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Great Lodges

Great Lodges of the National Parks

Glacier Lodges: Lake McDonald

Lodge | Setting | Trivia


Lake McDonald Lodge and Glacier National Park abound with tales of the unusual, amazing and arcane. Here you can peruse a few of the more interesting stories.

Some Very Cool History
Before the days of electric refrigerators, meat and other perishables were kept fresh in iceboxes cooled by huge blocks of ice. The ice was cut from frozen lakes or rivers in the winter, and stored in specially insulated buildings until it was needed. In this way, ice could be held for months with only minimal melting. During April 1919, according to the NPS, the Glacier Hotel Company cut 170 tons of ice from Lake McDonald. The ice was clear, blue, and averaged 18 inches in thickness.

A Taste of Winter Weather
December 1919 was very cold at Glacier National Park. The high temperature for the month was 49°F, and the low was -45°F. Lake McDonald froze over during the first half of the month. On December 16, a strong snowstorm slammed into the eastern portion of the Park, knocking down the phone line, and blowing 9 freight cars off a railway trestle just 3 miles west of Glacier Park station. Cattle, sheep and horses froze to death where they stood.

A Fish Story
Anglers still enjoy dipping a line in Lake McDonald. During the early years, it might have been a little easier to catch a fish. In June 1919, about 100,000 trout fry were planted in the upper end of Lake McDonald, hard by the Lodge. The following April, a Mr. Johnson from the NPS fish hatchery in Colorado arrived with 300,000 Eastern brook trout eggs, destined for hatching at the Park, and subsequent planting in Lake McDonald. That's 400,000 fry in 2 years. Good odds by any angler's standards.

An Old, But Enjoyable Story
A jammer named Harry Wood was deadheading (driving an empty bus) from Many Glacier to Lake McDonald when he stopped for a piece of pie at the Rising Sun Coffee Shop. Soon, three rough motorcycle riders came into the café, and loudly harassed everyone, including Harry. While other patrons objected, Harry never uttered a peep. Instead he just quietly paid his bill and left. One of the bikers loudly remarked, "Well, he ain't much of a man, is he?" The waiter rejoined, "He isn't much of a driver, either. He just drove over three motorcycles in the Parking lot." This is one of many "jammer jokes" that endured for decades in the Park.

A Powerful Enemy
The archives of the NPS reveal that the Great Northern tried to maneuver Director Horace Albright into assisting with the acquisition of the Lewis Hotel. The railroad's president wrote, "He [Lewis] is a queer kind of man, and one of the best things to convince him will be for him to get an official notice some way that the road is not going to be finished under the present conditions. He is one of the hardest men in the world to deal with, and it is going to be difficult to get this across, but I think we can get him this year... and by some means convince him that he is foolish to continue to run the hotel."

The Waterton of Glacier-Waterton
Lt. Thomas Blakiston named the Waterton Lakes in 1858, in honor of Sir Charles Waterton's achievements as a naturalist. Unfortunately, Sir Charles never saw the lakes, and he had been dead for 30 years when the Canadian Park was created. Waterton is recognized as the first person to establish a private sanctuary for wild birds. Sir Charles was also a bit eccentric. He was still climbing trees after he turned 80 years old. Once he climbed to the top of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and hung his gloves on the lightning rod. He was also an accomplished taxidermist.