Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Canoeist Breaks 20-Year-Old Record for Highest Waterfall Drop

Last fall, Jim Coffey from Canada paddled over the 60-foot La Cascada de Truchas on the Alseseca River in Mexico. In doing so, he broke a record for the highest waterfall drop in a canoe that had stood for almost 20 years.

The previous record was held by Steve Frazier when he went over the 55-foot Compression Falls on the Elk River in Tennessee in 1994.

Although Coffey broke the record last fall, this video showing his amazing feat was only published two weeks ago:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 21, 2014

Summit Mountain Lodge: Our Story

"Born from our desire to share the spirit of the Montana lifestyle and wilderness experience with others, Summit Mountain Lodge is a family owned lodge in the heart of world class fly-fishing, hiking, skiing, rafting and hunting."

Below is a short video from the folks at Summit Mountain Lodge, which is located on the southern border of Glacier National Park, near Marias Pass. The video tells the story of the owners and their long relationship to this beautiful land:

As one of our advertisers, you can find a link to the Summit Mountain Lodge website on our East Glacier Accommodations Page.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, April 18, 2014

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Fish in Western U.S. National Parks

Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

This study of mercury in fish is the first of its kind to incorporate information from remote places at 21 national parks in 10 western states, including Alaska. Western parks were selected for this study because of the significant role that atmospheric mercury deposition plays in remote places, and the lack of broad-scale assessments on mercury in fish in remote areas of the west.

Mercury concentrations in fish sampled from these parks were generally low, but were elevated in some instances. The study examines total mercury in fish, of which 95 percent is in the form of methylmercury, the most dangerous form to human and wildlife health.

Mercury is harmful to human and wildlife health, and is among the most widespread contaminants in the world. It is distributed at a global scale from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions (responsible for approximately half of atmospheric mercury emissions), emissions from the ocean, and forest fires, and from human sources such as burning fossil fuels in power plants, gold mining, and incineration of municipal and medical waste. Mercury is also distributed at local or regional scales as a result of current and historic mining activities. These human activities have increased levels of atmospheric mercury at least three fold during the past 150 years.

Between 2008 and 2012, NPS resource managers collected more than 1,400 fish from 86 lakes and rivers, and USGS scientists measured mercury concentrations in fish muscle tissue. The authors found that mercury levels varied greatly, both between parks and among sites within each park. In most parks, mercury concentrations in fish were moderate to low. In fact, mercury concentrations were below EPA’s fish tissue criterion for safe human consumption in 96 percent of the sport fish sampled.

However, the average concentration of mercury in sport fish from two sites in Wrangell-St. Elias and Lake Clark (Alaska) national parks exceeded EPA’s human health criterion. Additionally, mercury levels in individual sport fish at some sites from Lassen Volcanic (California), Mount Rainer (Washington), Rocky Mountain (Colorado), Yellowstone (Wyoming), and Yosemite (California) national parks also exceeded the human health criterion.

The National Park Service is currently coordinating with state officials regarding potential fish consumption advisories. Exposure to high levels of mercury in humans may cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and the developing fetus. Pregnant women and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of mercury.

Mercury at elevated levels can also impact wildlife resulting in reduced foraging efficiency, survival, and reproductive success. Mercury concentrations exceeded the most conservative fish toxicity benchmark at 15 percent of all sites, and the most sensitive health benchmark for fish-eating birds at 52 percent of all sites.

For more information and to view the report, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Video: Hike to Iceberg Lake

Below is another excellent "hikelogue" from The West is Big! Travel Guides. This film highlights another one of the classic hikes in Glacier National Park. Roundtrip, the hike to Iceberg Lake covers roughly 9.7 miles, and traverses through some of the most spectacular scenery in the park. On this particular video, the filmmakers encountered a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs. For more detailed information on the hike to Iceberg Lake, please click here

If you do plan to visit Glacier this year, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Public Invited to Participate in MT State Parks Strategic Planning Process

Montana State Parks (stateparks.mt.gov) announced yesterday that the public is invited to participate in focus groups as part of its strategic planning process. There will be eight focus groups around the state starting Monday, April 21 through Thursday, May 1.

Working with the public, stakeholders and the Montana State Parks & Recreation Board, the Parks' Division aims to address challenges related to resources, system capacity and gain insight on the public's interests in services and recreation needs.

The strategic planning process will take a year to complete and will result in an updated vision for the Montana State Parks' system and recreation programs for the next decade. There will be a public comment process on the draft strategic plan, later this year.

The most recent strategic plan was created in 1998.

As part of the strategic planning process, Montana State Parks is hosting focus group sessions in communities around Montana. These sessions will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about the current status of the Montana State Parks' system and provide feedback on challenges and opportunities, including: what makes a state park significant?, what services are needed for the future?, how does the state parks' system sustain adequate resources to handle demands?

Individuals are welcome to attend one of the focus group sessions listed below. Each focus group will last about three hours and refreshments will be provided. The public is encouraged to RSVP by calling the Montana State Parks Helena office at (406) 444-3750.

Focus Group Sessions:

• Glasgow - Monday, April 21, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm Cottonwood Inn, 45 1st Ave NE, Glasgow

• Glendive - Tuesday, April 22, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Dawson Community College, Ullman Center (UC 102), 300 College Drive, Glendive

• Billings - Wednesday, April 23, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Pictograph Cave State Park, 3401 Coburn Road, Billings

• Kalispell - Monday, April 28, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Lone Pine State Park, 300 Lone Pine Rd, Kalispell

• Missoula - Tuesday, April 29, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Travelers' Rest State Park, 6717 Highway 12 W, Lolo

• Whitehall - Wednesday, April 30, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, 25 Lewis and Clark Caverns Rd., Whitehall

• Helena – Thursday, May 1, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, Carroll College, Campus Center (Rice Avila DeSmet Room), 1601 North Benton, Helena

• Great Falls - Thursday, May 1, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park. 342 Ulm-Vaughn Rd., Ulm For more information about the focus group sessions, call the Montana State Parks’ Helena office at (406) 444-3750.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Snowpack Level in Glacier Well Above Long-term Average

According to the latest data published by the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL (SNOw TELemetry) station, the amount of snow accumulated in Glacier National Park this year is already well above the 40-year average. As of April 13th, the SNOTEL is reporting that Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), which is the weight of snow water equivalent to inches of water, has currently peaked at 53.9 inches. The peak for the 40-year SWE average is 45.9 inches.

Last year, total SWE peaked on May 2nd with a reading of 52.5 inches. In 2012, SWE peaked on May 7th, with a reading of 56 inches, and on May 10, 2011, the SWE reading reached 66.1 inches.

With the heavy snowpack Glacier National Park has experienced over the last several years, I would be real curious to see what the updated measurements are for the major glaciers in the park. Most of the data I've seen hasn't been updated in recent years. In fact, much of the data from the Glacier Monitoring Studies from the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center appears to have been updated prior to 2010. However, I noticed on my most recent hike to Iceberg Lake two years ago that the amount of ice in and around the lake was much greater than what I witnessed in 1999 or 2004. I confirmed this by reviewing my photographs of the lake. All three of those hikes occurred around late August.

All in all, this year's snowpack potentially bodes well for a limited forest fire season later this summer and fall.

The Flattop Mountain SNOTEL station is located at an elevation of approximately 6300 feet on Flattop Mountain, which is a high plateau between the Lewis and Livingston Ranges in Glacier National Park. According to the website, "Flattop Mountain is a useful indicator of snowfall throughout Glacier National Park because it is subject to the factors that influence conditions elsewhere in the park".

Data from the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL is compiled by water year, which runs from October 1st through September 30th.

The following is a graph that compares SWE for 2014 (black line) versus the average (green line) and the maximum and minimum water years (you can click here for a larger version):

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 14, 2014

Captured Grizzly Bear Released in Glacier National Park

According to FWP Bear and Lion Specialist Erik Wenum, a 6 year old 340-pound male grizzly bear was captured on April 6 south of Eureka. FWP was assisted by USDA Wildlife Services personnel in capturing the grizzly.

The grizzly was implicated in a calf depredation that occurred on April 2. The bear had been previously captured in British Columbia during research trapping efforts in the fall of 2011. At that time the bear was fitted with ear-tags and released.

On April 7, the bear was examined and radio-collared. The grizzly was released on April 8 in Glacier National Park, assisted by GNP personnel, in an area seasonally closed due to snow and road conditions. There are no known previous management situations involving this bear.

Black Bear Activity:

Additional bear activity reported by Wenum includes four black bears that were captured over the last three days in the Columbia Falls and Whitefish areas. This level of activity indicates that while many bears may still be denned or close to their dens some have dropped to lower elevations in search of foods. As temperatures rise and snow melt begins more bears are emerging and dropping to the valley floor. Residents are encouraged to secure any attractants that may have been out during the winter, especially trash, birdfeeders, pet and livestock feeds.

Hiking in Glacier National Park