Glacier Park History & Museums: Glacier National Park History

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Park History

Even if you are not a history buff, the rich and complicated history of Glacier National Park will definitely intrigue you. Read More

Before the Park

  • Recent archaeological surveys have found evidence of human use dating back over 10,000 years. These people may have been the ancestors of the Blackfeet, Salish and Kootenai Indians who still inhabit parts of the area. Today, the Blackfeet Reservation adjoins the east side of the park. The Salish and Kootenai reservation is southwest of Glacier. This entire area holds great spiritual importance to the Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai people.
  • In the early 1800's, French, English, and Spanish trappers came in search of beaver.
  • In 1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition came within 50 miles of the area that is now the park.
  • The railroad over Marias Pass was completed in 1891. The completion of the Great Northern Railway allowed more people to enter the area. Homesteaders settled in the valleys west of Marias Pass and soon small towns developed.
  • Under pressure from miners, the mountains east of the Continental Divide were acquired in 1895 from the Blackfeet. No large copper or gold deposits were ever located. Although the mining boom lasted only a few years, abandoned mine shafts are still found in several places in the park.

Establishing the Park

  • Around the turn of the century, people started to recognize the value of the area’s spectacular scenic beauty. Facilities for tourists started to spring up. In the late 1890's, visitors arriving at Belton (now called West Glacier) could get off the train, take a stagecoach ride a few miles to Lake McDonald, and then board a boat for an eight mile trip to the Snyder Hotel. No roads existed in the mountains, but the lakes allowed boat travel into the wilderness.
  • George Bird Grinnell and others started pushing for the creation of a national park. The area was made a Forest Preserve in 1900, but was open to mining and homesteading. Grinnell and others sought the added protection a national park would provide.
  • Grinnell saw his efforts rewarded in 1910 when President Taft signed the bill establishing Glacier as the country's 10th national park.

A Heritage for the Future

  • Just across the border, in Canada, is Waterton Lakes National Park. In 1931, members of the Rotary Clubs of Alberta and Montana suggested joining the two parks as a symbol of the peace and friendship between our two countries. In 1932, the United States and Canadian governments voted to designate the parks as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the world's first.

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