Category Archives: History

Bob Marshall’s legacy

Carol Treadwell, executive director of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, has a nice piece about Bob Marshall and the upcoming “Wilderness 50th” celebration in this week’s Hungry Horse News . . .

On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 28, 1928, Bob Marshall departed Kalispell to embark on an eight-day hiking trip that would cover 288 miles and cross landmarks such as Mount Aeneus, White River Pass, the Chinese Wall, Big Prairie, Gordon Pass and Holland Pass and end at the Seeley Post Office.

Bob averaged 36 miles a day including “evening strolls” taken after dinner each evening.  Bob was 28 at the time and continued to put down epic hikes throughout his life and even courted gals who could match his stride for 20 miles.

His greatest life accomplishment, however, was to spearhead the public initiative for the protection of wild lands. In 1935, he helped form the Wilderness Society and was its first donor, contributing $1,000.

Read more . . .

Lundgren family sells West Glacer holdings to GPI

This has only a tenuous North Fork preservation angle, but it’s momentous news for the area . . .

Most of the business district of this iconic entrance to Glacier National Park – and undeveloped acreage in and around the little village of about 225 people – has been sold to Glacier Park Inc., a subsidiary of Viad Corp. of Arizona.

Bill Lundgren, whose family has owned the West Glacier Mercantile Company since 1946, and Paul Dyststra, chairman, president and CEO of Viad, weren’t returning phone messages Monday or Tuesday, as rumors of a possible sale mounted.

But GPI president Cindy Ognjanov confirmed Wednesday morning in a news release that a deal had been struck to purchase almost 200 acres of land from the Lundgrens at the park’s west entrance. Included in the sale are the West Glacier Mercantile (which sells everything from food to fishing tackle), the West Glacier Gift Shop, the West Glacier Shirt Company, the West Glacier Motel and Cabins, the West Glacier Bar (known locally as Freda’s) and the West Glacier Restaurant.

Another 3.8 acres inside the park, at Apgar, are also part of the sale, and include the Apgar Village Lodge and Cedar Tree gift shop.

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Researcher correlates climate change with trout hybridization

Aquatics biologist Clint Muhlfeld has just published a paper showing a correlation between climate change and hybridization of cutthroat and non-native rainbow trout . . .

In his published research, aquatics biologist Clint Muhlfeld has detailed the plight of an obscure stonefly endemic to Glacier National Park’s high-elevation streams and revealed how a trout’s ear bone contains a geochemical diary of its liquid migrations.

But his most recent study will appeal to his largest audience yet, not only by virtue of the scope of the revelation, but also the size of the platform.

Muhlfeld, an aquatic ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Glacier Park field office, is the project leader of a study that links the rapid hybridization between a native Montana trout species and an invasive species in the Flathead River system to climate change.

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The Merc at 100

The Flathead Beacon did a nice front page spread on the Polebridge Mercantile this week, focusing on the Merc’s 100th anniversary . . .

In 100 years, ownership of the Polebridge Mercantile has changed hands 10 times, according to records cobbled together by historians and hardscrabble locals, with each set of proprietors playing their own unique role in shaping the store, the community and the far-flung, off-the-grid landscape.

And yet the owners of this lone outpost of civilization along the remote North Fork of the Flathead River have not traditionally considered themselves owners, instead embracing the cozier denomination of “caretaker,” a term of endearment that sets the “Merc” apart from the workaday grind of quotidian life, distinguishing it from the modern trappings and clutter that has even crept into a scantly populated place like Montana.

Time passes slowly here, to be sure, but even the Merc must endure change.

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Park’s glaciers illustrate climate change impact

The Flathead Beacon posted an interesting profile of the work of Dan Fagre, a USGS  research ecologist stationed at Glacier Park . . .

Twenty-two years ago, when Dan Fagre first walked up to the Grinnell Glacier, its icy mass towered overhead. Today, it’s about as high as his knees.

Grinnell is one of the few glaciers that still exists inside the 1 million acres of Glacier National Park. But just because Grinnell and the other glaciers find shelter inside the preserve doesn’t mean they are not endangered. In fact, due to rising temperatures, scientists believe the park’s namesake bodies of ice will be gone in a few decades. In 1850, it’s estimated that there were 150 glaciers inside the park; today there are just 25. Fagre, a research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, says it is one of the most visual examples of climate change in the continental United States.

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John White Lecture Series includes North Forkers

The Museum at Central School in Kalispell started holding its annual John White Lecture Series in 2002. During January and February, the museum hosts a series of four presentations by residents and experts on various aspects of local history.

This year’s series winds up with a talk in February 23 at 2:30 p.m.called “Sons of Sheriffs” involving two long-term North Fork landowners/residents, Pat Walsh and Larry Wilson. The presentation features “…three sons of former Flathead County sheriffs. Retired attorney Ty Robinson is 96 years old and sharp as the proverbial tack. His father, Cal Robinson, Sr., was Flathead Co. Sheriff in the 1930s & 40s. Pat Walsh is the son of Dick Walsh, who followed Cal Robinson as Sheriff, serving from 1947 to 1963. Larry Wilson is the son of Ross Wilson, who followed Dick Walsh, serving as Sheriff in the 1960s. All three gentlemen will share the memories and experiences of being sons of Flathead County sheriffs.”

See the John White Lecture Series web page for more information, including descriptions of the other talks in the series, ticket availability and pricing.

Also, the Flathead Beacon has an excellent write-up on the lecture series.

John Frederick, “The icon of the North Fork”

John Frederick, NFPA founder and perennial president, got some well-deserved recognition in Larry Wilson’s Hungry Horse News column this week . . .

Everyone who has spent any time on the North Fork has to know John Frederick. In the last few years, his friends have been worried about his health, and everyone has marveled at the level of his physical activity.

Just this past summer, he managed an all-day mule ride from Whale Creek to Thompson-Seton Lookout and back. That a minor achievement when compared to the multiple days he spent helping Bill Walker and others reopen the Coal Ridge Trail. By all accounts, the trail had not been maintained for nearly 40 years.

His activity level seems all the more remarkable when you see him brace himself to stand from a sitting position. It wasn’t always this way.

Although I have often considered John a relative newcomer to the North Fork, he has actually been here for nearly 40 years. He is a self-described environmentalist and was one of the founders of the North Fork Preservation Association and has been the president of that group most of the time since it was started.

Read more . . .

Next Flathead Forest Friday meeting focuses on upcoming Wilderness Act anniversary

The Flathead National Forest has another “Flathead Forest Friday” meeting coming up on Friday, November 22. This time it’s at the Nite Owl in Columbia Falls. Here’s the press release . . .

Everyone Invited for a Breakfast Chat on Friday, November 22nd

Next year is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act which preserves more than 100 million acres of wild-lands nationwide, including the Mission Mountains, Great Bear, Scapegoat and Bob Marshall Wilderness areas on the Flathead National Forest. The public is invited to a no-host breakfast on Friday, November 22, 2013 to learn about a number of events planned around the Flathead Valley next year to mark the anniversary and to help connect people to the wilderness. The breakfast will start at 7:00 AM at the Night Owl restaurant in Columbia Falls.

On September 3, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act which established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) setting aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wild-lands for the use and benefit of the American people. Over the past 50 years Congress has added over 100 million acres to this unique land preservation system. The 1964 Wilderness Act defines “Wilderness” as areas where the earth and its communities of life are left unchanged by people, where the primary forces of nature are in control, and where people themselves are visitors who do not remain.

Multiple agencies and organizations are partnering to host a number of events during 2014. Spotted Bear District Ranger Deb Mucklow and Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation Executive Director Carol Treadwell will join our Flathead Forest Friday guests to discuss the events planned in the Flathead Valley.

Every other month, the Forest Service will coordinate these no-host breakfast meetings at a local restaurant with the goal of sharing good food, great company, and a little information about what’s happening on our National Forest. We hope the event will be a great way to discuss public land management opportunities and challenges that are important to us all.

If you plan to attend or have any questions, please notify Public Affairs Officer Wade Muehlhof at or (406) 758-5252. Your response allows us to plan accordingly with the restaurant.

The Robert Fire ten years later

The Flathead Beacon has a nice retrospective on the 2003 fire season, the Robert Fire in particular . . .

The rolled-up maps in Dennis Divoky’s office show the enormity of the 2003 fires in Glacier National Park. Huge swaths of land are colored in red and orange, depicting in print the 136,000 acres of land burned that summer. It was the biggest fire season in the park’s history – even larger than 1910’s “Big Burn.”

“The 2003 season is the pinnacle,” said Divoky, fire ecologist for the park.

That summer, the National Park Service responded to 26 wildfires that scorched roughly 13 percent of the park’s land. Of those, six blazes were larger than 10,000 acres. The Robert Fire alone burned 57,570 acres of land in the park and Flathead National Forest and forced multiple evacuations of the Lake McDonald Valley and West Glacier. By September, the fires had cost the Park Service more than $68 million.

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