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Glacier’s Belly River Ranger Station Receives Temporary Roofing Repair

NPS photo

from NPS Glacier National Park

WEST GLACIER, MONT. -Park employees recently completed a challenging task to make emergency repairs and construct temporary roofing on the historic back-country cabin at the Belly River Ranger Station

The cabin was severely damaged during a winter storm in late December or early January. More than half of the roof shingles and a quarter of the roof were blown off by high winds, leaving the cabin directly exposed to rain and snow. A significant amount of snow accumulated inside the structure resulting in water and ice damage to the flooring, interior finishes, furnishings, and equipment. The storm also damaged a jack-leg fence at the site.

The damage was discovered by a resource management crew conducting work in the area during the second week of January. The crew surveyed the site, removed some of the accumulated snow inside the structure and moved materials and furnishings for better protection from the weather.

In anticipation of additional damage to the historic and culturally significant structure, including loss of the entire roof, and destruction of furnishings and equipment inside the cabin, an emergency response plan was created. A four-person crew and materials were flown to the site via helicopter. The crew removed snow from the building, constructed a temporary roof, heated the cabin with the wood stove to dry out the building and furnishings, and inventoried the site to help prepare for final repairs this summer. After four days of intense work, the crew skied out.

Anyone that may be in the surrounding area of the cabin is encouraged to use caution and be on the lookout for debris materials. Nails, ripped shingle pieces and wood debris are scattered about the area. Some of the debris was picked up, but some of the debris is buried in snow and may be a potential hazard, especially as the snow melts.

The Belly River Ranger Station was built in 1925 and is a significant cultural resource listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The station has been in use since it was built, housing rangers, trail crews and others. It is an integral part of Glacier’s cultural legacy, and contributes to the unique character of the park’s back-country landscape. The Belly River Ranger Station complex retains the classic configuration of structures (combination residence and office, barn, woodshed and fire cache) with few intrusions and excellent physical integrity. The local legendary Joe Cosley, the first Belly River District Ranger, lived at this site in the early years.

Support from the Glacier National Park Fund helped with the emergency response plan. The Fund assists the park with preservation of historic structures within the park, and is an official partner of the park. The Fund’s mission is to support the preservation of the outstanding natural beauty and cultural heritage of Glacier National Park for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations by fostering public awareness and encouraging private philanthropy. For more information about the Glacier National Park Fund visit

On a personal note, I took refuge in this ranger station on a very rainy night in the summer of 1963 when another hiker and I got caught by a sudden storm on a hike from Many Glacier Hotel to Canada via the Ptarmigan Tunnel and Lake Elizabeth.


Learn more about Joe Cosley in “Glacier’s First Ranger” in my free, PDF e-book Celebrate Glacier National Park that you can download from Payloadz.

“Hikers in the Northern Lewis Range area of Glacier National Park following the trail above Lake Elizabeth northeast along the Belly River are walking in a world once favored by the park’s first ranger Joe Cosley (1870-1944). To the west of Lake Elizabeth is Cosley Ridge (shown as Crossley on some maps), one of several landforms Cosley named after himself.”

  1. I saw that in a local paper too. I’m glad they caught it when they did before a major warm-up when water damage would have been greater. A friend of mine knows someone who spent a lot of time at that station.

    Something similar: I found our about a month ago that the old fire lookout cabin on Big Hole near here will be restored the last week of August, and I will be able to help in the restoration for the week. A friend whom I met through my blog manned that lookout during the summer of 1966, and he will also join us for the week.

    February 17, 2012
    • I hate to think of the mess if nobody noticed the damage until May.

      Nice to hear the fire lookout it going to be restored. I hope you have fun helping with the restoration and have an opportunity to get some before, during and after pictures for your blog.


      February 18, 2012

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