Glacier National Park is preparing an environmental assessment for the management of the inside North Fork Road and encouraging public comment by August 3. Public comments will help identify issues and alternatives to be considered and evaluated in the planning process.
The inside North Fork Road is located within the park. It is a seasonal gravel road approximately 40 miles in length. It begins near the south end of Lake McDonald continuing to Kintla Lake near the Canadian border. The road was constructed in 1901 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Currently, the road is open between the Fish Creek Campground and Camas Creek on the south end of the road, and between Polebridge and the Logging Creek Ranger Station on the north end of the road. Hikers and bikers may utilize the entirety of the inside North Fork Road. The middle section of the road is not open to motorized use due to road damage.
Since 2006 annual flooding has caused significant and recurring damage to the inside North Fork Road, particularly near the Anaconda Creek and Logging Creek areas. Another area of the road, near the North Fork of the Flathead River between Quartz Lake and Logging Creek, known as Lover’s Leap, is also an area of concern. The river is beginning to undercut this section of the road due to sloughing of the riverbank. Culvert additions and replacements along much of the road and new road base are needed in several locations.
In response, the park has brought in materials to mend damaged areas over the past several years. These fixes have been short-lived and resulted in deposition of road base and sediment into waterways, raising concern for fisheries and the health of riparian communities. In 2014, the park contracted an engineering firm to analyze options for road repairs at Anaconda and Logging Creeks, and Lover’s Leap. Cost estimates for these three repairs ranged from $682,000 to $735,000.
The park’s general management plan calls for preservation of the area’s wild character, with provision of only rustic visitor facilities. The road provides access to four primitive auto campgrounds and several trailheads. These few developments are surrounded by recommended wilderness.
Bull trout, a federally listed threatened species, and westslope cutthroat trout, a Montana State listed species of concern, utilize riparian habitat on and near the North Fork of the Flathead River, including federally designated critical habitat for bull trout. Road failures near Anaconda Bridge and Logging Creek are causing localized stream habitat degradation, with the potential to adversely impact bull trout critical habitat.
Given the repairs needed, associated costs, and ongoing maintenance requirements and resource concerns, the park is considering the overall future of the inside North Fork Road. An environmental assessment is being prepared for the management of the road. Objectives include developing a sustainable approach for maintenance and repair of the road, improving natural stream function in riparian areas, reducing adverse impacts on fisheries, and continuing to provide recreation opportunities in the North Fork area of the park.
A scoping brochure is available online, and comments and concerns regarding the project should be submitted online at www.parkplanning.nps.gov/InsideNorthForkRoad. Comments and concerns can also be mailed to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: inside North Fork Road, PO Box 128, West Glacier, MT 59936. Comments should be submitted by August 3.