Historic Photo Comparisons Show Change Over Time

How Have National Parks Changed Over Time?

Viewing photographs of different eras in the national parks can give insights on ecosystem processes, as well as simply change over time. The panoramic lookout photographs provide a window on the past and an opportunity to compare to the present landscapes. Use the slider on the images below to compare amazing panoramic views from Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. How many differences can you see between the 1935 image on the left and the 2008 image on the right?

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map of Glacier National Park, showing where comparison photos are from in the park
Use this map as a reference point for the comparison photo locations from Glacier National Park.

Explore photos that reveal parks transformation over nearly 80 years!

Move the slider to view change over time for a sampling of images from Glacier National Park taken by Lester Moe in the 1930s and Ian Grob of the US Forest Service from 2007 to 2009. Each image notes location, view, and film type.

The numbers on the map to the left refer to the locations of the four views below. Two views are from the east end of the park, while the other two are from the west end.

1 – Looking Glass Overlook, Glacier National Park
Looking Glass Overlook from 1937 Looking Glass Overlook
June 25, 1937 Lester Moe
August 22, 2008 Ian Grob of the US Forest Service

View: 240 degrees, Film: Infrared
Notes: The landscape has become more forested. The road once clearly visible in 1937 is obscured by trees in 2008.




2 – Apgar Lookout, Glacier National Park
Apgar Lookout, Glacier National Park 1937 Apgar Lookout, Glacier National Park 2008
July 29, 1937 Lester Moe
August 21, 2008 Ian Grob of the US Forest Service

View: 240 degrees, Film: Infrared
Notes: The evidence of a forest fire that took place sometime before 1935 is still visible in the background of the 2008 photograph.




3 – Huckleberry Lookout, Glacier National Park
Huckleberry Lookout, Glacier National Park 1935 Huckleberry Lookout, Glacier National Park 2009
July 30, 1935 Lester Moe
July 9, 2009 Ian Grob of the US Forest Service

View: 120 degrees, Film: Infrared
Notes: The somewhat open forest of 1935 has filled in with trees and other vegetation.




4 – Divide Lookout, Glacier National Park
Divide Lookout, Glacier National Park from 1935 Divide Lookout, Glacier National Park from 2009
August 3, 1935 Lester Moe
July 10, 2009 Ian Grob of the US Forest Service

View: 0 degrees, Film: Infrared
Notes: Additional roads are clearly visible in the 2009 photograph from Divide Lookout.




map of Yellowstone National Park, showing where comparison photos are from in the park
Use this map as a key for referencing comparison photo locations from Yellowstone National Park.

How many differences can you find?

The photos in the Change Over Time series are from slightly different angles and thus some aspects do not line up perfectly. Lester Moe climbed to the top of most lookout towers when he was taking the original photos. Unfortunately, most of the lookout towers that Moe climbed no longer exist, have been replaced, or just have foundations left. The team that took “retake” images from 2005 to 2009 had to make adjustments based on this reality.

The numbers on the map to the left refer to the locations of the four views below. Three views are from the central part of the park and the fourth view (number 3) is from the northwest corner of the park.

1 – Mount Sheridan, Yellowstone National Park
Mount Sheridan, Yellowstone National Park from 1936 Mount Sheridan, Yellowstone National Park from 2007
August 28, 1936 Lester Moe
June 25, 2007 Ian Grob of the US Forest Service

View: 0 degrees, Film: Infrared
Notes: It appears that the landscape is less forested in 2007 than in 1936 from Mount Sheridan.




2 – Mount Washburn, Yellowstone National Park
Mount Washburn, Yellowstone National Park from 1935 Mount Washburn, Yellowstone National Park from 2007
July 10, 1935 Lester Moe
June 20, 2007 Ian Grob of the US Forest Service

View: 240 degrees, Film: Infrared
Notes: Vegetation appears somewhat sparser in the 2007 image.




3 – Galatin, Yellowstone National Park
Galatin, Yellowstone National Park from 1935 Galatin, Yellowstone National Park today
July 13, 1935 Lester Moe
Taken between 2007 and 2009 Ian Grob of the US Forest Service

View: 0 degrees, Film: Infrared
Notes: It doesn’t appear much as changed in these images. Can you find some differences?




4 – Pelican Cone, Yellowstone National Park
Pelican Cone, Yellowstone National Park from 1936 Pelican Cone, Yellowstone National Park from present day
August 25, 1936 Lester Moe
2008 Ian Grob of the US Forest Service

View: 240 degrees, Film: Infrared
Notes: The foreground of the 2008 image shows evidence of a fire that reduced the vegetation visible in the 1935 photograph.




Last updated: May 5, 2018