Going-to-the-Sun Road: Golden Staircase

Glacier National Park


[Narration] This large pullout along St. Mary Lake offers spectacular views of the lake as well as an opportunity to marvel at the skill of the builders of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. One thing you’ll notice as you approach from the east is the impressive wall of cliffs here. These limestone cliffs posed a significant challenge to road builders. In order to construct the road along the cliffs workers blasted rock out of the mountainside to allow for a wider road and to provide stone for rockwork. The large retaining wall is 550 feet long and almost 30 feet high. It was built in just five weeks in 1933 and was one of the first improvements to the road after it opened to traffic in late 1932.

Across the lake the Red Eagle fire area is visible. Just last summer in August of 2006 this fire of undetermined cause burned over 32,000 acres in the park and on the neighboring Blackfeet Indian Reservation despite immediate efforts to extinguish the fire. Within hours it went from a small puff of smoke to an impressive inferno with towering smoke plumes that could be seen miles away. Most areas of the park have burned at one point or another, so fire is nothing new to the species that live here. In fact many plants and animals are dependent on fire for their survival. For instance, lodgepole pine cones spiral open in the heat of a passing fire and release their seeds on the wind to flutter to the ground and germinate in the newly created sunny soils. Several species of woodpeckers thrive in the years following a forest fire as they seek the insects that attack the newly dead trees. Many shrubs start to sprout from undamaged rootstock within days of a fire. The Red Eagle Fire looks black and uninviting to us but places like this are essential to many species and are vital to maintain the tremendous biological diversity found inside the park.


Take in the dynamic environment, a combination of steadfast limestone and regrowth after a fire


2 minutes


Glacier National Park

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