Great Lodges of the National Parks
Glacier Lodges: Glacier Park Lodge
Only a very few trappers disturbed the region's Native Americans during the first half of the 19th Century. Then things began to change. In 1846, Hugh Monroe visited the region and named St. Mary Lake. A few government engineers wandered into the area during the 1850s and '60s. But things stayed relatively quiet until the 1890s, when miners took an interest in the area.
By 1891, the Great Northern Railroad had surmounted the Continental Divide at Marias Pass (on the southern edge of today's National Park). As the railway moved westward, so did more people. In 1895, Congress bought lands east of the Continental Divide from the Blackfeet Indians. A Forest Preserve was established in 1900, but the land was still open to mining and homesteading. Finally, in 1910, President Taft signed a bill establishing the country's tenth National Park.
In 1976, Glacier National Park became a World Biosphere Reserve. The Park contains more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, and lakes. It provides diverse ecological niches for over 70 different mammal species and 260 species of birds.
These natural resources, and a spectacular, heavily glaciated landscape have made this a popular recreation destination for nearly a hundred years.
The Park was also designated as a World Heritage Site in 1995. Within the Park boundaries there are more than 350 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, as well as 6 National Historic Landmarks.
Despite a century of use, the Park remains one of the largest intact ecosystems in the contiguous United States. Over 700 miles of maintained trails help visitors to explore this unique landscape.
People & Protection
The NPS works hard to strike a balance between the needs of nature and desires of humans. Rules are often intended to protect people, as well as the environment.
At Glacier National Park, some familiar problems arise when people feed wild animals. Bears that become too accustomed to contact with humans often need to be destroyed. This is not a job that Park Rangers enjoy, so they often give visitors the graphically explicit reminder that "a fed bear, is a dead bear."
There are roads leading through the Park, so traffic congestion, pollution, and public transportation issues arise on a regular basis. At present, flights over the Park are being questioned. For some visitors, an airplane is a noisy intrusion. But for visitors with physical disabilities, a flight can greatly enhance the Park experience.
Passenger trains still pull into Glacier Park Station, just as they did in 1913. Visitors arriving aboard the famous "Empire Builder" still experience much of the landscape that early visitors saw. The rolling expanse of the Great Plans gradually gives way to rising mountains on the horizon. And when guests step down from the train, the cheerful gardens of Glacier Park Lodge still greet them.
But today, most visitors arrive by car or tour bus. As soon as each winter's snow is plowed from the roads, people can drive deep into the Park. And there are plenty of other options for getting around. Excursion boats still travel the lakes. Saddle horses can be rented, as well as canoes and rowboats. But the most rewarding option may still be to go exploring on foot.