Through The Years In Glacier National Park
An Administrative History
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Coming of Major Logan

The first few years following the establishment of this area as a National Park saw a considerable amount of history in the making. Effective August 8, 1910, the Secretary of the Interior commissioned Major William R. Logan, who had accompanied Raphael Pumpelly through the park in 1882 and 1883, as "Superintendent of Road and Trail Construction" for the park. Previous to this time Major Logan had been Superintendent of the Indian Training School at Fort Belknap, Montana, and "Supervisor of Industries, Indian Service, at Large." On December 1, 1910, he was appointed "Inspector in Charge," of Glacier National Park, pending the establishment of the position of Superintendent, which came about on April 1, 1911.

When the Major arrived at the park, in the late summer of 1910, he brought with him his clerk, Henry W. Hutchings, who was to fill the same position in the park for many years, and also to act as interim superintendent several times. Hutchings was finally appointed to the position of Assistant Superintendent, which position he held until he retired in 1926.

The job that faced these two men that summer was anything but heartening. There were only two serviceable trails across the mountains, one from Lake McDonald across Gunsight Pass to St. Mary Lake, and the other up the McDonald Creek Valley and over Swiftcurrent Pass to Many Glacier. Old Indian trails extended across other passes but were in such a state of disuse that they were practically impassable.

To further complicate Major Logan's job, this summer was one of the worst forest fire years in the history of the northwest, and of these fires Glacier received its share. There was no organized firefighting organization as we now know it, very little equipment, few trails and practically no roads. By the time the fall rains had set in, Glacier National Park had lost over 100,000 acres of forest land to a series of fires, the largest of which covered approximately 23,000 acres.

In the fall of 1910, the first park headquarters was located at Apgar in tents. When winter came the personnel returned to Fort Belknap until spring; after making plans for establishing headquarters at Fish Creek as soon as a road could be constructed to the spot and material obtained. Also that same fall, in order to protect the area against poachers and other encroachments, Major Logan organized a patrol of six rangers, consisting of Henry Vaught as Chief Ranger, Joe Cosley, Dan Doody, Bill Burns, "Dad" Randels and Pierce. For the following winter they were assigned a certain section of the park boundary to patrol.

The following summer, upon his return from Fort Belknap, Major Logan and his crew threw themselves into the task of making a National Park out of this wilderness area that had been entrusted to them. On April 1, the Major's job as Superintendent of Glacier National Park, at a salary of $3,600 per year was made permanent. For the summer he rented Apgar's cabins, at the foot of Lake McDonald, for headquarters and living quarters. The following winter he moved into the Great Northern's newly constructed Belton Chalet at the town of Belton. This move was repeated in 1912, but all the while construction was progressing on the new headquarters at Fish Creek, and in the summer of 1913 the offices were moved to this new location. The first permanent headquarters at Fish Creek consisted of six buildings, including one cottage, two cabins, and a stable, plus the old Forest Service Ranger Station that was already there, and a sawmill. The old Ranger Station was converted into an office, one cabin was used as a cookhouse, and tents were erected for the additional residences. The following winter was also spent in the Belton Chalet, but by summer of 1914 enough residences were constructed for all personnel to remain the year around.

The major accomplishments for the year 1911, in addition to the work on the new park headquarters at Fish Creek, consisted of extension of the telephone line system, rebuilding and macadamizing the road between Belton and the foot of Lake McDonald and the start of construction on the road from Apgar to Fish Creek. That summer also saw the start of construction on the predecessor to the Blackfeet highway, from Midvale (East Glacier Park) north toward Many Glacier. This was being undertaken by the Great Northern Railway, in order to open up the northern end of the park for visitor travel. Telephone lines were constructed to Logging Ranger Station and construction started on a line to Sperry Glacier and on over Gunsight Pass to St. Mary Lake.

The Ranger Force

By 1912 a considerable amount of activity was under way in the park. Trails were being re-built, ranger cabins were constructed at various spots along the boundary for the newly organized ranger force to use, and other physical improvements were being installed and re-built. The Ranger force was expanded from the original six men to sixteen; each was assigned a portion of the park boundary to patrol constantly and ordered to look after game animals, prevent poaching, and fight forest fires. From time to time temporary rangers were employed for special jobs including that of "predatory animal hunter."

The ranger force during these early days was a rugged, hard-bitten outfit. Each foot of the park boundary was assigned to one particular man and he was responsible for the patrolling of it, winter and summer, often operating from small, crude cabins that would make the present-day patrol cabins seem like mansions. These men traveled their beat alone, and many are the tales of accidents, even deaths, resulting from these lone patrols through the mountains in the dead of winter. One ranger froze to death on the trail between cabins on the eastern side of the park; another was buried in a snowslide for twenty-four hours, yet managed to dig himself out and work his way back to the station; still another slid down a snow bank and broke his hip, which resulted in a gruelling two-day trip back to his cabin, unaided. Such were the odds against these men, yet they liked the work and would have no other. A few of the old-timers are still on the force, and others are remembered and spoken of by the local people when they get together to talk over "old times."

Old Rangers

The park visitor today still looks for the "Ranger" to answer his questions and help him plan his trips through the park. To him, the man in uniform is the ranger, regardless of whether he is a ranger, naturalist or park superintendent. Few people know when the term 'park ranger' came into being. It was not until 1915 that Stephen T. Mather, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, in charge of the National Parks, wrote to all park superintendents, ". . . In order to differentiate the rangers of the national parks from those of the national forests, all rangers in the service of the national parks will be officially designated Park Rangers. . . ." But to the visitor, they are still just "rangers," and probably will be for some time to come.

New Park Headquarters

Park headquarters at Fish Creek was soon inadequate for the rapidly expanding force, and plans were laid for relocating it in an area where expansion was possible. In order to accomplish this, Stephen T. Mather, then Director of the National Park Service, in 1917 purchased with his personal funds the site upon which the present headquarters and utility area now stands, from Edwin E. Snyder, who for many years conducted a hotel and saloon business at this site. The old log saloon and hotel building was then used until 1924 by the Service as a combination administration building, cook house, and mess hall. After that it was used as a bunkhouse for a time and torn down in 1926. In the late summer of 1917 the ground was cleared and construction was started for four residences which were completed in the summer of 1918. By the fall of 1918, a barn and wagon shed was also completed, along with a cottage for the teamster, a small warehouse, and a tower and tank for the water system, and the headquarters was moved from Fish Creek to its new location. From that time on buildings were added as necessary, building the headquarters area up to the present administrative plant.

Development of the Interpretive Services

Another interesting growth was that of the interpretive services in the park. The first so-called "Nature Guide Service" was established in 1921 as a commercial enterprise under the permit to M. P. Somes, a naturalist familiar with the park area. For a set fee, Somes conducted walking tours between hotels and chalets and other points of interest, explaining the geology, flora and fauna as he went along, much as it is done today.

In 1922 a free Nature Guide Service was established by Dr. Morton J. Elrod, of the University of Montana, under the joint sponsorship of the University and the National Park Service. To start this program, Dr. Elrod, assisted by Drs. Severy and Fredell, also of the University staff, inaugurated a series of nature walks and nature information desks in certain hotels. At first evening talks could not be held because of the lack of suitable room. This competition was hard on Somes' commercial nature guide service, and by early August he was in financial difficulties and was forced to drop his service.

Dr. Elrod continued to expand his service to the public by widening his field of operations, until, by 1927, he had one man at each of the following places: Many Glacier, Sun Camp and Lake McDonald. One gave evening talks illustrated by slides furnished by the hotel company, established self-guiding nature trails, took conducted walks and maintained cut-flower exhibits in the hotel lobbies, he also had a number of publications for sale, dealing with the natural features of the park. In 1924 he published the first Guide Book of the park, Elrod's Guide, which sold for many years as the official park guide but is now out of print and on the rare book list.

Dr. Elrod's program of nature guide service—known after 1926 as "Ranger Naturalists"—continued until 1929, when it was placed under the supervision of Dr. George C. Ruhle, the newly appointed first permanent park naturalist. The following year programs were expanded to the campgrounds with camp fire programs; and additional nature trails were laid out, operating, as a whole, on a plan similar to that of today.

A similar development occurred in all the departments of the administration, as visitor's use of the area increased. The only lessening of activity occurred during World War II, when the park was, for all practical purposes, closed until 1946, except for the necessary maintenance and protection functions.


Pre-Park Visitor Accommodations

Completion of the Great Northern Railway to this area early in 1892 brought with it the expected following of adventurers sightseers, and settlers and marked the beginning of the settlement of the Flathead Valley and the advent of the "tourist" into what is now Glacier National Park. With these visitors and adventurers came those who saw in the land a chance for livelihood, in hunting, trapping, and in living off the desires of those who wished only to visit the area. These were the forerunners of the present park concessioners, cabin operators and dude ranchers.

Among those who arrived in 1892 and went into business were Milo Apgar and Charlie Howe, who homesteaded at the foot of Lake McDonald and put up cabins for the accommodation of visitors to the area, giving a start to the little village of Apgar, which today is one of the heavily used centers within the park boundary. In the years that followed others began to arrive both at the head and foot of Lake McDonald and they set up businesses of one kind or another.

Snyder Hotel

In 1895 George Snyder established a stopping place on Lake McDonald at the site of the present Lake McDonald Hotel. In order to take care of the increasing demand for accommodations, he was soon forced to build a hotel on the site, a two-story frame structure that was to be the focal point for visitors to the western side of the park for many years to come. In order to get the visitors to his area he had to have a boat, so he purchased a 40-foot steamboat that had been running between Somers and Polson, on Flathead Lake, and shipped it by freight to Belton. In order to bring the boat into Lake McDonald, Snyder and some other settlers had to build a road from Belton to Apgar, a rough, one-way wagon trail, but a road, nevertheless, and probably the first to exist within the boundaries of the park. When the boat arrived at Belton it was loaded with its top-heavy upright boiler, on a wagon and commenced the tortuous trip to the lake, where, after many hours of struggle, it was launched and became the first power boat to haul passengers and freight upon any of the park lakes. Mrs. Frank Liebig relates the trials of traveling up the lake on this vessel—it was too hot below deck beside the boiler and if you rode topside the sparks burned holes in your clothes.

Snyder Hotel
Snyder Hotel

About this same time Ed Dow, who had built a hotel at Belton a year or so earlier, started a stage line from Belton to the lake, over the newly constructed road and through the dense cedar forests that overtopped everything else in the area. It made connections with Snyder's steamboat. This was truly a beautiful trip if you were not thrown from the buckboard by the chuck-holes in the road. To reach the stage, the visitors had to walk a distance of approximately one-fourth mile from the railroad station at Belton to the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, where they were ferried across in a row boat. They were then loaded on the buckboard and started their bouncing journey to the lake and Snyder's steamboat. Such were the conditions facing the early park visitors, but they evidently enjoyed it, for many of them continued to come to the area as long as they were able to do so.

By 1896 there was a continuous chain of transportation and stopping places from the depot to the head of Lake McDonald. With Dow's hotel at Belton and his stage line to the lake, Apgar's cabins at the foot of the lake, Snyder's steamboat on the lake and his hotel and other cabins springing up at the head of the lake, the visitor was well taken care of. In addition to this, Denny Comeau and Ernest Christensen started a pack and saddle horse business at the head of Lake McDonald, taking people into the back country. In 1898 two more men, Josiah Rogers and Bert Bryant were also taking saddle horse parties out from the Lake McDonald area. At about this time Charles M. Russell, the noted cowboy artist, bought a piece of land on the shore of Lake McDonald near Apgar. Here he built his summer home, which he called "Bull Head Lodge" after the buffalo skull that was his trademark. Charlie Russell loved this area and spent a good portion of his later years at the lake painting and spinning yarns with his friends.

First Bridge Across Middle Fork

First Bridge Across Middle Fork

In 1897 the first bridge was built across the Middle Fork of the Flathead, near the site of the old concrete bridge a short distance above the present park headquarters. This bridge, built by Jack Wise to enable the stages to travel the entire distance from the depot at Belton to the foot of Lake McDonald did away with the necessity of ferrying the river in rowboats.

In 1906 another boat made its appearance on Lake McDonald—a gas boat operated by Frank Kelly, which was soon joined by another, running competition to Snyder's steamboat. By 1911, when the Glacier National Park started granting concessions for commercial operations within its boundaries, there were several boats on the lake, as well as one on St. Mary Lake.

Early Park Concessioners

With the establishment of the park all concessioners for transporting and housing visitors on other than private lands came under Federal control and subject to permit. For some time permits were issued automatically to those who had been operating previously in the area, but later choice of concessioners became more selective. In 1911 permits were issued for passenger launches on St. Mary and McDonald Lakes; a stage line from Belton to Lake McDonald, run by John Weightman; saddle and pack horse permits to Josiah Rogers, W. J. Hilligoss, W. L. Adair, Cyrus Bellah, Chester Gephart, Norman Powell and Walter Gibb, and a permit for John Lewis to operate "rest cabins" near the head of Lake McDonald, including the Snyder hotel which he had purchased in 1896.

Glacier Park Hotel Company

Prior to 1910, the Great Northern Railway, anticipating the increase in passenger travel to this area resulting from the establishment of the park, had given considerable leadership to the movement for enabling legislation, and had also taken the preliminary steps toward development of the area. However, it was not until 1911 that the railway started actual development of the visitor accommodations within the park. At this time they started the construction of a number of hotels and camps, including temporary camps at the narrows of St. Mary Lake (Sun Camp) and Many Glacier, and the start of construction on the permanent buildings at Two Medicine Lake. Construction was also begun on the Glacier Park Hotel at East Glacier (Midvale) at this time, along with a series of chalets at Belton, for the accommodation of passengers disembarking from the trains at these places. A line of tent camps put up that summer by W. J. Hilligoss, for the accommodation of his saddle horse parties, were backed by the Great Northern. Their locations in Midvale (East Glacier Park), Two Medicine, Cut Bank Creek, St. Mary Lake, Gunsight Lake and near the present Sperry Chalet gave him a continuous line of camps from Midvale to Lake McDonald.

Original Lewis Hotel

During the winter of 1913-14, John Lewis built the Lewis Hotel, now Lake McDonald Hotel near the site of the original Snyder Hotel which he had previously purchased. Construction of this 65-room hotel was a colossal undertaking at that time, when it is considered that all the materials not available locally had to be hauled from the railroad at Belton to the foot of Lake McDonald and then transported by boat to the hotel site, nearly 10 miles up the lake. Later Lewis removed the sixteen cabins that had been built and operated only the hotel until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1930, but continued under operation of the Great Northern.

Lewis Hotel
Original Lewis Hotel

Work was going full-speed on the Great Northern buildings in various areas of the park. By 1913 the following accommodations were completed and in use or ready for use: the main hotel building, one chalet, two dormitories and several utility buildings at Glacier Park Station, the larger chalet at Two Medicine, Cut Bank and St. Mary Chalets, a dining room and eight chalets at Sun Camp, Sperry Chalets and a tent camp with a dining room and dormitory at Gunsight Lake.

When we stop and think a moment about the scope and hardships involved in this building activity we can but marvel at the ingenuity shown by these construction crews. At Many Glacier a sawmill was built to cut building material from the surrounding forest. The large timbers in the lobbies of Glacier Park and Many Glacier hotels were hauled and skidded for several miles to the hotel site. Native stone was quarried for foundations and fireplaces. And a tremendous quantity of supplies and building materials hauled by team and wagon over primitive dirt roads from the rail head at Glacier Park Station including the large boilers and other massive equipment that went into the construction of what was at one time the largest hotel in the state.

Going-to-the-Sun Chalets
Going-to-the-Sun Chalets

Many Glacier Hotel

The immense posts in the Glacier Park Lodge were hauled in by train-loads from western Washington and erected on the site by what would now be considered primitive means. What would you and I have done if faced with the problem of building the large stone buildings at Sperry Chalet, high in the mountains and reached only by boat and trail? I am content merely to ponder. But we must recognize the difficulties involved and the large amount of money spent by this company to develop these large, luxurious stopping places in the heart of the wilderness.

To Louis W. Hill, then president of the Great Northern Railway, goes the credit for this initial development of the park and establishment of these first large concessions. Hill was always an enthusiastic admirer of the park, both because of its economic value to the railroad and because of his personal love of the park. He devoted much of his time to the planning and organizing of this development, and practically every department of the Great Northern was called upon at one time or another to make their contribution to the development of this wilderness area for visitor use.

Many Glacier Hotel
Many Glacier Hotel

By 1915 Granite Park Chalets and the Many Glacier Hotel were completed and opened for business; this completed and put into operation the major portion of the Great Northern Hotels in the park. These, along with the private hotels and cabins on Lake McDonald, could now furnish sumptuous quarters and living for as many visitors as the railroad could bring into the area. In 1917 the newly-formed "Glacier Park Hotel Company," charged with operating these hotels and chalets, signed its first twenty-year operation contract with the Department of the Interior.

Prince of Wales Hotel

In 1926 the Glacier Park Hotel Company started construction of a Swiss-type hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park, just north of the Canadian boundary in Alberta. This beautiful hotel on a hill overlooking Waterton Lakes which was opened for business on July 25, 1927, completed the chain of Great Northern Hotels and Chalets in the area. Further contracts were negotiated with the company from time to time, and the company is still operating these units as they did years ago, with the exception of Cut Bank, St. Mary, and Going-to-the-Sun Chalets, which were closed down during or prior to World War II and never re-opened. All three of these Chalets were razed in recent years because of their physical condition, lack of business, and lack of money to repair them and keep them in operation. In 1933 the company opened their first cabin camp at Swiftcurrent, near the Many Glacier Hotel, most of which was destroyed by the 1936 forest fire and rebuilt again in 1937. In 1941 a coffee shop was added at Swiftcurrent and the cabin camp and coffee shop at East Glacier (Rising Sun) was opened for business. In 1961 operations of the concessions hotel and motel buildings, camp stores and dining rooms, the transportation company and the launch International were assumed by Glacier Park Incorporated, a new company which purchased the interests of the Glacier Park Company and was awarded a 20-year concessions contract by the National Park Service.

Prince of Wales Hotel
Prince of Wales Hotel

Lake McDonald Hotel

In February of 1930 a series of negotiations took place in which the Dakota and Great Northern Township Company, a subsidiary of the Great Northern, took up their option to purchase the Lewis Hotel on Lake McDonald. This company thus gained possession of the hotel and utility buildings, along with 285 acres of land on the lake shore, with the intent to hold it, clear the title, and turn it over to the Federal Government. Consequently, in 1932, the National Park Service purchased this property for over $150,000 and then leased it to the Glacier Park Hotel Company, an arrangement that is still in effect.

Lake McDonald Hotel
Lake McDonald Hotel

The Glacier Park Hotel Company, although the largest single hotel operator in the area, was by no means the only one in the park. As the years went by, more and more private operators were putting up cabins and small hotels in or near the park. Cabin camps and hotels arose in the small town adjacent to the area and other camps sprang up on private lands within the park, mainly around Lake McDonald. But as these accommodations increased, so did the travel, and even today, with new modern camps and motels being erected throughout the area, there is still a shortage of places in which to stay.

Skyland Camps

One of the unusual camps to operate within the park was the Skyland Camp, with headquarters on Bowman Lake. It opened for business in 1922, serving mainly as a boys' camp from July 2 to August 27 and as a tourist camp for the remainder of the time between June 15 and snowfall. The camp was operated by the Culver Military Academy of Culver, Indiana, and catered to teenage boys who could take care of themselves in the woods with the proper leadership and guidance. The main camp at Bowman Lake consisted of a log lodge and dining room, several outbuildings and tent sleeping quarters. The subsidiary camps at Upper and Lower Kintla Lakes were all of canvas construction with the exception of a log dining room at Lower Kintla Lake. The tourist camp at Bowman which was open all summer, consisted of a four-room chalet and tents. Hiking and saddle trips were taken from these camps through out the park, connecting them with the other operators' accommodations in the area. This camp operated for several years, but finally closed down because of lack of business.

The Bell Ringers

Piegan Pass bell
Piegan Pass Bell

During the latter part of August 1925, W. R. Mills, then advertising agent of the Great Northern Railway, and H. A. Noble, manager of the Glacier Park Hotel Company, made a request of the park superintendent for permission to place locomotive bells on the summits of the following passes in the park: Swiftcurrent, Logan, Siyeh, Gunsight, Cut Bank, Stoney Indian and at Grinnell Glacier. This request was based upon an old Swiss custom of having bells on the mountain tops and passes and the desire to give the visitors hiking or riding through the park the unusual experience of ringing these loud, clear bells high in the mountains.

The request was passed on to the office of the Director of the National Park Service, who did not approve of the idea but was somewhat loath to say so at the time, so the decision was postponed. Mr. Noble continued to press for the bells, and finally in September of 1926 the request was granted for at least two bells to be established in these passes. Within the next two months the company had placed three of them on Swiftcurrent, Piegan and Siyeh passes. These bells were bought by the Hotel Company at a cost of $194.27 each plus packing, shipping and the expense of placing them. They were very beautifully toned and created a considerable amount of interest among the people who crossed these passes and heard them ring.

A fourth bell was placed on Mt. Henry, where the Glacier Park-Two Medicine Trail crosses Scenic Point, high above Lower Two Medicine Lake, in the summer of 1929. These four bells remained in place until the fall of 1943, when they were removed by the Hotel Company and turned in on a World War II scrap metal drive.

Saddle Horse Operators

Near the turn of the century Comeau, Christensen, Bryant and Rogers started taking visitors out into the park on saddle horse trips, and Snyder's steamboat started operating on Lake McDonald. At this time the pattern was set for visitor use of trails in the park area, and the region began to build up the saddle horse business that was later to give Glacier the name of a trail park.

The small operators continued to expand their services, operating mostly from their home camps but using pack strings to extend their trips over longer periods of time. It was not until 1911, after the park was established, that the first semi-permanent type of tent camps came into being, thereby enabling saddle horse parties to travel long distances through the park without having to set up camp each night. In this year, W. J. Hilligoss, backed by the Great Northern Railway, set up a string of tent camps between the main disembarking point at Midvale, (East Glacier) and the Lake McDonald Hotel, for the accommodation of saddle horse parties. Also, within the next few years, the Glacier Park Hotel Company's chalets and hotels came into being, affording additional stop-overs for the saddle and hiking parties.

Until 1915 the saddle horse business within the park consisted of a number of independent operators, each under permit to the National Park Service and each operating in his own manner and at his own price. In 1915, under the leadership of W. N. Noffsinger, an attorney from Kalispell, Montana, a number of these small concessioners were combined as the Park Saddle Horse Company with their base ranch on the St. Mary River, several miles east of the park near Babb, Montana. This company then obtained a concession contract with the National Park Service and became the official saddle horse operator in the area.

The Park Saddle Horse Company continued to expand under the brand —X6 (Bar X Six) until at one time it owned over 1,000 head of horses and was the largest saddle horse outfit of its kind in the world, handling over 10,000 park visitors a year on the park trails. The advent of the automobile and the Going-to-the-Sun Road cut into this method of travel severely, and at the time the company ceased operations in 1942, they were not handling over 5,000 persons per year.

saddle party
Saddle Party

In 1924 when W. N. Noffsinger died, his son George W. Noffsinger took over and continued the business. The following summer he initiated what was known as the North Circle Trip, a five-day tour, with stops at tent camps or chalets, such as Hilligoss had established in 1911. Three permanent tent camps were placed in operation at Fifty Mountain, Goathaunt (at the head of Waterton Lake), and at Crossley Lake on the Belly River. These camps coupled with Granite Park Chalets constituted a tour made up of five one-day rides, starting and ending at Many Glacier Hotel. Another camp was established at Red Eagle Lake in 1926 which, along with Going-to-the-Sun, Cut Bank and Two Medicine Chalets, furnished another camp-to-camp trip from Glacier Park Station (East Glacier) to Many Glacier, known as the "Inside Trail." A third operated from Many Glacier to Sun Camp, to Sperry Chalets, Lake McDonald Hotel, Granite Park, and back to Many Glacier. These tours were very popular with both the saddle horse parties and the hikers, and were continued through 1942, after which all concessions closed down their operations because of World War II. On February 15, 1943 when Mr. Noffsinger president of the company, formally requested the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior to terminate his contract because of financial reverses, the Park Saddle Horse Company ended its noted and somewhat unique career.

In 1946 and 1947 Mrs. Bernice Lewis of Browning, Montana operated the saddle horses in the park, and in 1948 she divided her territory with Roy W. Wessels of River Bend Ranch, West Glacier, Montana. Wessels took over the operation at Lake McDonald, leaving only the Many Glacier operation to Mrs. Lewis. In the meantime Bryant Graves had been operating from Glacier Park Station (East Glacier). Mrs. Lewis operated through 1950, when E. G. Wellman, owner and operator of the Bear Creek Ranch near Essex, Montana, took over the saddle horse concessions in Glacier. In 1959 George Moore of Pablo, Montana took over the reins of the saddle horse concession and added a new operation at St. Mary.

Motor Transportation

The third type of visitor service in the park was motor transportation which, though slower to get under way than the saddle horses, nevertheless played a great part in increasing the use of the area. Although motorized public transportation did not make its appearance until 1914, prior to this there were a few horsedrawn stage lines to take park visitors from place to place. The first such venture of which we have record was Ed Dow's buckboard stage from Belton to the foot of Lake McDonald. Later John Weightman put in on the same run, a line of "fringe-topped" surreys which transported passengers from the trains to the lake.

In 1911 the first automobile appeared in Glacier National Park. The vehicle was owned by Frank Stoop, a garage man from Kalispell, founder of the present Stoop's Garage, and it was driven by Frank Whalen, one of Stoop's mechanics and later chief mechanic for the park. The party made their way to the end of the dirt road at Lake Five, about five miles from Belton then followed the railroad tracks for the remainder of the journey.

The first automobile to be driven over the newly opened road into Many Glacier was one carrying Louis W. Hill and party, of the Great Northern Railway, on August 7, 1914. This car was driven by Fred A. Noble, retired general manager of the Glacier Park Transportation Company. On August 17, just ten days later, a $1.00 entrance fee was collected from the auto of Levi Bird, quite probably the first auto fee collected in the park and certainly the first one in Many Glacier Valley.

In the year 1912 the first transportation company was started on the eastern side of the park by the Brewster Brothers, headed by W. A. Brewster. This concession consisted of three horse-drawn stage coaches drawn by four horses each and operated between the rail head at Midvale (East Glacier) and the camps of Two Medicine, Cut Bank, St. Mary and Many Glacier. They made the trip to Many Glacier in two days with an overnight stop at St. Mary.

The Brewsters, though, were soon destined to bow before modern transportation methods. In the spring of 1914 a rival company appeared on the scene, the newly organized "Glacier Park Transportation Company," owned by Rowe Emery and backed by the White Motor Company. On April 24, 1914, this new company made application for and received permission to operate the sole passenger and freight concession within Glacier National Park. On June 5, 1914 they entered into their first official contract with the Department of the Interior, and the business was under way.

Mr. Emery hired A. K. Holmes as manager of the company, imported ten buses, five touring cars, and a couple of trucks, all from the White Motor Company, and started operation in earnest, very effectively eliminating the Brewster Brothers from the transportation picture. These buses, primitive by present day standards, had stationary wooden tops supported by iron brackets and side curtains to keep out the rain and wind whenever necessary. Along the length of the buses on either side was a large wooden sign mounted on brackets—"Glacier Park Transportation Company." These signs broke off on almost every trip and had to be replaced, so they were finally removed.

Old Buses

The early days of this company were days of trials and tribulations. The first year, 1914, was relatively dry, but much of the new road up the eastern front of the range had to be repaired and in places the dips filled in to keep from tearing off the baggage racks on the rear of the long buses. But the venture was quite successful and business looked good. Then in 1915 came one of those seasons in which it rained almost every day. The roads became a sea of mud, and the buses had to be pulled across certain sections of the road with horses. Often they spent as much time off the road as on it, and the passengers arrived at their destination muddy, scared, tired and wishing they were back home. It is to the credit of Mr. Holmes and his drivers that this operation was able to continue through the summer; although at times ready to give up, Emery was willing to give it one more try and in the end managed to make it through the season. With this experience behind them, the company was ready for anything, continued to enlarge and soon covered the entire park.

In the year 1927 Emery sold out to a new company, the Glacier Transport Company, owned by Mr. Howard H. Hays and associates. Mr. Hays, now a newspaper publisher in Riverside, California, had previously had transport experience in Yellowstone National Park, and also owned and operated the transportation company in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. This company continued to improve and enlarge and by 1930 was operating a fleet of over 65 buses in the park. At the present time Glacier Park Incorporated has the sole motor transportation concession in the park, and their fleet of large, red sight-seeing buses carry thousands of visitors over the park roads every summer, continuing the traditions of safety and courtesy established by the owners and drivers in the early days when the going was at its worst. The Transport Company was sold by Hays and associates to the Glacier Park Company in 1957 (who sold it in turn to Glacier Park Incorporated in 1961.)

Boat Operators

The third method of commercial transportation in the park is by boat, which has afforded many hours of pleasure to the park visitors, as well as a useful means of transportation from one spot to another. Here, again, the first known boat transportation occurred on Lake McDonald, with the advent of Snyder's steamboat, the F. I. Whitney in 1895, followed by Frank Kelly's boats in 1906. The fleet of boats on Lake McDonald had increased to five by 1910.

In 1911, the first year in which the park granted permits or concessions to operators, Messrs Denny and Kelly were given permits to operate three boats on Lake McDonald, carrying one hundred twenty-five, twenty-five, and twenty-five persons respectively. At the same time one James T. Maher was given a permit to operate a forty-foot, twenty-passenger launch on St. Mary Lake, running from St. Mary to the camp at the site of the Going-to-the-Sun Chalets, near the upper end of the lake. The following year the Great Northern was given a permit to operate two boats on St. Mary Lake, to supply and transport passengers to "Sun Camp." The "Red Eagle" and the "Glacier," each gas operated, thirty-two feet long and with a capacity of twenty-five persons each, started operation in June, 1912. In 1913 the "Red Eagle" was replaced by the "St. Mary," a gas powered boat sixty-four feet long with a fourteen foot beam, capable of carrying seventy-five passengers from St. Mary to Sun Camp. This boat operated on St. Mary Lake until the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, when it was retired from use. In 1951 it was sold to Bernard Rankin, then Superintendent of State Parks of Montana, and is now again in use hauling passengers on Flathead Lake.

Launch St. Mary
Haynes Picture Shops, Inc.

In 1914, a colorful character appeared on the boat scene in the park. When Captain "Billy" Swanson, a boat builder and operator on Flathead Lake, decided that the pastures were a little greener in the park, he decided to take his boat, the sixty-foot "City of Polson" up to Lake McDonald via the water route. After many trials and tribulations, the lesser of which included much hauling by shore lines, the boat finally reached the lake, having come all the way up the Flathead River and McDonald Creek by water. After reaching the lake, he added eleven feet to the boat's length, renamed it the "Lewtana" and used it with the Kelly and Denny fleet. After Denny heft, Swanson went into business with Kelly and Snyder on the Lake.

Of all the park concessions, the boat operators present the most confusing picture, particularly during the 1920's, with different companies, including the hotel company, operating on different lakes, and many of the operations were to change hands.

In 1920 Captain Swanson, who had heretofore been operating with Kelly and Snyder on Lake McDonald, built a forty-passenger launch on Two Medicine Lake and put it into operation for the Hotel Company. By this time the Hotel Company was in the boat business on Two Medicine, St. Mary and McDermott (Swiftcurrent) Lakes, the latter only to the extent of renting row boats. Kelly continued his operation on Lake McDonald.

In 1921 the boat concession on Lake McDonald was taken over from Frank Kelly by R. C. Abell, and consisted of three passenger boats, with Captain Swanson again back on the lake in charge of them. Abell only operated for three years, though, when he sold to the Glacier Park Transport Company, and Captain Anderson of Flathead Lake became manager of these boats. Swanson then obtained the boat concession on the east side of the park, with the exception of the St. Mary, and started building launches for McDermott Lake at Many Glacier.

Launch International, Waterton Lake

In 1927 and 1928, Captain Swanson built, for the Glacier Park Hotel Company, the launch "International" which was put into service on Waterton Lake in the summer of 1928. This boat, seventy-three feet long with a sixteen foot beam, carried two engines operating twin screws, and was capable of carrying two hundred and fifty passengers. This largest of the park launches is still operating on Waterton Lake from the town of Waterton, in Alberta, to the southern end of the lake, in Glacier National Park.

In 1938 Swanson sold his interest in the Swanson Boat Company to Arthur J. Burch, of Kalispell, and Captain Anderson. The operation then became known as the Glacier Park Boat Company; then as today, it operated the boats on Two Medicine and Swiftcurrent Lakes. In 1946 the interests of Mrs. Melanie Anderson, Captain Anderson's widow, were assigned to Arthur Burch, leaving him sole owner of the Company. By this time there were three major boat operators in the park: The Glacier Park Boat Company; The Glacier Park Hotel Company, operating the Launch International on Waterton Lake; and The Glacier Park Transport Company, operating the row boats and the Launch "DeSmet," on Lake McDonald. In the summer of 1953 the Glacier Park Transport Company sold their interests on Lake McDonald to Arthur M. Burch (son of the owner of the Glacier Park Boat Company) and Raymond L. Simpson.

Launch "Red Eagle" on St. Mary Lake
H. H. News Photo

This new operation on Lake McDonald became the Lake McDonald Boat Company, operating only on this lake until 1957 when they expanded to include St. Mary Lake. In 1956 Stan-Craft built in Kalispell, Montana, the hull for a new excursion launch, which was thirty-eight feet in length with a ten foot beam. Burch and Simpson completed the interior and superstructure to accommodate forty passengers. The new launch "Red Eagle" is powered by two gas-driven engines with twin screws. In October, 1958 Arthur Burch assumed the interests of Ray Simpson and became the sole owner and operator of the Lake McDonald Boat Company.

Park Visitation

It is hard to say just when this area first assumed its role as a major recreational attraction. Many of the early explorers may have considered their journeys into these mountains as a recreational activity, while to others it probably was a lot of hard work. But we do know that with the coming of the Great Northern Railway the area, particularly around Lake McDonald, became a major attraction to people from the east, encouraged no doubt by the tales and writings of such people as Dr. Lyman B. Sperry, George Bird Grinnell, and James Willard Schultz.

We have no way of knowing how many people entered the area prior to 1911, for no methods of counting them were in existence and no one was particularly interested in doing so. But by 1900 the business of catering to the wants of these visitors was a big business and has continued to increase in size, year by year, ever since.

Name Changes

Such a growth in use of an area not only brings with it wealth and benefits to those who supply the needs of visitors, but it also brings its "growing pains," and its unusual or unexpected turn of events. One of these unexpected turns resulted from such a simple matter as changing the name of a town.

In 1934 and 1935 the residents of the town of Belton, at the western entrance to the park, wishing to identify themselves more closely with the park, made a concerted effort to have the name "Belton" changed to "West Glacier." This was backed by the National Park Service and had the support of the president of the Great Northern Railway. A petition was drawn up and signed by the residents, but for some reason there was a lack of followup action and the movement died. At the same time there was some discussion relative to changing the name of Glacier Park Station, formerly Midvale, to East Glacier, for similar reasons. This change was discouraged by the park superintendent and nothing further was done on it.

Again in 1949, this time headed by the Columbia Falls newspaper "Hungry Horse News," and the West Glacier Lions Club, the change was again brought up and carried through, changing the name of Belton to "West Glacier," effective October 1, 1949. But this time the Great Northern did not go along with the idea, and the town ended up with two names; the post office and that portion north of the railroad tracks becoming West Glacier, and the railroad depot and that portion of the old townsite south of the tracks remaining as Belton. From here on things began to get complicated.

The following year, Glacier Park Station, wishing to create a corresponding name on the east side of the park, changed its name to "East Glacier Park," which shortened locally to become "East Glacier." Here again, the railroad refused to concur and retained the name of Glacier Park Station for their station. This immediately caused confusion in the park, for the cabin camp and campground at Roes Creek, on St. Mary Lake, had been officially called East Glacier, so that name came up for revision. When park officials, at Ed Beatty's suggestion, finally settled on the name "Rising Sun" for the development at Roes Creek, things settled down to an even keel again, except in the minds of those who resided in or who had visited the area previously. To them the change will not be reconciled for many years, but in time all will again be serene.

Famous Visitors to the Area

Any area open to public use, particularly one of national significance, is sooner or later visited by one or more people of some degree of national or international fame. Of these, Glacier has had several whose claim to fame has had world-wide recognition. One of the first of these internationally known figures was Lincoln Ellsworth, who later was the guiding financial genius for the Amundsen polar expedition of 1926. Ellsworth first visited the park in 1911; for about a month he traveled over the area accompanied by Ranger James C. Graves. He returned in 1912, and again in the summer of 1926, when Captain Roald Amundsen, the famed North Pole flier, and his crew from the dirigible "Norge," stopped briefly at Glacier Park Station, on their way from Alaska, following their successful flight over the north pole. The flight from Nome, over the north pole and down to Alaska was one of the famous polar flights, and the first successful one over the pole. With the captain and his crew was Lincoln Ellsworth.

Also in the year 1926, on November 8, Queen Marie of Rumania stopped briefly at Glacier Park Station on her way west and was welcomed by a large aggregation of Blackfeet Indians. Their ceremony was conducted entirely by the Indians, the only white persons participating in any way being the members of the Queen's own party. In a circle of Indian tepees on the lawn of the Glacier Park Hotel, with the snow-capped mountains of the park as a back drop, the Queen, Princess Ileana, and Prince Nicholas were adopted into the Blackfeet tribe, given appropriate Indian names, and were presented with buckskin garments and war bonnets. Following the ceremony, Superintendent and Mrs. Kraebel were presented to the Queen and her party.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The next notable visit was that of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 5, 1934. On the morning of August 5, the President and his official party entered the park at Belton, well escorted by police, park rangers and secret service men, were taken over the Going-to-the-Sun Road to St. Mary. From there the party went south to the Two Medicine Chalets where the President, Mrs. Roosevelt, and Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes were inducted into the Blackfeet Indian tribe. Following this the President made one of his famous fireside radio broadcasts from the chalet, and was then taken to Glacier Park Station where he boarded his special train for Washington, D. C. This was the first time that a president of the United States had visited Glacier National Park. While on his trip through the park, the Blackfeet Indians also gave the President a peace pipe, supposedly the one that had been used to seal the treaty of 1855 between the United States and the Blackfeet Nation at Judith Basin, Montana.

Secretary Ickes

In 1939 royalty again visited Glacier National Park, when Crown Prince Olav and Princess Martha of Norway visited the park from June 3 through June 5. This same year Associate Justice — later Chief Justice — Harlan Stone and his wife spent a two-week vacation in the park and were inducted into the Blackfeet tribe, as were many other notables. While in the park, Mrs. Stone did many paintings, several of which were exhibited in New York.

Prince Olaf and Princess Martha
Crown Prince Olaf and Princes Martha of Norway

Although not actually a park visitor, the second president to pass by the area was Harry S Truman who, on the evening of September 30, 1952, stopped briefly at West Glacier and talked to the people of the community. Mr. Truman was accompanied by his daughter Margaret, and several other notables. He was making the last official trip of his term of office, campaigning for his unsuccessful candidate for president, Governor Stevenson of Illinois. Over two-hundred people, along with the Columbia Falls High School Band, were present to hear him speak.


Nothing has a more devastating effect than a forest fire upon a forested area and also upon the minds of the people concerned with protecting such an area. Throughout the history of mankind, fire, when controlled, has been his benefactor, when uncontrolled, it has been his greatest scourge. Forested areas throughout the world contain records, written and unwritten, of forest fires that swept over vast areas leaving nothing behind but blackened ruins which Nature patiently set about to restore. Such is the story of the forested areas in Glacier National Park; contained within the written records are the stories of a number of disastrous fires and fire-years that even yet cause men to shudder when they look back upon them.

One of the worst fire-years in the history of the Pacific Northwest was 1910 when hundreds of thousands of acres of forest were burning at the same time. Extremely dry weather, high winds, and lightning storms had made torches out of thousands of square miles of virgin forest in Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana. And of the fires, Glacier National Park received its share. Although the park had just been created and Major Logan had been sent in from the Indian Service to set up an organization to administer it, practically all his time until the fall rains came was diverted into attempting to control these devastating fires. There was no firefighting organization then, as we know it now, little equipment, few trails and no roads. Everything had to be done the hard way, and there were too few people to do it. With fires cropping up all over the western slopes of the mountain ranges, it is no wonder that over 100,000 acres of the park burned over.

The major conflagration, caused mainly by dry-lightning storms, consisted of 23,000 acres below Kintla Creek, extending from Ford Creek to the Canadian boundary and from the Flathead River to the mountains. Because of a careless camper another 8,000 acres burned around the foot of Bowman Lake; this area extended from a point about two miles down the creek from the lake, up both shores to the foot of the mountains. "Spot fires" from fires across the North Fork, on the Whitefish Range, accounted for another 19,000 acres including almost all of the lower reaches of Camas, Dutch and Anaconda Creeks. 7,600 acres burned over above Nyack, across the river from Garry Lookout, and 4,000 acres went up in smoke at Red Eagle, from unknown causes, as well as dozens of others of a lesser extent throughout the western slopes of the park. This same siege of fires saw the Upper Ole Creek drainage, Fielding and the southeastern corner of the park as far as Midvale (East Glacier Park) also burned over.

As is usually the case, bad fire-years occur only periodically, with little or no set pattern. It was not until 1920 that the park was again beset with conditions of weather that caused any extensive forest fires. In that year there were three badly burned areas, including between 1,500 and 2,000 acres on Dutch Creek, 150 to 200 acres on Lincoln Creek and 200 to 300 acres on Huckleberry Mountain. By this time the park had a much better firefighting organization than in earlier days and undoubtedly much better control over those fires that did get started.

The year 1926 saw the next bad fire-year, reportedly the worst since 1910. Fires began in the park in May and continued until mid-August. Director Albright came out to the park and personally took charge of the fire situation during the month of August. Over seven hundred men were employed in twenty-five fire camps at one time. During this time twenty-three fires burned over a total of 50,000 acres, the worst being one that burned the forested Apgar Mountain-Lake McDonald area. Although another 300-acre blaze near Lake McDermott (Swiftcurrent) threatened to be equally as serious, but it was finally controlled.

The year 1929 was dry and potentially dangerous for fire, but the park had been relatively lucky, with no fires of any consequence. Then, on August 16, a slash fire, burning on private logging operations between eight and ten miles outside the park boundary, near Columbia Falls, escaped from its bounds under high winds and low humidity conditions, and the famous Halfmoon Fire of 1929 was underway. It overran the logging crews of the Halfmoon Lumber Company and forest crews were sent to stop the fire. Carrying as a crown fire across portions of the Flathead and Blackfeet National Forests, on August 21 it jumped the North Fork of the Flathead River into the park, near its southwestern corner. From there the fire spread rapidly eastward, on both sides of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River toward Belton and Lake McDonald. By some miracle of fate, it missed Park Headquarters, Belton and most of Apgar, but continued eastward almost to Nyack before being stopped.

All fire control agencies in the northwest were called in on this fire and personnel came from all over the United States. Fire Control Expert John Coffman, of the National Park Service, arrived on the 22nd and personally took charge of the park organization, but before it was over the park lost over 50,000 acres of fine forest, of which about 10,000 acres was a heavy stand of reproduction from previous burns. The entire fire burned, both inside and outside the park, approximately 103,000 acres at a total cost of over $300,000, $244,000 of which was expended by Glacier National Park. Those who drive along the road between West Glacier and the foot of Lake McDonald today do not see the devastation wrought by this fire, as the old burn is being rapidly replaced by a thriving crop of lodgepole pine, replacing the majestic stand of redcedars and hemlock that were there prior to 1929.

1935 saw two other devastating fires, at the same time at opposite ends of the park. The first, the Kennedy Creek Fire, started on August 6 by a spark from a campfire on Kennedy Creek (Otatso Creek), several miles inside the park boundary. Under a high wind it spread rapidly to the east burning out the lower reaches of the Kennedy Creek Valley, including the Kennedy Creek Ranger Station buildings and spread out onto the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. 555 acres were burned in the park and 2,654 acres on Indian lands.

The day following the start of the Kennedy Creek Fire, a lightning strike started another fire on Boundary Creek, almost on the Canadian Line, west of Waterton Lake. Crews reached the fire and had it under control until, on August 9, high winds took it over the control lines and on its way toward Waterton Lake and the town of Waterton in Alberta. When finally stopped by the cooperative effort of both Glacier and Waterton crews, it was within one and one-half miles of the town and had burned 988 acres in Glacier and 1,244 acres in Waterton National Park, including the timber on about two and a half miles of the shore line of Waterton Lake.

One of the most disastrous fires in the history of the park, with the possible exception of the Halfmoon Fire of 1929, was the Heavens Peak Fire of August 1936. On August 19 lightning struck a tree on the southeastern shoulder of Heavens Peak, known as the Glacier Wall, and started a small fire. When the smoke was discovered on August 21, men were sent out to suppress the fire, but the precipitous nature of the terrain made it very difficult to control; it had reached an area of approximately 200 acres before the spread was stopped. Everything was going fine, and the fire was thought to be under control, when, on August 31, high winds came up and the fire flared up, jumped the control lines and started for Granite Park and Swiftcurrent Pass. The following day it reached Granite Park and that evening, by 8:00 o'clock, crossed Swiftcurrent Pass and was roaring down the Many Glacier Valley, a rolling wall of flame. Within a matter of hours it reached and passed the Many Glacier Hotel, which it spared; but it burned out most of the Swiftcurrent cabins, the government ranger station, the museum and other buildings on Swiftcurrent Lake. A change in the wind and weather stopped the blaze before it had a chance to go much farther, and fire fighting crews were then able to move in and take steps to prevent its further spread and damage. This fire burned approximately 7,500 acres and, from the standpoint of the park visitor, was the most devastating fire in the park, as it completely denuded one of the most beautiful valleys in the park and partially stripped another, both of which were on main traveled routes or visitor concentration areas.

The next bad fire-year occurred in 1940, when dry lightning storms set over twenty fires, several of which reached project proportions. The largest on Nyack Creek, burned over 420 acres, while the next largest, above Bowman Lake, burned approximately 300 acres. Many other smaller blazes at the same time taxed the firefighting strength of the park and required outside aid from those agencies who could spare men from their own fires.

It was not until 1945 that another bad fire burned within the park boundaries. In this year the Curly Bear Fire burned over 280 acres just below the lookout station on Curly Bear Mountain. This lightning-caused fire cost the park $14,636 to suppress.

More than a decade passed before the next major fire occurred in the park. 1958 was the last of the bad fire-years when approximately 3,000 acres burned over in thirty-three fires, of which twenty-six were caused by lightning, the remainder by man. The largest of the fires was the Coal Creek Fire which burned 2,534 acres. This was a man-caused fire that cost the park $219,801 for manpower, equipment and other expenditures. The use of borate solution, sprayed by airplanes, kept this blaze from being more disastrous than it was.

Most of the fires in 1958 occurred during the month of August when the area was continually besieged with dry lightning storms. With many fires burning at one time, the manpower was spread very thin over the park fighting fires from a negligible size up to the Razoredge Mountain Fire of 153 acres in addition to the Coal Creek Fire. The total expenditure for fire suppression during the year was $254,846.13.

The above-mentioned fires were not the only bad ones, but represent the worst fire conditions through the years. Such conditions will undoubtedly arise again and again, but with increased knowledge and better fire equipment man is slowly making headway in his battle to control and prevent the recurrence of such catastrophies as occurred in 1929, 1936 and 1958.


Early Road Builders

The earliest roads in Glacier National Park were built just prior to the turn of the century, during the late 1890's. At this point, we are using the term "road" quite loosely, for those early roads were little more than "routes" over which it was possible to take a team and wagon to haul supplies from the railroad to a nearby settlement. Most of them grew out of necessity rather than planning, and followed the paths of least resistance.

One of the earliest was the route, cleared between the village of Belton and the foot of Lake McDonald, over which Snyder hauled his steamboat in 1895, and over which Dow's buckboards bounced and plunged hauling visitors from the railroad depot to Apgar on their way to the head of the lake. Oldtimers speak of the dense forest of large redcedar trees that covered the Apgar Flats through which this road wound, taking one's mind off the condition of the trip with their primitive beauty.

In 1901, with the start of oil drilling activity at Kintla Lake, the Butte Oil Company extended this road some forty miles to the foot of Kintla Lake, over the same general route as the present North Fork Road. Here, again, one must stretch his imagination to picture it as a road, according to present day standards. No grading was done, and no bridges were built. Corduroy (short pieces of log laid crosswise) was placed across the worst mud holes, and the necessary trees were cut to allow the wagons to pass. That was the first North Fork Road. But in spite of this, the road was built, and most of the heavy machinery for the well at Kintla Lake was hauled over it during the first summer.

This road was little improved over the next ten years, until the establishment of the park in 1910. One of Major Logan's first jobs as superintendent of the park was to rebuild and macadamize or hard surface the road between Belton and Lake McDonald, and start construction of a continuation around the lake toward the proposed headquarters area at the mouth of Fish Creek. The Belton-Apgar section was completed in 1912 and the Fish Creek Road in 1913, giving for the first time a good roadway from the railroad to the lake. In 1915 work was started on the rebuilding of the North Fork Road, and by the end of the summer it was practically completed to the top of McGee Hill. This road was soon completed to Logging Creek and later to Polebridge, opening up the North Fork of the Flathead to much easier methods of travel.

Almost coincident with the start of the Belton-Apgar Road was the establishment of a freight road from Fort Browning into the Many Glacier Valley, to supply the mining camps and new boom town of Altyn. Here, again, necessity was the motivating factor, and the road followed the path of least resistance, but in this case the open prairie-like country afforded much easier access, except during wet weather. Evidences of many of these olden-day freight roads may still be found, usually consisting only of a few weed-choked ruts through the brush thickets—mute evidence of the transportation difficulties of those times.

In 1911, when the Great Northern Railway started to build its hotels and chalets along the eastern side of the park, they immediately ran into transportation difficulties. Tons of lumber and other building materials, boilers for heating plants, supplies and equipment of all kinds had to be hauled into these mountain valleys for the construction of these large hotels. And following the construction of accommodations, the visitors had to be transported to them.

Because the administration of the park was being carried on with a minimum of funds, which did not permit any extensive road construction, the Great Northern stepped into the breach and went ahead at their own expense to construct the roads and trails needed for the necessary visitor transportation at that time. In 1911 they contracted for the first construction on a road from Midvale (East Glacier Park) to Many Glacier, the predecessor of the present Blackfeet Highway, under an agreement with the Department of the Interior. Work on this road was pushed along and in 1913, on August 7, the first automobile was driven over it to McDermott Lake; it carried the president of the Great Northern Railway, Louis W. Hill, and his party. This road opened up the route to Many Glacier, following the new construction to St. Mary, and from there the old freight road into Many Glacier, which had been improved enough to allow for heavier traffic.

The following year rebuilding was carried on toward Many Glacier, with the United States Reclamation Service completing the section between Babb and the site of their dam on Sherburne Lake, at the park boundary. The Department of the Interior completed reconstruction of the St. Mary-Babb section in 1915 and carried on to complete the final section to Many Glacier within the next few years.

This road from Midvale to Many Glacier was unsurfaced but well graded, and in dry weather was very easy to negotiate. But after a period of heavy rains this prairie mud would be nearly impossible to cross. Mr. A. K. Holmes, then general manager of the newly formed Glacier Park Transportation Company, writes that since their first year, 1914, was dry the company did very well, but that the year 1915 was a different story. It was rainy—rain almost every day—and the Milk River Flats became a virtual sea of mud. Jack Galbreath, who owned an eight-horse team, camped on this flat that summer and pulled the cars through the mud, which sometimes came up almost to the doors of those open-sided White buses. The sidehill sections were as slick as grease and the vehicles often spent as much time off the road as on it. This period developed a group of exceedingly skillful drivers but sorely taxed the patience and ingenuity of the owner, Mr. Emery. It is to his credit that he stayed with the job and continued to develop the company toward its present-day organization. But those who experienced these years of trial will not soon forget them.

Before long gravel was placed on the surface of this road and the worst sections repaired so that bad weather would not be too much of a hindrance, but repairs and maintenance were carried on continually. The Great Northern, in order to keep these eastside roads and trails available for the necessary visitor travel, continued to spend a considerable amount of money for maintenance, some of which was returned to them later by the Federal Government as funds were made available for this purpose. It is to the everlasting credit of these pioneer concessioners and the far-sightedness of Mr. Hill of the Great Northern Railway that visitor accommodations and transportation facilities were made available to people on the eastern slopes of the park in such a short time. Appropriations to administer the park were very limited and hard to obtain, and had this development been obliged to wait for the Federal funds, it would have been many years making its appearance.

The eastside road from the railhead at Midvale to Many Glacier, with the necessary side roads to Two Medicine and Cutbank Chalets, continued to serve the visitor for many years. Then, in 1924, action was initiated for the construction of a hardsurfaced road from Glacier Park Station to the Canadian boundary, a distance of approximately fifty-four miles. This road along with the necessary feeder roads into the park constituted what is now known as the Blackfeet Highway.

Work on the Blackfeet Highway itself, started in 1926 by the Bureau of Public Roads with 100% federal-aid money, continued to completion in 1929. The Two Medicine Road was constructed between 1925 and 1929, and the Babb-Many Glacier reconstruction was completed with the opening of the bridge at the outlet of Swiftcurrent Lake in 1930. Then, for the first time, the red buses were able to forget the ever-present threat of mud and slippery roads on their daily run from Glacier Park Station.

The only remaining section of the eastside highway system was the so-called "Kennedy Creek Cutoff," later renamed the "Chief Mountain International Highway." Major construction was started on this in 1934 and it was opened to travel on June 14, 1936, although the surfacing was not completed at this time. This highway afforded the first direct connection between Glacier National Park and its sister area, Waterton Lakes National Park, immediately across the border in Alberta. Now this is one of the popular drives from either park and a main route of travel for people crossing the border in the summer months.

Let us pause and take a look at the transportation picture as it existed at the time of the completion of the Blackfeet Highway on the east side in 1929. Here we have a rugged mountain range, crossed at Marias Pass by the railroad, and at various places along its length by trails. A surfaced road leads north from the railroad at Glacier Park Station to the Canadian boundary, with short feeder roads into the lower east side valleys.

On the west side a road extended up the North Fork of the Flathead and construction crews pushed toward the summit of Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. However, travel from one side of the park to the other had to be transported on railroad cars between Belton and Glacier Park Station; hence there was very little of what we now call "transcontinental travel" through the park.

This situation complicated even the administration of the park so that a sub-headquarters was set up at Glacier Park Station to administer the eastern slopes, thereby effectively cutting the area in two. A warehouse, machine shop and the other necessary offices were established there at the location of the present Glacier Park Ranger Station, in East Glacier Park.

By June 20, 1930, the last two contracts for U. S. Highway 2 across the mountains immediately south of the park were completed and the "Roosevelt Highway" was officially opened for travel on July 19, with dedication ceremonies at Marias Pass on August 23. For the first time a coast-to-coast route was opened through the area, allowing more visitors to reach the park without having to back-track to get back on the main routes of travel. This road also made the administration of the park more simple and made available for the first time a much wider use of automobiles by the National Park Service.


The Going-to-the-Sun Road, named by Park Naturalist George C. Ruhle in 1929, is the only trans-mountain road within the boundaries of the park. It gives the visitor who is unable to get into the back country on the trails, a cross section of the beauties and scenery offered by the higher peaks and passes in the range, a view marred only by the man-made scars necessary for such an accomplishment. This road, extending from West Glacier at the western entrance to St. Mary on the eastern side, is a marvel of engineering accomplishment. This wide, two-laned, surfaced road was literally carved out of the precipitous rock mountainsides for approximately twelve miles of its fifty-mile length. This road crosses the Continental Divide on Logan Pass at an elevation of 6,664 feet, a rise of approximately 3,000 feet in elevation in the last nine miles of the climb up the west side.

From the time the park was established, various park superintendents had recommended a trans-mountain road, their interest motivated by a desire for easier administration as well as by the feasibility of a scenic route for the visitors to travel. As a result of these requests, in 1916 T. Warren Allen, an engineer for the Bureau of Public Roads, was sent to make a reconnaissance of the desired route over the mountains, and in so doing became the first engineer to make a report upon the feasibility of such a road. As a result of his report, preliminary surveys were made in 1917 and 1918, following the same route as the present road as far as Trapper (Logan) Creek. From there the original survey followed up Trapper Creek directly toward the summit of Logan Pass, using a minimum grade of eight per cent (as compared to the present average of five and one-half per cent) on a series of fifty-foot radius switchbacks. Under this survey, Congress, in 1921, appropriated the first money for construction, a total of $100,000, to be expended under contracts on the section from the foot to the head of Lake McDonald, including a spur to the present Lake McDonald Ranger Station.

Further preliminary survey work was carried on in 1918; and in 1919 the first actual work was done on the road by John E. Lewis, owner of the Lewis Hotel at the head of Lake McDonald. He spent over $3,000 that summer cutting three and one-half miles of right-of-way along Lake McDonald, grading two miles of road and building three bridges. His work continued through 1920, but was necessarily slow because of the lack of proper equipment.

On August 16, 1921, the first actual construction contract, other than that done by John Lewis, in the mid-1890's, was awarded for completion of this section to the head of Lake McDonald, under the original $100,000 appropriation. By the summer of 1922, this section was cleared and graded; and in July another contract was awarded for seven additional miles, carrying the road to Avalanche Creek by 1924. This was the end of the road for several years, as far as visitor traffic was concerned, but with the development of the camping area there, many people visited this spot and the nearby Avalanche Lake.

Further appropriations in 1923-24 enabled work to be started on the eastern end of the road, from St. Mary almost to (Going-to-the-Sun) Sun Point, as well as on the section between Avalanche campground and Logan Creek, at the foot of the pass. The contractor on this latter section, however, did not complete his contract as specified, and the National Park Service was forced to take over and complete the job on a force-account basis.

Not being satisfied with the surveyed location of the road up Logan Creek, Park Superintendent Kraebel and Director Mather persuaded the Bureau of Public Roads to re-survey the entire route between the completed portions. In September 1924, Engineer Frank A. Kittridge of the Bureau was put in charge of this survey. During that fall, Kittridge and his crew went over the entire route, fighting bad weather, storms and icy cliffs until the middle of November. Before spring the job was approved on Kittridge's (present) location and bids were let for construction of the remaining twelve miles to the pass from the west side.

During this same winter, 1924-25, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Public Roads reached an agreement whereby the Bureau took over the engineering supervision of this entire construction job. From year to year more and more of the construction supervision on park roads was taken over by the Bureau. By the summer of 1927 practically all of the park road construction program had been placed in their charge.

With the taking over of construction by the Bureau of Public Roads, a decision was reached that all funds would be spent on the west side, as far as was practical to do so, in order to complete the road to Logan Pass in the shortest possible time. By this time there were nine miles completed on the east side and eighteen and one-half miles on the west side, leaving an uncompleted gap between Logan Creek and the vicinity of (Going-to-the-Sun) Sun Point.

The final section on the west side, from Logan Creek to the summit of Logan Pass, was the most difficult section of the entire road. This section was awarded for $869,145, or approximately $71,000 per mile, not including the surfacing and further guardrail work, which brought the total cost to almost $80,000 per mile. Grading was completed to the pass by October 20, 1928, but the road was not opened to the public until the following summer. During the height of this job the contractor employed an average total of 225 men, operating out of five to six camps, and it was estimated that he used approximately one pound of dynamite for each cubic yard of material removed in construction of this road.

In June of 1929 the road's opening to Logan Pass from the west caused a sudden increase in park travel of approximately 18,000 people, most of whom came through the western entrance on their way to the pass. At this time also, Park Naturalist George C. Ruhle suggested the name "Going-to-the-Sun Road" for the new road, a suggestion which was adopted by the National Park Service. With the exception of roadside cleanup, a certain amount of resurfacing, sloping and other relatively minor jobs, the west side road was now completed.

Further contracts were awarded for the uncompleted sections on the eastern slopes of the mountains, and work was carried on toward the road's completion. The last major construction on the road was completed in September 1932, with the exception of the east side tunnel, which was not holed through until October 19. On September 3, 1932, Director Horace Albright headed a party on an inspection tour of the entire road, starting at Lake McDonald Hotel and driving to Logan Pass. From there they proceeded over the construction job to the east side tunnel, as yet unfinished, walked around that to the other end and took another car to the Glacier Park Hotel. Grading was not completed on this last section of the road until the summer of 1933, just in time to let traffic through for the dedication ceremonies.

In order to open the road officially, dedication ceremonies were planned for July 15, 1933, immediately following the opening of the road to public use on July 11. The ceremony was carefully arranged and served to commemorate three events: the opening of the road, the placing of a plaque on Logan Pass in honor of Stephen T. Mather, and the first anniversary of the establishment of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.


The event was attended by nearly 5,000 people, including over 150 Indians of the Blackfeet Flathead and Kootenai tribes. Among the distinguished guests and speakers were the Governor of Montana, United States Senators Burton K. Wheeler and W. A. Buchanan, and former Congressman Scott Leavitt. Probably the most colorful portion of the ceremony was the part enacted by the Indians, who attended with the intent to affirm a peace between tribes that had formerly been bitter enemies, but which in recent years had let the fires of animosity die without any official sharing of peaceable intentions.

The ardor and sincerity on the part of the Indians was not a bit dampened by an automobile accident on the way to the pass that took the lives of two of their members. At the meeting were many Indian notables, including Kustata, ancient chief of the Kootenais, and eighty-year-old Duncan McDonald, after whom Lake McDonald was named. Also present was Two-Guns White Calf of the buffalo nickel fame and son of the last great chief of the Blackfeet nation. Colorful tepees were erected in the pass to house the Indians who, at the appointed time put on a very colorful and moving pageant depicting the events leading up to this moment, and ending with the smoking of the pipe of peace and the exchanging of gifts, to signify that the tribes were now at peace forever. A more interesting and colorful ceremony has never been enacted within the boundaries of Glacier National Park.

Opening of the road to the public on July 11, 1933, did not mark the end of work to be done on the road, as there still remained to be done a considerable amount of surfacing, re-grading, guardrail installing, roadside clean up and the like. By the end of 1935 construction costs, from Belton to St. Mary had reached almost $3,000,000, nearly one-third of which was spent on the twelve-mile section between Logan Creek and the summit of the pass. Today when one drives over this road, a modern two-lane roadway literally carved out of solid rock thousands of feet up on a precipitous mountain side, he cannot help but wonder how it was built at any cost.

dedication ceremony
Dedication Ceremony at Logan Pass for the Opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road

The Park Trails

Much of this early park history is woven around the use of or search for routes across the mountain range. The old Indian trails were not much as we think of park trails today; but they did follow well-defined routes and were often deeply worn by heavy use. But because of the nature of the terrain and the heavily timbered valleys, trails were almost always a prime necessity if one were to travel from one place to another through these mountain passes.

Very little actual trail construction was undertaken prior to the establishment of the park. We have a record of Mrs. Nat Collins (The Cattle Queen) working the Indian trail over Swiftcurrent Pass in 1883, to make it possible for her pack animals to reach her prospect site on Cattle Queen Creek. Then in 1890 Lieutenant George P. Ahern constructed a trail of sorts to take his party over Ahern Pass; throughout the trip he was cutting out trail in the heavily timbered valleys through which he passed. Dr. Sperry's trail from Lake McDonald to Sperry Glacier and over Gunsight Pass, constructed in 1902 and 1903 by college boys from Minnesota, was probably the first organized trail-building effort in the park.

With the coming of the park, trail building began in earnest, for patrols had to be made, cabins had to be built in the back country, and all the valleys and passes had to be traversed by trails in order to increase the efficient administration of the area as well as to allow park visitors to reach the back country. One of the first bits of reconstruction came about in a rather unusual manner. In May 1910, Chief Clerk Ukker of the Department of the Interior arrived in the park to make an inspection trip and hired Josiah Rogers and his string of horses to pack him through the park. Toward the end of the trip, Ukker expressed a desire to cross Swiftcurrent Pass, which Rogers refused to do that early in the season. After much haggling, Rogers finally consented to take him over, provided that Ukker sign an agreement to pay $100 for each horse lost in the attempt. The details were worked out, the agreement signed, and the party took off for the pass. The trip turned out to be relatively uneventful, but it must have been quite a strain on Ukker's nerves, for upon his return to Washington he set the wheels in motion for reconstruction of this trail. In 1913 it was one of the first trails rebuilt under park appropriations. The new trail consisted of three and one-half miles of switchbacks on the east side of the pass, and was promptly dubbed "Galens Ladder" for James Galen who was then Superintendent of the park. This trail was relocated later, making three routes in all over the pass.

This same summer, work was started on other trails in various sections of the park, pushing on up the valleys and over the passes; by 1918 many of the major trails of today were completed. The Great Northern Railway, in line with its policy of aiding the construction of roads and trails in these early days of the park, also contracted for the building of the Mt. Henry trail, from Glacier Park Station to Two Medicine, in 1913. The area was rapidly being opened up for visitor travel.

One unusual trail-building project that was carried out during this period was that of the Eagle Scout Camps. In 1925 the National Park Service authorized a series of work projects and encampments in the park in which Eagle Scouts, selected from troops throughout the United States, attended a twelve-day encampment and worked on trail-building projects. Captain R. G. Matthews, Scout Executive from Everett, Washington, was in charge of the camps, and the record year, 1930, saw fifty-four scouts from eighteen states enrolled in this project. Starting in 1925, the project continued through 1931, except for 1926, to be financed by the National Park Service. The boys paid their own transportation to and from the park. In 1932 the Park Service was unable to continue the financing and no camps were held. But in 1934 an arrangement was made whereby the boys would finance the project themselves, and the camps were held once again. In 1935 there was a National Scout Jamboree that prevented the boys from returning. This lapse, coupled with financing difficulties, seemed to put a damper on the project, and the camps were given up, never to be resumed. Many miles of good trails were built by these boys, who, at the same time they worked, enjoyed a pleasurable period of camping in the wilderness. Work on the trails amounted to twelve days a year, five hours per day; a good showing was made considering the time spent upon them.


Lying as it does immediately adjacent to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, the two parks separated only by the thickness of an imaginary boundary line, Glacier National Park cannot be separated geographically from its neighboring recreational area. The two parks are almost identical in significance and were set aside with the same purpose in mind. This unity between the two areas gives both of them an international character that was first recognized by United States Senator Penrose in 1910 when, during the debates on the bill to establish Glacier National Park, he stated, "This park will be international in character." Recognizing this fact, and wishing to commemorate the friendly relations that existed between the people of the United States and Canada, the combined Rotary Clubs of Montana and Alberta, meeting at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Park on July 4, 1931, passed a resolution starting the movement for establishment of what was to be known as the "Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park." This was a non-administrative union, aimed at bringing into closer relationships the two parks and their respective nations.

cairn dedication
Cairn Dedication

Vigorous action was taken by representatives of Rotary International in both countries, and as a result a bill was introduced into the United States Congress in 1932 by Congressman Scott Leavitt of Montana, to establish this joint park. The bill was passed by both houses and was signed by President Herbert Hoover on December 8, 1932. Similar action was taken in the Canadian Parliament, led by Premier Brounler, Brigadier General Steward, and Mr. Lethbridge, making the joint park a reality.

In 1947 a cairn was built on each side of the Canadian boundary, at the Chief Mountain Customs, commemorating the establishment of this joint park. Appropriate cornerstone laying and dedication ceremonies were held by Rotary Clubs and officials of both parks, dedicating these monuments for all time to the friendly relationship that exists between these two nations.


Civilian Conservation Corps

One of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first acts after he took office for the first time was to tackle the problem of acute unemployment. This problem was particularly serious among the young men of the cities and towns throughout the United States, who could not compete for jobs with the men who had families to support. As part of his program to solve this unemployment, on March 31, 1933, Congress passed an act authorizing the establishment of a program of public works for these young men in National Forests and National Parks. Under this program termed "Emergency Conservation Work" the Civilian Conservation Corps was set up.

CCC Camp
CCC Camp No. 3

During the months of May and June 1933, eight so-called "CCC" camps were established in the park, each consisting of from fifty to two hundred and fifty men. The boys, mostly teen-age, were under the supervision of Army officers in camp and under civilian foremen and supervisors on the job. The first month was spent in camp construction, followed by increasing amounts of fieldwork, mainly involving cleanup of the burned area of the fire of 1929 in the southwestern corner of the park. This program continued to grow as work was laid out for them, and before long these crews became the mainstay of the park labor organization. Fourteen different campsites were located within the park along with numerous "spike" camps for small work crews. One of the biggest jobs carried out by these crews was the cleanup after the 1929 and 1936 forest fires, in which over 12,000 acres of unsightly snags were felled, cut up into wood or lumber, and removed from the area. Six and one-half miles of lead-covered telephone cable was carried in and laid down over Logan Pass, all by hand, for the first trans-mountain telephone cable installation. Over 150 acres of campground sites were prepared for use and many miles of roadside cleanup accomplished. Buildings, trails, roads, and telephone lines were constructed and maintained throughout the park. Sewer and water systems were installed, enlarged, or repaired. These and thousands of other jobs were accomplished by these boys in the years they were in the park—many of them jobs that could not have been accomplished otherwise because of the high costs involved.

One of the CCC's biggest values to the park, as well as to other forested areas, was in fire-suppression work. Hundreds of thousands of hours were spent by these crews in suppressing forest fires, at times when civilian crews were not available in sufficient numbers or in time to do any good. Trained crews were stationed at various areas on other work projects, with their tools ready for instant getaway in case of fire call, and it was not unusual to see a twenty five- or fifty-man crew on the way to a fire within five minutes following the first call.

During the latter part of the CCC period crews were cut down until there were only two camps in the park, both located near Belton (West Glacier). After the entrance of the United States into World War II all CCC projects were halted and the last camp, NP-9, was evacuated on July 17, 1942, ending the CCC program in the park.

Emergency Relief Area

Another emergency agency originating from the depression years that located in the park was a branch of the Works Progress Administration, authorized under the "Emergency Relief Act." Under this act, a camp of loggers and others from the relief rolls was set up at the mouth of the North Fork of the Flathead River and assigned to fire hazard reduction work along the park boundary of the 1929 fire area. These crews, recruited from local communities, felled the snags and cleaned up all dead timber on a wide strip along the boundary of the park in the vicinity of the Flathead River Ranger Station. Posts, telephone poles and wood were salvaged as far as was practical, and the remainder piled and burned. This program was carried on through the years of 1938 and up to November 25, 1939, when all ERA activity was closed down in the park with the exception of a few essential personnel left to clean up the accounting and property records.

Civilian Public Service

The third group of public works crews assigned to the park was the Civilian Public Service organization, composed of conscientious objectors, members of religious groups that did not believe in carrying arms during time of war. On about September 15, 1942, the first of this group of men began to arrive, to fix up the old CCC camp NP-9 for occupancy by those to follow. By the end of the month there were around one hundred and twenty-five men in camp; the number of men in the park for the duration of the camp stayed at approximately that figure.

Foremen, mechanics, and a camp superintendent were appointed and these crews immediately started to work on projects of operation and maintenance that were to keep the park functioning during the war years. With the heavy drain of manpower because of the war, these men were an invaluable aid to the maintenance and protection of the park, particularly in the field of fire protection, since trained crews were just not available otherwise.

This program continued through most of 1946, diminishing in numbers steadily toward the end, until, on September 30, 1946, the camp was closed, leaving only a few people behind to close up camp and turn the records over to the proper authorities.


Glacier View Dam

The most serious threat to the unity of Glacier National Park that has made its appearance was the proposal to build a dam on the North Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier View Mountain, with the resulting threat of flooding of thousands of acres of land in the northwestern area of the park. As part of the proposed development of the Columbia River Basin for increased water power, the Army Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration began to look toward the upper reaches of the streams for power and storage development. The first of these proposals investigated was the raising of Flathead Lake by several feet to increase the capacity of the Polson power plant and provide additional downriver storage. When this proposal was brought up in 1942, it created a storm of protest from the local citizens who stood in danger of losing lands by flooding or raising the water level. Hearings to allow the people to express their opinions upon this were held, at which time alternate sites for water storage were suggested, including the damsite at Glacier View Mountain.

Preliminary surveys were made of various sites for dams along the North Fork of the Flathead by the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1944 and 1945, with the permission of the Department of the Interior, test drilling was carried on at two sites, Glacier View and Foolhen Hill, both on the North Fork along the Park boundary. As a result of these surveys and the furor over the raising of Flathead Lake, public opinion in some of the neighboring towns began to crystallize in favor of building the dam at Glacier View, to which plan the National Park Service objected very strongly.

Pressure for the building of the Glacier View Dam mounted rapidly under favorable reports by the Army Engineers of its feasibility. The National Park Service took an equally strong position against its construction, until, on May 25, 1948, a public hearing was held in Kalispell by the Army Engineers to allow the people again to air their views. This hearing was attended by representatives of all the agencies concerned, as well as by many private citizens. By this time the question had blossomed out as a national issue and the National Park Service, backed by most of the nation's conservation organizations, was making an all-out drive to have the issue defeated. The Army Engineers, on the other hand, backed by certain local groups, were pressing for the dam's construction. By 1949 the issue had reached a point where the Secretaries of War and the Interior were forced to step in and take a hand. The two men met, after considering all points for and against the dam, reached an agreement that it would not be built without the full consent of both departments. This effectively stopped the threat of Glacier View Dam for the time being; since that time, however, there have been several minor threats of the dam's reoccurrence, including a bill introduced into Congress.

Alienated Lands Within the Park

Another major problem in park administration, one that has been in existence since 1910, is the fact that there were several thousand acres of private and state lands within the park boundaries. These lands, as a whole, did not constitute a great threat to the park, yet from time to time situations arose in connection with them that seriously threatened park values. For that reason the National Park Service has for many years been carrying on a program of buying up such lands as they become available. This is a slow process, and one that requires more and more funds as time goes on and the lands increase in value.

The problem of private lands originated with the homesteading of the area and the staking of mining claims prior to the turn of the century. When the park was established there was a considerable number of such homesteads and claims, some of which were of considerable size. The act which created the park recognized the rights of ownership of this property and granted the holders full use and enjoyment of it, within the limits of park rules and regulations. The mining claims were located mostly on the eastern slopes of the mountains, mainly in the Many Glacier Valley. Action by the General Land Office in the 1920's cleared most of them off the records, because of lack of evidence of assessment work or mineral veins. A few mines were patented though, and are still in private hands or have been purchased by the park. The lack of paying mineral veins in the area prevents these claims from being a major threat to park values except where they might be located in areas suitable for other types of development.

The homesteads and summer homes are located mainly on the west side of the park, principally along the North Fork of the Flathead River and around Lake McDonald. These lands have changed hands frequently, and from time to time cabin camps, eating places and stores have been built upon them for the accommodation of park visitors. As the demand for summer homesites increased, the value of property in choice locations increased to the point where it was impractical for the Federal Government to purchase it, but other properties have occasionally become available for purchase and have been gradually added to the public land area. In this connection the Glacier Natural History Association was formed, as an incorporated organization functioning solely for the park interest, and part of whose funds were set aside for the purchase of private lands within the park. This fund was built up by donations from interested persons and used to purchase tax title to private lands, or other acquisitions that the government was unable to make, and hold these lands until title was cleared and the government could repurchase it. This plan greatly facilitated the acquisition of property within the park by having a revolving fund readily accessible, and has resulted in a considerable number of private land purchases that would otherwise have been impossible.

The third, and until recently the most controversial, group of alienated lands in the park was a group of holdings, mainly on the North Fork of the Flathead, owned by the State of Montana and totalling over 10,000 acres. These holdings came into being, after the area was set aside as a park, through a series of negotiations and exchanges between the National Park Service and the State of Montana whereby certain sections of land within the boundaries of the park were transferred to the State by the Federal Government. These holdings were in lieu of loss to the state grant for common school and capital building purposes by reason of the establishment of the park. The period from 1911 into the early 1920's was spent in making these substitute selections; there is no record of any attempt by the State to sell or the Federal Government to repurchase them. The first recorded mention of any transfer of these lands back to the park occurred on April 11, 1924, when State Forester McLaughlin wrote to Superintendent Kraebel suggesting the exchange of certain state lands within the park for forested lands of equal value outside. Negotiations were started, mainly with the United States Forest Service, and a few exchanges were made; but since the State desired forested lands, and the Forest Service did not agree to the exchanges, negotiations, came to a halt in 1929. Except for futile efforts to reach an agreement between the various parties involved, little was done until the late 1940's when efforts were again made to find lands that were suitable for exchange. As the Forest Service did not wish to exchange their lands, and the National Park Service did not have funds for outright purchase, attention was finally turned toward exchange of lands administered under the Taylor Grazing Act. Here again an impasse resulted. Then a series of meetings during 1948 resulted in a plan whereby the Federal Government would furnish funds for fifty per cent, the total to be placed in the public school and capital building fund. This idea was meeting with some favor when the state elections changed the administration and put an entirely different approach to the situation.

The new State administration soon precipitated a crisis by offering for sale the timber on certain of these lands, and actually did sell the timber from one section of 640 acres. This stirred up conservation agencies and newspapers throughout the state and the matter was brought to a head, with representatives of both State and Federal Government pitching in to find a solution. Enabling legislation was passed by both the State and Federal legislatures, and finally, on February 28, 1953, Governor J. Hugo Aronson signed Senate Bill No. 163, enacted by the 33rd session of the Montana Legislature, approving the exchange of these lands for lands of equal value in eastern Montana which were then managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

On July 18, 1953, a ceremony was held in the park to dedicate this exchange of lands and to celebrate the end of the long drawn-out struggle. Attending the ceremony were Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay, Director of the National Park Service Conrad Wirth, Regional Director Howard Baker, Governor J. Hugo Aronson of Montana, and other dignitaries, including Superintendent J. W. Emmert who had taken the lead locally for the National Park Service in the later years of the negotiations.


MISSION 66 is a forward-looking conservation program for the National Park System. It proposes to develop and staff these priceless possession of the American people so as to permit their wisest possible use; maximum enjoyment for those who use them; and maximum preservation of the scenic, scientific, wilderness, and historic resources which give them distinction. It is a 10-year program which commenced on July 1, 1956, to be completed in 1966, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service — hence the name MISSION 66.

This program follows the guidelines of the Act of 1916 which created the National Park Service. The key part of this act reads: "The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as National parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Under this program, outmoded and inadequate facilities will be replaced with physical improvements adequate for expected demands but so designed and located as to reduce the impact of public use on valuable and destructible features. It will provide both facilities and personnel for visitor service of the quality and quantity that the public is entitled to expect in its National Park System; at the same time, it is intended to assure the fullest possible degree of protection, both to visitors and resources.

With specific reference to Glacier National Park, MISSION 66 has already accomplished the following for visitor use: resurfacing twelve miles of the Many Glacier road; resurfacing the Swiftcurrent trail; building a new stairway at the Many Glacier Hotel; a power line to upper Lake McDonald; water and sewer systems at Lake McDonald Hotel and Many Glacier; and picnic area, boat ramp, and multiple parking areas at Rising Sun.

Projects now under construction include: twelve roadside parking areas on the Going-to-the-Sun Road; expansion and renovation of the Two Medicine campground; expansion of the Apgar campground; a new St. Mary campground; and additional residences for permanent personnel at Headquarters and St. Mary.

MISSION 66 proposes for the future: expanded seasonal ranger, naturalist and maintenance staffs; Visitor Centers—primary centers at Apgar, St. Mary and Many Glacier with secondary centers at Sun Point, Logan Pass, and Lake McDonald Lodge; improved roads, with more roadside exhibits and interpretive signs; improved facilities including trails and trail shelters through out the park; and expansion of campgrounds and other related facilities for visitors.

The concessioners have also entered the spirit of MISSION 66. Glacier Park Incorporated is completing a three million dollar expenditure to renovate and modernize its facilities for visitors.

The significant values of Glacier National Park are aesthetic, inspirational, and scientific. Here deposition, faulting and erosion, the forces involved in altering the face of the earth, are displayed on a titanic scale. The Lewis Overthrust, a gigantic fault, disturbed and displaced some of the oldest sedimentary rocks on earth, thrusting them as much as twenty miles over younger deposits, so that within the park, the normal order of deposition is reversed. From this upland, streams, followed by great glaciers, eroded the present peaks and valleys. In their retreat, these rivers of ice left behind a wealth of glacier landforms. Upon this varied landscape, a wide range of habitats developed, providing an environment in which, undisturbed by man, communities of plants and animals work out their adjustments and interrelationships in nature's laboratory.

The sheer and barren peaks and the mighty, glaciated valleys are awe inspiring. The alpine meadows in full bloom, the serrated, snow-capped mountains against a blue sky, the gem-like lakes, clear streams, and plunging waterfalls provide scenes never to be forgotten. Great inspirational benefits come from the sheer beauty of Glacier's landscape to all who use their capacity to see and feel. In the solitude of high, lonely mountain trails, beside lakes almost primitive in their wilderness; in the dim, cathedral-like forests, man can find peace and quiet in which to heal the jangled nerves and ease the tensions produced by the rush and stress of our high-speed mechanized civilization. Here can be found recreation in the truest sense of the word, a recreation of mind and spirit as well as body.

Here is wilderness. "Wilderness is expanse, and each fixed or fleeting form reflects the artistry of nature. Wilderness is a whole environment of living things, and the prosperity of its native wildlife measures the perfection of its waters and floral mantle. Wilderness is the beauty of nature, solitude, and the music of stillness. Wilderness invites man to adventure, refreshment, and wonder. The Nation's most treasured wilderness lands are set apart and dedicated as National Parks and Monuments; distance, ruggedness, and climate often are their most effective guardians; and time can restore wilderness, and heal an abused landscape. Wilderness persists where nature is free and only man's actions are disciplined. Man is a part of the scene—wilderness has little human value without him. Man's enjoyment springs from the quality of wilderness that invests even the most visited spectacle, and reveals itself to all who regard it, and wilderness reaches outward from the roadside to be experienced fully by those who penetrate it. The laws of the Nation require preservation of wilderness in National Parks and Monuments," [29] — enjoyment without impairment.

MISSION 66 is a means to an end. As one of the outstanding wilderness areas in the National Park System, and as one of the few remaining unspoiled primitive regions left in the United States, it is imperative that Glacier's fragile wilderness character be retained. To preserve these values, and make their benefits available to the fullest extent to as many visitors as possible, requires physical protection of the area, a rational plan of development, and interpretation of its classic features so that visitors may, through understanding and appreciation, use it so that its beauty will not be destroyed or impaired. The real accomplishment of MISSION 66 will be measured by the results it brings to the American people.

Thus concludes the history of Glacier National Park, one of more than 180 areas administered by the National Park Service, a bureau of the Department of the Interior.

Created in 1849, the Department of the Interior—America's Department of Natural Resources—is concerned with the management, conservation, and development of the Nation's water, wildlife, mineral, forest, and park and recreational resources. It also has major responsibilities for Indian and Territorial affairs.

As the Nation's principal conservation agency, the Department works to assure that nonrenewable resources are developed and used wisely, that park and recreational resources are conserved for the future, and that renewable resources make their full contribution to the progress, prosperity, and security of the United States—now and in the future.

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004