Glacier loses century-old Sperry Chalet in Sprague Fire – Updated 09/03/17

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.

Sperry photo

The chalet was listed on the National Register in 1977.

Aftermath:

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.”

See FIREFIGHTERS PREPARING FOR THE WORST AT GLACIER PARK’S LAKE MCDONALD LODGE

Fire Map as of September 3:

 

–Malcolm

 

Weather Conditions Impact Glacier Park

updated NPS information as of June 18:

Sperry Chalet - NPS photo
Sperry Chalet – NPS photo
  •  St. Mary Campground Closed due to standing and running water, and debris from Wild Creek and other run-off water. There were approximately 10 campers at the St. Mary Campground last night, and all left this morning on their own, prior to campground closure.
  • Access to the Kintla Lake area closed at the head of Big Prairie – 7 miles north of the Polebridge Entrance in the North Fork District of the park. Travel in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park is not advised at this time. There is standing water in several areas.
  • Red Eagle Lake Trailhead, near the 1913 Historic Ranger Station near St. Mary is closed.
  • Sand bags were deployed in the administrative area of St. Mary on the east side of Glacier National Park, responding to rising/flooding Divide Creek.
  • Pre-evacuation planning underway for the St. Mary area of National Park Service administrative and housing areas (approx. 30-40 people), and for the Many Glacier Hotel area. No evacuations have been initiated at this time!
  • No work is being conducted on plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road at this time. Crews moved plowing equipment to lower locations yesterday as snow began to fall and more snow was predicted.
  • NPS employees are at Sperry Chalet conducting seasonal preparation activities and report 14-16 inches of snow since Tuesday morning. It was snowing again this morning at Sperry Chalet. Photos attached! Sperry Chalet is located on the west side of the park, near the Continental Divide.
  • Park personnel continue to monitor and access the situation across the park, making preparations in the event of any evacuations and staging equipment to respond as needed. Park personnel are in regular communication with the National Weather Service. All visitors are encouraged to use caution during this time of increased moisture.

from NPS Glacier National Park, as of June 16:

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Snow conditions, cool weather, and debris from snow slides are challenging some spring opening operations for trails, facilities and roads in Glacier National Park. Snow accumulations in the park are above average this year and spring snowmelt has varied at different locations.

Numerous trails in Glacier National Park are still snow-covered. Park staff report damage to trails and backcountry campsites due to snow slides and large amounts of avalanche debris. The Ptarmigan Falls Bridge and Twin Falls Bridge have been removed due to winter damage and hazardous conditions. Temporary bridges are expected to be installed by early July. The Iceberg Lake Trail is closed to stock use until permanent repairs to the Ptarmigan Falls B ridge are complete. Permanent repair work on both bridges is anticipated to begin this fall.

Extensive avalanche debris has impacted the Trout Lake Trail. Hikers are not encouraged to use this trail, or it is recommended that hikers have route-finding skills to traverse the debris.

Trails may traverse steep and sometimes icy snowfields and hikers are strongly advised to have the appropriate equipment and skills to navigate such areas, or perhaps visit those areas once conditions improve. Please visit the park’s website for current trail status at http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/trailstatusreports.htm. Please report any hazardous or unusual trail or backcounty conditions by calling the park at 406-888-7800.

Frozen and damaged sewer and water lines caused some delays in seasonal opening activities for utilities park-wide. Rising Sun and the Swiftcurrent cabin areas experienced damaged water lines. The Apgar and Lake McDonald areas experienced issues with frozen sewer lines, and some broken water lines. The Cutbank, Many Glacier and Two Medicine Campgrounds experienced delayed openings due to abundant snow accumulation and slow snow melt.

A snow slide in the Alps area of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, about five miles west of Logan Pass, wiped out about 20-30 feet of rock wall along the road.  Several new slide paths across the road have been encountered this spring, including the need for extensive snow and debris cleanup.

Snow removal operations on the Going-to-the-Sun Road continue with road crews working near the Big Drift and Lunch Creek areas east of Logan Pass. Above average snow accumulation and cool June temperatures have provided challenges for snow removal operations. The snow depth at the Big Drift is estimated to be about 80 feet, larger than recent years. Once the snow is removed, a thick layer of ice on the road is anticipated.

In addition to snow removal, road crews are working to install over 400 removable guard rails, sweep the road of rock debris, and clear snow from Logan Pass Visitor Center facilities including sidewalks and trails. Park road crew employees have begun working overtime in an effort to accomplish snow removal goals in a safe and timely manner, as well as other park employees assisting in the hand work to remove snow around facilities.

Snow removal and plowing progress, including images, can be found at http://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/gttsroadplow/gttsroadplowstatus.cfm.

Currently, visitors can drive about 16 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side of the park, and one mile from the St. Mary Entrance to the foot of St. Mary Lake on the east side. It is anticipated that there will be vehicle access to the Jackson Glacier Overlook area on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road by this weekend, but it is dependent on weather conditions. Vehicle access to Logan Pass, and beyond Avalanche on the west side of park, is unknown at this time.

Hiker-biker access is currently available from Avalanche to the Loop on the west side, and from St. Mary to Rising Sun on the east side. For current hiker-biker access and park road status, visit http://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm. For additional questions about Glacier National Park, visit www.nps.gov/glac or call 406-888-7800.

See also the news story here.

Glacier Park Fund Lists Park Funding Accomplishments and Needs

The Glacier National Park Fund has supplemented the park’s declining federal funding to the tune of $3.5 million dollars for the past 13 years. After looking at the rationale for the Fund’s merger with the Glacier Association (reported in September), I believe the combined organization will offer increased support for the park during the next 13 years,

As a member, I enjoy the late-in-the-year mailings that detail how the Fund’s support has helped Glacier National Park during the recent season as well as getting a heads-up on emerging projects.

In 2012, contributions from the Fund helped the park complete repairs on Sperry Chalet (see 2011 avalanche damage post), the lookouts on Scalplock and Swiftcurrent, and the Belly River ranger station. Year-to-year maintenance on trails continues (as always), with an emphasis on the Ptarmigan Wall, Avalanche Lake, and Loneman Lookout trails. Some 3,500 grade school students participated in the Winter Ecology School Program and the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher training. Research work went forward on harlequin ducks, fishers and bats, bear-proof food storage containers were added to campground, and the citizen science program kept up its use of volunteers for countless projects.

Highline Trail – David Restivo, NPS

Upcoming Needs

You can see a list of the Fund’s 2013 projects online. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • The creation of a Glacier Conservation Corps youth group to assist with trail maintenance, weed control and restoration. If the Fund raises $50,000 by December 31, it will receive a matching grant from the National Park Foundation.
  • Damage to the popular Highline Trail during a July thunderstorm will require $20,000 in additional repairs in order to safely open the trail during 2013. (I agree with those who say that if visitors take one hike in the park, this should be it.)
  • The well-received Citizen Science and Adopt a Trail programs both need additional funding.

Exciting and much needed projects, I believe, that support the Crown of the Continent’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of nonfiction and fiction focused on Glacier National Park, including “The Sun Singer” which is set in the Swiftcurrent and Belly River valleys.

A Glacier Park Fantasy Novel