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The Glacier National Park: A popular guide to its geology and scenery

January 1, 1914

The Glacier National Park includes that part of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains lying just south of the Canadian line, in Teton and Flathead counties, Mont. It is bounded on the west by Flathead River (locally called North Fork), on the south by the Middle Fork of Flathead River and the Great Northern Railway, and on the east by the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Although this part of the Rocky Mountains has been known since Lewis and Clark crossed the continent in 1805-6, the region later made a park appears not to have been visited by white men until 1853, when Cut Bank Pass was crossed by A. W. Tinkham, one of the Government engineers engaged in exploring a route for the Pacific railroad. Tinkham, who was encamped in the Bitterroot Valley, was ordered to examine Marias Pass, but in traversing Middle Fork of Flathead River along the line of the present railroad he was evidently misled by the large size of the valley of Nyack Creek and ascended that instead of keeping to the right up the main stream. He reported the pass impracticable for railroad construction, and so this region dropped out of public attention for a long time.

The next explorers to enter the region were a group of surveyors who, under the direction of American and British commissioners, established the international boundary line along the forty-ninth parallel from the Pacific coast to the main summit of the Rocky Mountains. This party reached the area now included in the park in the summer of 1861, and the stone monument shown in Plate I, B, which they erected on the Continental Divide west of Waterton Lake, still marks a point on the boundary between the United States and Canada.

The land on the west side of the range formed a part of the public domain which, until the erection of the park, was open to settlement, but the land on the east originally belonged to the Blackfeet Indians and the white men had no rights upon it. About 1890 copper ore was found near the heads of Quartz and Mineral creeks, and a great boom for this region followed. Many prospectors drifted in, expecting to reap rich rewards from the discovery of mineral deposits and the general development of the region. Several of the main trails were built about this time, and considerable money was spent in prospecting, in opening mines, and in providing machinery to handle the large output of copper ore that was expected.

The copper-bearing veins were found to extend through the range to the east side, but prospecting in that part of the mountains was not possible, for the land was included in the Indian reservation. This situation produced a growing discontent among the prospectors, who began to have a strong feeling that the Government should come to their relief by acquiring the coveted land and placing it at their disposal. The urgent demand of the prospectors and promoters was felt in Congress, and a bill was passed providing for the purchase from the Indians of this supposed mineral land for $1,500,000. In accordance with this act, a treaty with the Blackfeet Indians was signed at Browning, Mont., September 26, 1895, and approved by the Senate on June 10, 1896, by which the west line of the reservation was removed from the Continental Divide and was fixed along the eastern points of the spurs of the mountain range, as shown on the accompanying map, and the land so acquired was thrown open to mineral entry only.

Under the stimulus of the new territory acquired, active prospecting was carried on for a time, but copper ore was found only in small quantities, and gradually the prospectors and miners drifted away to newer or more promising fields, and the region reverted to its original condition. For a long time it was visited only by hunters in search of big game and by summer visitors who, in order to escape the heat of the plains, were willing to undergo the privations and discomforts of the rude hotels then to be found in the region.

Although these mountains had ceased to interest prospectors in search of mineral wealth, they still possessed a fascination for the lovers of natural scenery and almost everyone who visited the region was impressed with its alpine beauty. Again it was brought to the attention of Congress, which was urged to secure it for the use of the people by setting it aside as a national park. On May 11, 1910, President Taft signed the bill creating the Glacier National Park, and this most interesting and beautiful region thus became a permanent playground for the American people.

Publication Year 1914
Title The Glacier National Park: A popular guide to its geology and scenery
DOI 10.3133/b600
Authors Marius R. Campbell
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Bulletin
Series Number 600
Index ID b600
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization U.S. Geological Survey