Some Lakes of Glacier National Park
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These lakes lie between Grinnell Mountain on the west and Allen Mountain on the east. They extend northeast and southwest for a distance of 3 or 4 miles, and are connected by a creek less than a quarter mile in length. The elevation of McDermott Lake is 4,861 feet; Altyn Lake is slightly higher. Whatever deductions or conclusions are made for one lake will apply to the other.

Observations were made on McDermott Lake only. The shore of the lake is open, free, and easily accessible. The trail passes close to the lake at the lower end. A logging camp and sawmill was formerly located here, but are now abandoned. Fire has destroyed the timber so that there is a good, open site for camping, with splendid views of the lake and mountains. The outlet of this lake is a series of cascades, with a total fall of about 90 feet in a quarter of a mile. To the foot of this cascade fish from the streams below make their way, but none have ascended to the waters of the lake above. This cascade, with the mountains behind for a background, is one of the beauty spots of the park, and the portion of the lake here described is one where tourists will delight to linger. At the upper portion of the lake the slopes are partly wooded and partly open. The outline is quite irregular, and there are many little sheltered coves, where game birds may hide, and where young fish may escape the larger ones.


A sounding, 330 feet from the shore opposite the cabins, showed a depth of 16 feet. A second sounding, half way between the cabins and the bare rock at the foot of the lake, showed 36 feet. One-third of the way up the lake the depth was 32 feet. In the narrow and shallow places the depth was only 4 feet; at the upper end it was 7 feet. No soundings were taken in Altyn Lake

The temperature of the water was 58° F., and the temperature of the air 63° F. Collections with net and dredge produced a greater quantity of fish food than has been found in any of the lakes that have been studied in the park. Microscopic life upon which the small fish must feed was in great abundance. Everywhere on the bottom, among the weeds, and close to the mud were great numbers of fresh water shrimp, the adults being about 1 inch in length. With such an abundance of fish food, there is every reason why this lake should be stocked at an early date with a good supply of young fish.

The lake lies in a depression at the edge of the mountains. Its outlet is blocked by a layer of bedrock, which the waters of the lake are slowly wearing away from year to year. Immediately below the lake the plains country begins. Transportation of fish to the lake would be quite easy, as a good wagon road extends from Babb, at the mouth of Swiftcurrent Creek, to the lake.

McDermott Lake receives its waters from the Grinnell Glacier country, from Swiftcurrent Pass, including a glacier on either side of the pass, and from Iceberg Lake. If fish were introduced into McDermott Lake, they would be given access to the streams leading up to the mountains in these three directions. Between McDermott Lake and Swiftcurrent Pass is a series of smaller and shallow lakes, which were not studied but which have a slightly greater elevation than McDermott Lake. Whether there are falls between McDermott Lake and these smaller lakes in the direction of Swiftcurrent Pass the writer does not know. If there are none fish will, of course, have several miles of creek and lakes where they could secure food. It would be only a short distance to transport fish to the upper lakes and stock them also. As they, too, are by the side of the trail, and as large numbers of people will doubtless wish to go over Swiftcurrent Pass and see the beautiful country adjacent thereto, it is highly desirable that fish be planted in these waters wherever they may be able to live.


Grinnell Lake lies about a mile above Altyn Lake and has the same general outline, location, and appearance with respect to mountains as Avalanche and Gunsight Lakes. It lies at the foot of the tremendous cliffs of Gould Mountain, and receives the waters that come from the melting ice from Grinnell Glacier and from a portion of the slopes of Grinnell Mountain. Its elevation is about 5,050 feet. As the trail to Grinnell Lake was not good and was difficult for pack horses the canvas boat, by means of which the soundings were made, was not taken to the lake. The surface net was thrown into the water, and some observations of the life in the lake were made by dragging the net around through the water from horseback, near the lower end. Such observations are not conclusive, of course, and are given merely for what they are worth. They serve to show, however, that the lake is well supplied with microscopic life, and further observations, when the boat can be transported to the waters, will doubtless show as much living material as in Gunsight and Avalanche Lakes. Moreover, fish planted in McDermott or Altyn Lakes would doubtless have no difficulty whatever in reaching Grinnell Lake, as the distance is short.


The lower end of the lake is open and parklike, but marshy, and the lake at this portion appears to be quite shallow. It was possible to ride out into the water a distance of a hundred feet or more before the water reached the horse's belly.

From the contour of the country it would seem that this lake is perhaps like some of the others mentioned in this report—deepest at its upper end. The shore next to Gould Mountain is very precipitous and is nothing but a mass of broken rock or talus slope that has fallen from the mountain and is almost devoid of vegetation. The opposite shore, on the Grinnell Mountain side, is a dense mass of brush.

Photograph copyrighted by Kiser Photo. Co. for Great Northern Railway.

At the upper end the waters from Grinnell Glacier fall over the high cliffs with a deafening noise, presenting a beautiful sight. The views from the lower end of the lake are as beautiful and imposing as any to be found in the park. With a good trail to the upper end of the lake this would be a favorite place for tourists, perhaps as attractive as Avalanche Lake, although more remote from the points of entrance. Such a trail will doubtless be made in the near future, and when the lake is opened up to the public it will be doubly attractive if stocked with fish.


Iceberg Lake lies at the foot of the towering cliffs of Wilbur Mountain, the Continental Divide, and the high cliffs at Ahern Pass. The precipices above this lake are more tremendous and imposing than any the writer has seen in the park. It lies on the north side of Wilbur, on the east side of the Continental Divide, and on the south of the unnamed mountains of Ahern Pass. As a consequence the sun shines in this pocket for only a short portion of the year, and the accumulated snow has little chance to melt. The distance from the lake surface to the top of the cliffs above is over 3,000 feet. The lake is not large, covering, perhaps, less than a square mile of surface. Its elevation is 6,100 feet. At the outlet is a series of falls, which make it impossible for fish from below to ascend to the lake, and which would lock in the lake any fish that might be planted therein.

Photograph copyrighted by Kiser Photo. Co. for Great Northern Railway.

While this lake has a location which given it great interest, and the surroundings are considered by many to be the most impressive in the park, it does not seem advisable to go to the trouble of planting it with fish, since its surface is free from ice for only a short time in the year, and fish planted there would be completely landlocked, and could not travel from the lake proper a distance of more than a quarter of a mile. If fish are planted in McDermott Lake, as has been suggested, they could migrate up the stream to within a comparatively short distance of Iceberg Lake.


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Last Updated: 02-Apr-2007