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The Rich History of Glacier National Park

Before It Was A National Park...
Glacier National Park has an fascinating history. The evidence of human occupation dates back to over 10,000 years ago, and through the years there have been several Native American tribes that have called the area their home. More recently, the Blackfeet controlled the east side of the Continental Divide and the prairies while the Salish and Kootenai lived in the western valleys. The early European explorers came into the area to find beaver pelts and other animals and were soon followed by miners and settlers. The Hudson Bay Company had established trade with the Blackfeet tribes so the Company could get their beaver pelts in exchange for other goods.

Great Northern Railway & Blackfeet Indians 1861

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The Rich History of Glacier National Park However, Lewis and Clark had a different experience with the Blackfeet. A few of their warriors tried to steal guns and other supplies while Lewis, Clark and their men were sleeping and two Blackfeet ended up dying. After this occurrence, the Blackfeet were generally hostile to outsiders. The ongoing contact with European explorers and new settlers to the area caused the spread of diseases throughout the tribes. American and European settlers were also hunting all of the bison in the area and encroaching on the Blackfeet territory. This forced the tribes to depend on the U.S. government for food and supplies. In 1855 the Blackfeet signed a treaty that allotted them money and goods in exchange for them to move onto a reservation.

The Acquisition of Land In Glacier Park...
The government was hoping to find gold or copper deposits in these lands and a few small mining towns were established in and around the park to find them. No minerals deposits were ever found and these mining towns did not survive long. There is still evidence of these little mining towns throughout the area. For example, there are still pieces of mining equipment from the town of Altyn near Many Glacier on the east side of Glacier National Park. Later, the Blackfeet authorized the sale of 800,000 acres of mountain land to the U.S. government, later becoming the eastern part of the park.

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The Rich History of Glacier National Park

The Beginning Of Preservation...
In the late 1800s, people started looking at the land differently and they began to recognize that it should be protected. One of the major influences in the establishment of Glacier National Park was George B. Grinnell who first visited the area on a hunting trip in 1885. He took several more trips to the area and was so inspired that he spent the next 20 years working to make the land a National Park.

Another leading influence for the park was the Great Northern Railway, which was completed in 1891 crossing Marias Pass on what is now Highway 2 just 12 Page 3

The Rich History of Glacier National Park miles southwest of East Glacier. This allowed a greater number of people to be able to visit this beautiful land.

The Beginning Of Tourism in The Area...
In effort to stimulate the railroad, the Great Northern Railway advertised the splendors of the region trying to keep people from visiting other countries and instead seeing what was in their own backyard. They came up with the motto “See America First” which is still used today. Grinnell also came to describe the land as the Crown of the Continent which had people curious about this new land that was supposed to be so different. In 1897 the Great Northern Railway lobbied Congress and the land was designated as a forest preserve. It took over 10 more years for Congress to re-designate the land as a National Park when Grinnell, Henry Stimson and the railway introduced another bill which was signed by President Taft on May 11, 1910. To help promote tourism, the Great Northern Railway started building chalets and hotels in Glacier National Park. The buildings were modeled on Swiss architecture to portray Glacier as the Swiss Alps of America. They built 9 chalets and 2 hotels, Glacier Park Lodge that opened in 1913 and Many Glacier Hotel that opened in Page 4

The Rich History of Glacier National Park 1915. A land speculator from Columbia Falls bought some land on the south shore of Lake McDonald where the Snyder Hotel already stood and then built another hotel. John Lewis opened the Lewis Glacier Hotel in 1914, later to become Lake McDonald Lodge. This was the only lodge not built by the railway but was later bought by the company that operated the hotels.

The Going-To-The-Sun Road...
Once cars were more available to the everyday person and people began to rely on them more and more, Glacier wanted to keep up with the trends and in the 1920s construction began on a 50 mile road that bisected the park from west to east. Completed in 1932, the Going-to-the-Sun Road let travelers cross the park and see spectacular views of the park that would have otherwise been inaccessible.

An Early Photo During the Construction of Going-To-The-Sun Road With the increase in cars and tourism, the Glacier Park Company decided to build Page 5

The Rich History of Glacier National Park new facilities that were geared towards auto-based tourism. These became auto camps with the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn built in 1933 at first with tipis then later cabins and motel rooms. Rising Sun Motor Inn was later built and opened in 1941, located 6 miles from the east entrance of the Going-to-the-Sun. Besides becoming one of the most beautiful parks in the U.S., Glacier also holds a few other accomplishments. In 1932 Glacier joined Waterton National Park in Canada and became the first International Peace Park. Both parks were also designated as Biosphere Reserves by the United Nations in 1976 are also became World Heritage Sites in 1995. All of the historic lodges and chalets that still remain in the park are National Historic Landmarks as well as 350 locations that are on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1985 the Going-to-the-Sun Road was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and is also considered a National Historic Landmark.

An Early Photo of Waterton National Park Page 6

The Rich History of Glacier National Park

To be able to understand all that this park has, one must come and see for themselves. Take a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, stay in all of the lodges to see which one you think is your favorite for location and grandeur. The history is only one part of the park, the other is its future which hopefully will be preserved and persevere for many generations to come. One thing everyone says when they leave Glacier is that this national park truly has it all. To learn more about Glacier National Park and what it has to offer, including a comprehensive collection of hotel & lodging information as well as activity information in and around the park, visit www.NationalParkReservations.com/glacier.php

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