Lake McDonald Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park - The Basics

Created in 1910, Glacier National Park provides over one million acres of habitat and protection for a wonderful variety of wildlife and wildflowers.

The geologic history of Glacier is read in the numerous exposed layers of Precambrian sedimentary rocks. These extremely well-preserved sediments date back to over 1 billion years. Subsequent sculpting by massive bodies of ice has transformed this area into a dramatic example of glacial landforms. Today several small alpine glaciers of relatively recent origin dot the mountains.

Glacier National Park contains a particularly rich biological diversity of plant and animal species. This combination of spectacular scenery, diverse flora and fauna, and relative isolation from major population centers have combined to make Glacier National Park the center of one of the largest and most intact ecosystems in North America.

Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta were joined together by the governments of Canada and the United States in 1932 as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first park of its kind in the world.

Both parks have been designated Biosphere Reserves. In December of 1995, they were jointly designated the “Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site.”

Glacier National Park and the area claim some of the most astonishing geology in the country. The rocks that form the mountains were laid when the area was resting under a primordial sea dating back as far as 1.5 million years ago. The highest peaks of Glacier Park at 7,000 feet contrast with the deeply glaciated valleys. Colliding plates caused buckling and warping that in turn formed the mountains some 150 million years ago. During the last ice age, glaciers filled the park; the largest glaciers are located in the St. Mary and McDonald Valleys. Ten thousand years later the glaciers melted revealing Glacier Park as we see it today.

The Salish and Blackfeet tribes were the first to traverse this rugged land in the 1700s. In 1792 the first white frontiersman toured the Glacier Park area and twenty years later a trapper named Finan McDonald crossed the Marias Pass only to be ambushed by Blackfeet Indians. Under the pressure of the railroads, miners, and white settlers, the Blackfeet sold the eastern slope of the park in 1895 for 1.5 million. Although copper mining and oil exploration were booming, conservationists joined forces with railroad interests to preserve the area as a national park. In 1910 President Taft signed a bill creating Glacier National Park. In 1933 the Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed which opened a new experience to those traveling by car.

Lake McDonald in West Glacier, the largest lake in Glacier National Park, is a springboard for many exciting activities. The lake is a fisherman's paradise teeming with all kinds of trout including cutthroat, bull, rainbow, and brook. Walk atop Sperry Glacier or hike one of over 700 miles of hiking trails with differing levels of difficulty, from the most leisurely nature walks to brutally steep backcountry treks. For those who prefer the comfort of their car, the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road is a beautiful drive and runs between West Glacier and St. Mary, offering easy access through the Glacier wilderness. During the summer the road is snow-free, although snow occasionally falls well into the season in the 6,680-foot-high Logan Pass. You will not be disappointed by the extravagant parade of splendid views offered of glaciers, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife.