General Information about Waterton and Glacier National Parks


  • 10,000 years ago – Earliest evidence of travel over the South Kootenay Pass.
  • 8,000 years ago – First evidence of fishing in Upper Waterton Lake and bison-driving in the grasslands of Blakiston Valley.
  • 4,500 to 3,000 years ago – Ancestors of the Piikani arrived.
  • 3,000 to 1,500 years ago – Maximum occupation by ancestral peoples. Large stone quarry in operation on west side of Glacier NP area.
  • The park's name derived from the Waterton Lakes, a lake chain named by Lieutenant Blakiston of the Palister Expedition (1858), to honor well-known, British naturalist, Squire Charles Waterton (1782-1865), who never saw the lakes! (The Palliser Expedition explored western British North America to see if the area could be settled and to discover possible railway routes through the mountains.)
  • 1865 – John George "Kootenai" Brown first visited Waterton and vowed to return one day. He did return in 1878 with his family and settled in the area. He became the first game guardian, fisheries inspector, and later (1911) Waterton's first Park Superintendent.
  • 1885 – Canada's first national park was established: Banff National Park (third in the world).
  • The first major step toward preservation of Waterton was taken by a Pincher Creek rancher, F.W. Godsal, who sent a proposal to Ottawa in 1893 recommending that the Waterton Lakes area be set aside as a national park.
  • In 1895, a 54 sq.-mile (140 sq.-km) area was declared Kootenay Lakes Forest Park (later renamed Waterton Lakes Dominion [National] Park), becoming Canada's 4th national park. Waterton's size has varied considerably over the years but its area is now 203 sq. miles (525 sq. km), making it the smallest in the Canadian Rockies.
  • The park is about 30 miles (50 km) SE of Pincher Creek, 30 miles (50 km) SW of Cardston, 150 miles (240 km) S of Calgary, 70 miles (130 km) SW of Lethbridge, and 40 miles (60 km) NW of St. Mary, MT.
  • The townsite sits at 4200 ft. (1280 m) above sea level and the park's highest peak, Mt. Blakiston, rises about 4900 ft. (1500 m) to an elevation of 9645 ft. (2940 m) above sea level.
  • Upper Waterton Lake is the deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies and Alberta. Maximum depth is 487 ft. (148 m); length is 6.9 miles (11 km) by .5 mile (.8 km) at its widest. Two and a half miles (4 km) extend south across the International Border.
  • Over half of all the types of plants found in Alberta are found in Waterton. It has more plant species than the much larger Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho parks, combined.
  • 1910 – First lots in Waterton townsite surveyed.
  • 1927 – The Prince of Wales Hotel opens on July 25th. A 250-passenger launch, the "M.V. International," is built and a year later begins operating on the upper lake.
  • 1932 – creation of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
  • 1979 – declared the second Canadian Biosphere Reserve.
  • 1995 – Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park declared a World Heritage Site.
  • The park is open year round although most facilities are closed in winter. Annual visitation is more than 550,000. A year-round residential population of approximately 100 people swells to more than 2,000 in the summer.
  • Fishing is permitted in some park waters, with an appropriate license.
  • There are approximately 120 miles (200 km) of trails – unlike in Glacier, some are open to bicyclists and pets.


  • Archaeological evidence within the park demonstrates early people use of area to over 10,000 years ago.
  • By 1780s, the South Piikani (or Piegan) – the Blackfeet – dominate the plains east of Glacier, basing their livelihood on hunting bison on the plains supplemented with the resources of the mountains and foothills.
  • The Kootenai were probably the most frequent visitors from the west; others were the Salish and the Kalispel.
  • 1810 – Finian MacDonald and two French-Canadians were first recorded white men to enter area of present-day Glacier National Park – to cross mountains, fight Blackfeet and hunt buffalo on the plains, along with about 150 Indians from the west.
  • 1817 – Fur trader Hugh Monroe, possibly first white man acquainted with the Blackfeet.
  • 1880s-1902 – mining attempts produced little and abandoned within a few years.
  • 1890s – early Glacier explorer George Bird Grinnell and others pushed for establishment of a national park to protect the area.
  • 1895 – East half of Glacier was purchased from the Blackfeet by the federal government.
  • 1900 – Area was made a Forest Preserve but was open to mining and homesteading.
  • Grinnell and others continued to push for more protection and were rewarded on May 11, 1910, when President Taft signed the bill establishing Glacier as the country's 10th national park.
  • 1910 – August, William R. Logan appointed first "Superintendent of Road & Trail Construction" – but had to deal with massive forest fires.
  • May 2, 1932 – Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Parks were designated as the world's first International Peace Park.
  • Fall 1932 – Going-to-the-Sun Road (52 miles long) was finished across Logan Pass. (Earliest opening – May 16, 1987; Latest opening – June 23, 1991 & 1995; Earliest closing – October 4, 1990; Latest closing – November 21, 1952)
  • Acreage: 1,013,572.42 acres (410,496.8 ha)
  • Square miles: 1,600 (4144
  • The largest lake is Lake McDonald: 10 miles (16 km) long, 1-1½ miles (2.4 km) wide, 472 feet (144 m) deep.
  • Has Triple Divide – water flows to three drainages: W to the Pacific, SE to the Gulf of Mexico, and E and NE to the Hudson Bay.
  • Highest elevation: Mt. Cleveland 10,466 ft. (3192 m).
  • Lowest elevation: junction of Middle and North Forks of the Flathead River, 3150 ft. (960 m).
  • 1976 – Glacier National Park is designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
  • 1995 Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is designated a World Heritage Site.
  • 1997 – Going-to-the-Sun Road designated a National Historic Landmark.
  • Visitation: 2,965,309 (2018)


  • 1895 54-square-mile (140 sq.-km) area declared Kootenay Lakes Forest Park, later renamed Waterton Lakes Dominion [National] Park.
  • 1910 Establishment of Glacier National Park.
  • 1932 Creation of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
  • 1976 Glacier National Park designated a Biosphere Reserve.
  • 1979 Waterton Lakes NP declared the second Canadian Biosphere Reserve.
  • 1995 Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park declared a World Heritage Site.
  • 2017 Waterton-Glacier Internaional Peace Park designated the first ever International Dark Sky Park.

Last updated: August 14, 2019

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PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936



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