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Great Lodges

Great Lodges of the National Parks

Glacier Lodges: Many Glacier

Lodge | Setting | Trivia


By the 1750s, fur trappers were plunging deeper into the mountains of the region. Borders had to be defined to mark the territories of various fur trading enterprises. In 1818, the 49th parallel was established as the international boundary between the States and what was then a territory of Great Britain.

As the century closed, men on both sides of the border tried to encourage the preservation of wilderness areas in the Rockies. Canada created Waterton Lakes National Park in 1895, and the U.S. set aside Glacier National Park in 1910. Realizing that the two Parks were unified by nature, the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament agreed to establish the first International Peace Park in 1932. The United Nations subsequently designated both portions of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as Biosphere Reserves.

About 20,000 years ago, huge glaciers buried the region's valleys beneath thousands of feet of ice. The giant glaciers slowly sculpted the mountains and valleys into their present shapes. Glaciers produce five basic types of landforms, all of which are found in Glacier National Park.

1. Horns are steep mountain peaks created when several glaciers attack different sides of the same mountain.
2. Cirques are large bowls gouged out at the leading edge of a glacier.
3. Arêtes (French for fish bone) form when two glaciers work on opposite sides of the same wall, leaving a long narrow ridge.
4. Hanging valleys are created by tributary glaciers that carve smaller canyons high up on mountainsides.
5. Moraines are gravelly mounds of debris that are pushed to the sides and front of a glacier.

People & Protection
In the summer of 2002, humans caused several major forest fires. But in August 1936, lightning strikes sparked the blaze known as the Heaven's Peak fire. During the first weeks of the fire, the Garden Wall rock formation protected Many Glacier Hotel, although haze filled the air and Swiftcurrent Lake was covered with fine ash.

On August 31, the fire jumped the Garden Wall and raged down into Swiftcurrent Valley. When the Hotel manager glanced out a window and saw two glowing red spots, "like dragon eyes," he ordered employees to their fire stations. Guests were packed into buses, which departed just as nearby structures burst into flame.

Armed with hoses, employees fought to extinguish the hot embers and burning pine knots thrown against the Hotel by fierce winds. Finally, the fire passed by. The Hotel had survived with only minimal damage.

Park Transportation
In the early years, a fleet of multi-passenger buses carried passengers from the depot to Many Glacier Hotel and other points in the Park. The bright red buses had manual transmissions, which required substantial coaxing as drivers negotiated the steep mountain terrain. The sounds of gear-jamming provided the nickname for both drivers and buses: jammers.

The buses were built betwee 1936 and 1939, at a cost of $5,000 apiece. In use for 60 years, the jammers needed constant care. In 1989, the buses all received new power steering systems. No one realized that the new mechanism was stressing the metal bus frames. Then, in 1999, a front axle broke as a jammer pulled away from Lake McDonald Lodge. The entire fleet was immediately taken out of service. Options for returning the beloved jammers to Park roads are still being evaluated.