Tag Archives: Canadian Rockies

Glacier’s headwaters: Water tower to our continent

North Fork of the Flathead River - ©Mark LaRowe
North Fork of the Flathead River – ©Mark LaRowe

A few days ago, the National Parks Conservation Association released their Summer 2017 Field Report for the Northern Rockies. In it was an article by Michael Jamison, Crown of the Continent Program Manager, that is highly relevant to the North Fork, as well as any other region downstream of the Canadian Rockies. By permission of the author, it is reprinted here in its entirety . . .

People tend to think Glacier National Park is all about mountains.

And people are wrong.

Glacier is also about water: icy cold water rushing clean and clear across gravel and stone; whitewater plunging over cliff-band falls; sky-blue water eddying into lakes set like sapphires into the deep green of wilderness.

From the summit of the park’s Triple Divide Peak, meltwater flows west to the Pacific, east to the Atlantic, north to the Arctic by way of Hudson Bay. Glacier is water tower to a continent, spiked by peaks sharpened on a grindstone of Pleistocene ice.

I recently flew north out of Glacier, over a long slice of Alaska—another place branded by its mountains. Chugach. Wrangell-St. Elias. The Aleutians and Brooks and Chilkats.

But Alaska, like Glacier, is not really about mountains.

What I saw unfolding below was, again, a wild country defined by water: an endless winding coastline; miles of muskeg pooling like quicksilver; rivers washing the feet of mountains, slicing tundra and stone, spilling sediment braids into an ocean the color of steel.

Montana and Alaska are alike in this way. They also share a common headwater: British Columbia.

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Dave Hadden: It all makes sense from up here

Dave Hadden, Executive Director of Headwaters Montana, spent some time in the Canadian Flathead a short time ago. Here are his thoughts, written as he was on the summit of Mount Haig in the Canadian Rockies . . .

I’m sitting atop Mount Haig in the Canadian Rockies, just 30 miles (48km) from the Montana border and Glacier National Park. In front of me, the broken limestone and shale shards descend in sweeping arcs until they merge with ridge lines that go on forever. Behind me, very close behind me, my seat drops away vertically 2,000 feet to a jewel-like turquoise lake. I could be on top of Siyeh Peak in Glacier, but I’m not. I’m sitting on the highest peak in the proposed new Flathead National Park.

From up here you can see how the land fits together. How a grizzly bear and her cubs might tumble out of their winter den and find security in the high, carved cirque basin to my right from the instincts of male bears or the disturbance of human activities. How the green blush of a new year’s flowering moves up the valleys and canyon walls. How the returning winged-ones find willows and cottonwoods along the Flathead River and tributary creeks or in the tall spruce and pine to regenerate the song-filled air.

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