According to the Incident Information System, “Thursday afternoon at approximately 6:00 pm, the main building at the Sperry Chalet was lost to the Sprague Fire. A highly skilled group of firefighters were staged at the Sperry Chalet over the last week.Those firefighters had an extensive hose lay, sprinkler, and pump system installed to protect all of the structures associated with the Chalet.The high winds experienced this afternoon pushed the fire to the east.The firefighters, supported by 3 helicopters, made a valiant stand to save the structure but were unsuccessful in saving the main Sperry Chalet.The firefighters remain on site, ARE SAFE, and are currently actively engaged in protecting the remaining structures.”
The other structures are a dining room/kitchen, maintenance, and restroom building.
Nearby Lake McDonald Lodge was closed for the remainder of the season August 29 due to air quality concerns.
One of two back-country chalets built by the Great Northern Railway (now BNSF), Sperry opened in 1914. It featured 17 private rooms. Unlike Granite Park Chalet, Sperry provided linens and meals. The rooms had no heat, water, or electricity. Guests were advised to bring flashlights since candles were not permitted.
The chalet was listed on the National Register in 1977.
InciWeb Update: September 3: “Based on recommendations from the Sprague Fire Incident Management Team, Glacier National Park has issued an Evacuation Order effective September 3, 2017 at 10 am for all residents and visitors from the south end of Lake McDonald to Logan Pass. This includes the Lake McDonald Lodge, concession housing, Kelly Camp Area, and the Avalanche and Sprague Creek Campgrounds. Logan Pass is still accessible from the east side of the park. The duration of the evacuation is unknown at this time.”
WEST GLACIER, MT. – This summer, Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest are expanding visitor use monitoring efforts to better understand use along the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River.
For the past five years, Glacier National Park has been collecting data on trail, and road use along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and surrounding trails. This year, with a donation from the Glacier National Park Conservancy, monitoring will expand to the river and several other places within the park. The Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park both manage segments of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River. The other locations to be monitored include the North Fork, Two Medicine, Many Glacier, Goat Haunt, and Belly River.
The data, collected by the University of Montana, has been valuable to Glacier National Park as visitation has increased dramatically. With several years of data in hand, the park can now better inform visitors about how to plan their trips with crowding in mind, and also make educated decisions about where to station staff to best meet park needs.
“For the last few years, we have heard at our annual meetings with North Fork residents that river use seems to be increasing,” said Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber. “This information will allow us to better understand how much, where and when use is occurring. It will help us to better plan for proper facilities and management.”
“This is the sort of thing we could not do alone,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “With the expertise from the University of Montana and the financial support of the Glacier National Park Conservancy, we are conducting cutting edge research about the way our public lands are used here in northwest Montana.”
Monitoring technology used in the park and now expanded to the Flathead National Forest along the Flathead Wild and Scenic River include: tube counters placed along roads and trails, and camera counters that enable the calibration of mechanical counters and estimation of river use levels.
The data collected will better help the park and forest understand visitor use outside the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor, including the Flathead Wild and Scenic River. This information will establish baseline visitor use numbers which in turn will inform future planning efforts such as a Backcountry/Wilderness Stewardship plan for the park, and a joint Flathead Comprehensive River Management Plan for the park and forest.
WEST GLACIER, MT. – The 2017 Glacier National Park annual entrance pass is now available at park entrance stations and the park headquarters building in West Glacier.
The pass depicts the image of Francis X. Guardipee, the first Blackfeet Native American to serve as a ranger in Glacier National Park. Guardipee became a ranger in 1930. His duties took him throughout the park, including Two Medicine, Nyack, and winters in East Glacier. He retired in 1948 and spent his retirement in Browning with his wife, Alma. He was a dedicated Boy Scout troop leader, and when he died in 1970, had spent more than half a century leading Boy Scout Troop 100. Chief Lodgepole Peak was named in honor of Guardipee in 1973. The peak is located in the Two Medicine area of the park.
The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) is the legislation that allows the park to collect entrance and camping fees, and retain 80 percent of the collected revenue. The remaining 20 percent is distributed throughout the National Park System. Basic park operations are funded by direct appropriations from Congress.
The entrance pass in 2017 will be $50. The $5 fee increase over the $45 2016 annual pass reflects input from the civic engagement process Glacier National Park implemented in November 2014 following a nationwide National Park Service review of fees. No other entrance or campground fees will change this year.
The funds generated by fees are used for projects that enhance visitor services and facilities, including interpretive programs at campgrounds, the backcountry campsite reservation program, repair and restoration of trails, restoration of wildlife habitat, improvement and replacement of restroom facilities, preservation and maintenance of roads, and shuttle bus operation and maintenance. To learn more about the types of projects funded with user fees, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/management/yourdollarsatwork.htm.
After working as a student at Glacier Park’s Many Glacier Hotel in the 1960s, I hoped I would end up living in the area and possibly being part of the workforce there over time. While that didn’t pan out, I thought, well, I’ll sell 100000000000000 copies of my novels including the two partly set in the hotel and will be able to fly out to Montana for a visit area year. While that didn’t pan out, I thought I’d go there occasionally and have my memories.
Now, as the National Park Service continues to refurbish the hotel, it has accomplished much in terms of infrastructure that will keep the 1915 hotel alive and well for many years to come. But, I’m not going back again and will let the Many Glacier Hotel of my memories suffice. Why?
I’m not going to rehash the issues here; I covered some of them in NPS to proceed with ill-advised restoration of Many Glacier Hotel Staircase. I believe this action and several less obvious changes are better classified as vandalism rather than preservation–or even restoration. I did not like the changes I saw the last time I was at the hotel. While many upgrades were necessary, changing the look and feel was not. Once the lobby and lake level spaces are gutted by the unfortunate rebuilding of a staircase (that has been gone longer than it was there), I don’t want to see the hotel again.
I have said my piece on this from the perspective of a person who wrote preservation grants and who worked in preservation at the municipal level. Nobody was listening to those of us who felt the changes violated the Interior Department’s own standards. Sentimentality won the day, and those of you who visit Many Glacier Hotel beginning in 2017 will see a new lobby/cafe/giftshop configuration. You might actually like it, and that’s fine because you didn’t grow up seeing it the way it’s been for over 50 years.
I applaud the NPS’ work–and those of many fundraisers–in support of stabilizing the hotel and in dealing with building code issues that are always problematic in older structures. But when the look and feel is altered, the historic nature of the structure is compromised. The hotel stands in (to my biased view) the most beautiful valley in a park that’s my favorite place on the planet. I hope many people will enjoy the Swiftcurrent Valley for years to come. I’ll enjoy it as I remember it as this blog discontinues any future mention of Glacier National Park.
As my father grew older, he stayed away from some places he recalled as childhood favorites because he liked them better as they were than as they became. Perhaps a lot of this are this way. The tide of change and so-called promise is as hard to stop as the incoming tide on a beach. So, sometimes it’s better not to go back to the old familiar places because nobody there knows your name any more and too much of what was familiar has been altered, sometimes in unforgivable ways.
I’m happy I saw the hotel several years ago before the worst of the changes arrived. Do you feel this way about some of the places in your past? Do you worry what you’ll find if you go back for a visit? Do you wonder if it’s best to stay away after friends who still live there tell you about the old buildings that were torn town for parking lots and the parks that were paved over for housing developments or the historic structures that were ruined by misguided efforts?
Or, perhaps these feelings only come to those who are starting to grow old.
Today’s news release from NPS Glacier National Park notes that restoration work on Many Glacier Hotel is continuing, especially in the annex (officially annex 2) where many rooms will be refurbished; the kind of structural, safety and stabilization that were done in the main annex of the hotel will also be carried out in annex 2. This coming summer, half of the hotel’s rooms will be closed during the project’s completion.
In a separately funded project, the long-removed spiral staircase will be returned (rebuilt) in the hotel’s lobby connecting the main floor with the lake level rooms below.
As I’ve written in my blogs previously, I would have opposed the removal of the staircase in 1957 had I been working there at the time. While many old timers have (rightfully) mourned the loss of that staircase which had been in place in 1915, I firmly believe restoring the staircase now is not only a huge mistake by violates one of the preservation standards of the NPS’ parent Department of Interior.
Why This is a Mistake
The Department of Interior’s preservation standards state that “Changes to a property that have acquired historic significance in their own right will be retained and preserved.” This means that you cannot, within preservation best practices, convert a structure to the way it was in an earlier time since it’s ambiance, usage and looks have evolved over time. Buildings evolve, and the lobby without the staircase has more years of history than the lobby with the staircase.
The rebuilt staircase will alter the rooms below. The St. Moritz room stage will be removed, making it impossible to set up musical groups, much less return to the historic summer musical productions that were a long-time and historically significant offering by hotel employees. Ranger Naturalist talks will also be removed from the hotel, because the lake level renovations will remove their Lucerne Room venue when the gift shop is moved from the lobby downstairs.
The gift shop will probably not fare as well in the lake level where it will be out of sight and out of mind.
Others have complained that the staircase will be an open vertical “corridor” that will carry noise and cooking odors from the lake level up into the lobby.
To be consistent with the logic replacing the “historic” staircase, the NPS would also have to replace the former Many Glacier swimming bool and remove the added-on porte cochère at the main lobby entrance that protects car and bus passengers from rain upon arrival. Other smaller-order changes have been made to the hotel since I worked there: I note that the NPS isn’t advocating returning those areas to their original as-built configurations. While I understand the urgent need several years ago to stabilize the hotel’s foundation, taking the historic “kinks” out of the lake-level “stagger alley” hallway was a very non-preservationist in approach. Does NPS plan to restore these kinks?
My comments to the Department of Interior and NPS-Glacier National Park about the park service’s justification for the violation of the standard prohibiting the return of buildings to earlier configurations have received no response. It appears that the NPS has overlooked its own standards in favor of sentimentality.
As a former Many Glacier Hotel employee, I’m done with the hotel because the new eyesore in the lobby will be nothing I want to see. As a former Historic Preservation Commission chairperson and preservation grant writer, I dislike the precedent of this violation of standards. Once the staircase is returned, anything can be returned and that’s a mess I don’t want to contemplate at Glacier National Park or any other unit in the system.
People Before The Park, by Sally Thompson, Kootenai Culture Committee & Pikunni Traditional Association (MHS Press, July 2015), 256 pages with photographs.
The Great Northern Railway, one of the predecessor roads of today’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe, developed Glacier National Park’s roads, telephone system, power lines and famous hotels as a tourist destination for passengers on its Empire Builder and Western Star trains. The railroad’s influence on the park was immense.
The railroad called the Blackfeet, the Glacier Park Tribe, and often took representatives to faraway cities to advertise the park. The project was much more of an expedient promotion than a true cultural exchange. The soul of the park, however, will always be Kootenai and Blackfeet (Pikunni/Piegan).
When I worked as a bellman at Many Glacier Hotel in 1963 and 1964, I was fascinated by the Blackfeet and Kootenai names for many of the mountains, rivers and creeks. Some years later, while working as an editorial assistant for the first edition of Jack Holterman’s now-classic Place Names of Glacier and Waterton National Parks, I learned that these landmarks were given Indian names by early explorers such as James Willard Schultz and George Bird Grinnell. We’ve long needed the park’s story from its original people.
Slowly, some of the official place names are being changed. Some years ago, Trick Falls (named for its odd water flow) was changed to its Blackfeet name, Running Eagle (Pitawmáhkan) Falls. Mt. Wilbur, the distinctive peak across the lake from Many Glacier Hotel, is also hearing its Blackfeet used by bellmen, tour bus drivers, boat crew personnel and others. Now people are beginning to know it as Heavy Shield. One day, perhaps the mountain will hear its name in Blackfeet: Isokwi-awótan
Montana Historical Society
Now, with the publication by the Montana Historical Society Press of People Before The Park, information that has up to now been mostly confined to books intended for scholars and students of history is now accessible to a wider audience. I hope that the park’s concessionaires are selling this book in the hotel gift shops at Many Glacier Hotel, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Glacier Park Lodge.
From the Publisher
Step out of a world governed by clocks and calendars and into the world of the Kootenai and Blackfeet peoples, whose traditional territories included the area that is now Glacier National Park. In this book, the Kootenai and Blackfeet tribes share their traditions—stories and legends, foodways and hunting techniques, games and spiritual beliefs. Readers will discover a new respect for the people who were at home in the Crown of the Continent, all around the seasons. Sally Thompson has spent over thirty years working with the tribes of the Rocky Mountain West to tell history from their points of view. Her most recent work focused on repatriating human remains and sacred objects to tribes.
A Reviewer’s Perspective
“Thompson decided to take a different approach to the book. Rather than write it all herself, she asked the Kootenai Cultural Committee and the Blackfeet’s Pikunni Traditional Association to each author their own chapter.
“The result is a book that tells a descriptive story that comes alive for the reader. Historical photos are featured throughout the book. Thompson provides introductory geographical and cultural information and provides evidence of early trails through the park.” – Erin Madison in the Great Falls Tribune
Every hiker needs several things in his/her backpack: map, matches, flashlight, water, food, bear spray and a copy of this book. As always, the place tells us about the people who live there and the people who live there enhance our knowledge of the place.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two novels set partially in Glacier National Park, “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande.”
The 4,000-acre (as of 7/23/2015) Reynold’s Creek Wildland Fire in Glacier National Park’s St. Mary Valley has destroyed the historic Baring Cabin. Also called the Sun Camp Fireguard Cabin, this National Register listed property was built in 1935 as part of a compound of buildings used by the park service.
It was the last remaining structure before being destroyed by the fire on 7/22 that–according to latest reports–has come within 200 feet of Rising Sun Motel and is being moved by high winds toward the now-evacuated village of St. Mary at the junction of Going-to-the-Sun Road and highway 89 on the eastern side of Glacier Park. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
The cabin was built by Harry E. Doverspike at the mouth of Baring Creek, according to NPS Division of Landscape Architecture specifications, a mile east of the Going-to-the-Sun Chalet. The chalet as removed in 1948. The cabin, which has housed park personnel on an as-needed basis, was fully staffed into the early 1960s.
The 20×25-foot cabin (including a covered porch) was built in the rustic architecture style and featured a stone foundation and chimney, log walls and a singled roof.
It was listed on the National Register in 1999 based on its history and architecture.
While the Blackfeet name for the creek is ápa-oápspi (weasel eyes), the name “Baring” was applied to the creek and the falls in honor of the old-line banking family who visited the area frequently during the 1920s. Author and explorer James Willard Schultz (Apikuni) named the creek, falls and nearby glacier (since changed to Sexton).
You can track the fire on this frequently refreshed map.