Glacier National Park

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Mountain view photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Two mountain ranges, 25 alpine glaciers, and over 700 lakes contribute to the rugged and beautiful landscape of Glacier National Park. Located in northwest Montana along the border with Canada, this park preserves 1583 square miles (4101 square km) of soaring peaks, lush meadows, primeval forests, serene lakes and waterfalls, and a vast array of interesting organisms.

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Cataract Creek spilling off of Reynolds Mountain. Photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

The jagged topography of this park originated long ago. Between about 1.6 billion and 800 million years ago this region was part of a shallow sea. During that time thousands of feet of sand, silt, mud, and dead marine organisms accumulated, and pressure from overlying sediment slowly compressed these deposits into solid rock.

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Mountain view photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

In more recent time periods of collision between tectonic plates forced these sedimentary rock beds upward. From about 170 to 50 million years ago these slow but relentless natural forces pushed older rock bedding up and over younger bedding, thrusting it gradually toward to sky. Today the parallel bedding of the ancient marine sediment is visible in many of the mountains, including East Flattop Mountain near the outpost of Saint Mary:

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East Flattop Mountain photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

In the millennia since their uplift these mountains have been slowly eroded. Ice in particular has contributed most to carving these peaks into their present forms. Vast glaciers blanketed the landscape here during ice ages that ended about 12,000 years ago. Evidence for the sculpting they performed can be found in the U-shaped valleys…

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Mountain view photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

…glacial cirques

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Mountain view photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

…and numerous meltwater lakes that radiate outward from the highest peaks:

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Going-to-the-Sun Mountain and Saint Mary Lake near Sun Point. Photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Today 25 functional glaciers can be found within this national park. As recently as 1850 there were about 150, and the disappearance of ice here is one of only many lines of evidence for climate change. It’s estimated that within the next ten or twenty years there will be no more glaciers at Glacier National Park.

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Jackson Glacier, one of the few remaining “permanent” ice fields left in the park. Photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

For the time being, however, these melting glaciers feed a variety of water features. Streams, lakes, and waterfalls speckle the terrain, providing unparalleled natural beauty. Avalanche Lake, carrying meltwater from Sperry Glacier and Gunsight Mountain, is perhaps among the most impressive:

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Avalanche Lake photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Sunrift Gorge is worth the short hike:

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Sunrift Gorge photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

The view of Saint Mary Lake from Sun Point is gorgeous:

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Saint Mary Lake from Sun Point. Photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

The cobbles and distant peaks around Lake McDonald are worth a stop…

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Lake McDonald photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

…as is McDonald Creek which feeds the lake:

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McDonald Creek photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Within these verdant environments are a variety of tall trees…

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Tall trees along the Trail of the Cedars. Photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

…as well as innumerable wildflowers:

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Unknown wildflower photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

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Unknown wildflower photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

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Unknown aster photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Seventy species of mammals call these mountains home, including mountain goats (Artiodactyla: Bovidae: Oreamnos americanus)…

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Mountain goat near Logan Pass. Photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

bighorn sheep (Artiodactyla: Bovidae: Ovis canadensis)…

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Bighorn sheep near Logan Pass. Photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

ground squirrels (Rodentia: Sciuridae: Spermophilus sp.)…

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Ground squirrel near Logan Pass. Photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

…and even grizzly bears (Carnivora: Ursidae: Ursus arctos):

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Grizzly warning sign along Sun Point Trail. Photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Glacier National Park is among the best in the nation and for good reason. The scenic and fascinating mountains, lakes, waterfalls, streams, plants, and wildlife make this a location rivaled by few, and important enough to attract nearly two million visitors annually. Although somewhat remote, it’s definitely worth the trip.

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Mountain view photographed 08/09/2014 at Glacier National Park, Montana.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Environment, Geology, National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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