncrowded sections of Glacier National Park and reached by private vehicle. Rough dirt roads tend to reduce visitation and yet those that do travel here are rewarded with a living laboratory of forest succession in recently burned areas, views of Bowman and Kintla Lakes, a homesteading site, and chances to see and hear rare park wildlife.
A series of fires over the last 20 years has resulted in a broad mix of forests of different ages. Each one attracting a slightly different compliment of species. The most recent fires in 2003 have provided large areas of habitat for rare woodpeckers. Birders from far and wide can be found here searching out the Northern Three Toed and Black-backed woodpeckers.
As you drive and negotiate your vehicle along the dusty, bumpy, and slow-going North Fork road, imagine the challenges faced by early settlers. Isolation, short growing seasons, wild country, and harsh weather tested those brave enough to live in this remote and demanding location. Those challenges faced by early homesteaders still exist today, but what were perceived as difficulties then, now lure visitors away from modern comforts.
Without many amenities, the North Fork invites a more self-reliant visitor and experience. Allow all day to drive to and from Kintla and Bowman Lakes and be sure to pack a lunch. The only services (very limited) in this area are offered outside the park in Polebridge.
Facilities, Services, and Activities
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.