Glacier National Park remains open; fire is affecting only a small area

Posted at 11:21 AM, Aug 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-17 13:21:41-04

(MISSOULA) Video and pictures of wildfires in Glacier National Park are all over the Internet this week, and tourism promoters are scrambling to explain that only a small of the park is closed due to the Howe Ridge Fire.

As of Friday, the Howe Ridge Fire has burned about 3,500 acres; for perspective, the park encompasses more than one million acres. The fire has destroyed numerous private homes and structures, but there have been no reported injuries. 

Racene Friede of Glacier Country Tourism says the dramatic videos have spread online, leading some people to believe the entire park is burning up.

“Our social feeds are full of very dramatic fire images right now," Friede said. "And while they’re beautiful, they do cause a little bit of alarm. And while we don’t want to take away from what is happening, fire is part of our story and a natural part of our ecology. It also can create some fear and trepidation with people who are coming here for their vacation and that they’ve been planning for years or for months."

The problem is created whenever Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed. In fact, this scenario is familiar. Last summer at this same time, the big Sprague Fire and other lightning-caused fires closed an even larger area.

Friede wants tourists to know the vast majority of the park is open, including all the scenic spots east of the Divide: “Some people think when the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed in any way, the entire road is closed, and that’s just not the case. Logan Pass to St. Mary is totally open, along with the east side of Glacier National Park. So people really want to be able to go and visit that and it’s there for them.”

Glacier Country Tourism and other agencies are working to get that word out. But Friede says Montana residents can help by sharing accurate news updates and talking with their visiting friends and relatives.

“For one thing you can either contact the National Park and on their web page is a hotline as well as a ‘current conditions’ section which talks about trail closures and openings. You can also contact your local visitor information center, Chamber of Commerce, Glacier Country, or the State Tourism Office and we’d be happy to assist them as well. But just being able to remember that not all the park is closed. You can still go in and experience it. So just remember that and be willing to kind of be flexible and change your plans a little bit.”

Evacuations remain in effect for Lake McDonald Lodge, North Lake McDonald Road, and the Avalanche and Sprague Campgrounds. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass.

The best source for current information on the status of Glacier National Park is the official website (click here), or the Fire Information Hotline that has been established by the Park at 406-888-7077.


Number of named lakes: 131
Number of unnamed lakes: 631
Total number of lakes: 762
Acres of named lakes: 25,622

Acreage: 1,012,837
Square miles: 1,583
Miles of exterior boundary: 205
Acres of defacto wilderness: 963,155…or 1,489.3 sq. miles
Elevation at Logan Pass: 6,646 feet
Number of mountains: 175
Highest mountain: 10,448 ft…Mt. Cleveland

Number Class A campgrounds: 8, with 943 sites
Number Class B campgrounds: 5, with 61 sites

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