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Hiking to a Ghost

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
12 April 2010, 3:31 PM
The icy architects of Glacier’s stunning scenery may soon disappear
Overview of Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park. Photo: Mark Wagner

Glacier National Park is commemorating its centennial this year. Hoping to celebrate the park's tremendous beauty in person, I recently submitted a request to camp in Glacier's high country later this summer. If I'm lucky enough to obtain the permits, I will find myself hiking high trails in the home of grizzly bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, Canadian lynx, bald eagles, and more than 1,000 plant species, to name just a few.

But even more than Glacier's remarkable diversity of wildlife, the park's namesake attractions are what help to draw 2 million visitors annually to its trails and vistas. Unfortunately, Glacier's glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate due to warmer temperatures brought on by climate change.

This sad fact means that I'll be hiking this summer to do more than just celebrate Glacier's beauty. I'll be paying last respects.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the park contained 150 glaciers, a trophy set of Ice Age remnants that helped carve the region's dramatic terrain. That number has dwindled to just 25 today, and some worry that the remaining glaciers may disappear by as soon as the park's 110th anniversary if current trends of warming continue.

Photos of Grinnell glacier taken over the years by the U.S. Geological Survey show the famous glacier's retreat. Visitors can hike to the glacier from Many Glacier campground, which I hope to do in August 2010.

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization found in a report released last week that the temperature increase in Glacier N.P. over the last decade was exactly twice that of the planet as a whole, indicating the park and its glaciers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

There are countless reasons to combat climate change. As an avid hiker and backpacker, I count the damage to our national parks and wilderness areas among them. These special places are a critical part of our national heritage and should be preserved for future generations to encounter, explore, and marvel at.

Some of my fondest experiences have occurred in the solitude of our nation's backcountry, and I feel strongly that my character has been shaped by wilderness. Though I look forward to similar experiences this summer in Glacier N.P., I know that I'll scramble to the many vistas that await with more than a trace of sadness for the looming glaciers that may soon become ghosts.


Very informative and trustworthy blog. Please keep updating friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading

As we celebrate 100 years of Glacier National Park, we are watching it's namesakes disappear, it's forests are invaded by insects and fire and it's waters are warming. It may be too late to recoup the glaciers, but we are also seeing native wildlife disappearing and there is still time to do something.

There are less than 3,000 native bull trout left in Flathead Lake and the North and Middle Forks. Non-native lake trout have invaded12 of the 17 Glacier Park lakes west of the divide. Ten of those lakes will likely loose their native fish populations due to the invasion caused by an exploding lake trout population in Flathead Lake. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, who manage the south half of the lake, have proposed an aggressive netting program to remove enough lake trout to give native fish a chance to survive in the Flathead Basin. Even though the plan intends to maintain current angling opportunities in Flathead Lake, there is vigorous opposition to the plan by charter boat anglers and other who see it as a threat to their dominance of the lake.

American Rivers supports the netting effort as part of their mission "to protect, and restore rivers for the benefit of people, wildlife and nature." Montana Trout Unlimited also supports the plan because: "In the last 20 years, populations of migratory native cutthroat and bull trout that use both Flathead Lake and essential connecting habitat in the Flathead River and its Middle and North Forks have plummeted."

If something is not done soon, we stand to loose our native fish species in the Flathead. You can help by sending comments to the managers as they proceed with the scoping for the plan until May 17. I would ask that you visit the Flathead Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited website to learn more and for information on how to submit comments. I hope that you will join us in trying to save these magnificent Montana Natives.

Lucky Sultz
Kalispell, Montana

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