Photographing Glacier National Park

Photographing Glacier National Park
Sunrise on Glacier National Park, Many Glacier Valley, Montana

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Summer in Glacier National Park - Flowers, Water, Paddling and Photography

Glacier National Park, Paddling, Fishing, Photography - virtually alone!

As if paddling a canoe across Swiftcurrent lake, in Glacier National Park wasn't exciting enough, how about paddling it upstream, toward a sign posted on a bridge that read, "no rental boats in the stream." We knew that if we could make it beyond the sign, we would see few if anyone else along our journey. 
Stacy paddling across Swiftcurrent Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. Mount Wilbur in the distance. ©
As we gently pulled through the parking lot at Many Glacier neither Stacy or I ever imagined the volume of cars and people in Glacier Park on this day. In all my years of being in Glacier National Park (I've lived here since 2002), I'd never seen anything approaching the numbers I saw on July 2, 2016 (keep in mind I always try to avoid crowds in the park and it is seldom that I'm anywhere near the popular spots during the middle of the day).

The entire road from the Swiftcurrent lodge to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn was lined, both sides with cars. There was even an enforcement officer issuing parking tickets to those that choose to drop their vehicle without considering that parking rules still apply.

No matter for us, we were about to embark on a simple, but spectacular adventure in Glacier National Park. One where we would see few other people - certainly for part of the trip, NO ONE ELSE around! This is an adventure that just about anyone with a little motivation, some simple planning, and follow through can accomplish.

As we eased our way down to Swiftcurrent Lake, I could hear a man shouting, continuously, the names of his children. Over and over, "Chad . . . Mark . . !!!" as if they were in the city still, and his kids were lost someplace among the towering skyscrapers.

I replied, "stop yelling," to which he screamed back at me, "mind your own business!!!" I laughed quietly as I watched his kids scamper along the lake shore - in complete sight of their father and visa versa mind you. A minute later I looked up and could see him being scolded by his wife as they stood in the doorway of their 35 foot, 1990's vintage mobile sleeping quarters complete with the bounding kangaroo printed on the side.  Classic "vacation" for people from the city who think Glacier is an amusement park. Boy how things have changed over the years . . .

We dropped the Pakboat canoe in the lake, loaded up our provisions and paddled up Swiftcurrent Lake. Grinnell Peak loomed large on the west side of the lake while the Swiftcurrent Lodge rose high above the east shore. Along the way we encountered the boat named, "Chief Two Guns." A spectacular location, one of the most beautiful in all of Glacier National Park.
"Chief Two Guns" makes its way down Swiftcurrent Lake, Mount Grinnell or Grinnell Peak in the background. Glacier National Park, Montana © 
Our mission was to paddle Swiftcurrent Lake, investigate the stream that connects Lake Josephine to Swiftcurrent and either paddle up the creek, or portage the Pakboat up the trail to Lake Josehpine. Few if any people ever portage a 17 foot boat in Glacier Park, but the Pakboat is made light-enough to do just that, so we did it.  The creek was a little to swift to paddle up, so we decided on plan b, the portage.

We put all of our gear in our dry bag backpacks and carried the boat between the two of us, one in front, one in back - it turned out great. The trail is a quarter mile long and ends up at a nice beach on the shore of Lake Josephine. We again dropped the boat in the lake, loaded it with our provisions - some food and beverages, a couple fishing poles and of course cameras - and headed up the lake!
Stacy and I portaging the Pakboat from Swiftcurrent Lake to Josephine Lake, in Glacier National Park, Montana
Stacy leading the way wearing her waterproof backpack. Fishing poles, paddles and life jackets in the Pakboat. This boat is light enough to portage. Glacier National Park, Montana © 
We paddled a bit following a large boat (Morning Eagle) operated by Glacier Park Boat Company (Follow this link for more information and the history of Glacier Park Boat Company). You can pay for the tour if you like, but we prefer our own canoe . . .  Later, about half way up the lake, we were met by a stiff head-wind and decided at that point to turn back and head down the creek that connects Josephine and Swiftcurrent lakes.
Morning Eagle heading up Josephine Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana ©
Stacy paddling against the wind, up Josephine Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana © 
The creek has a sheltered entrance just up the west shore from the boat dock. It's sheltered from the wind and very easy to paddle, even beginners could navigate the moderately slow stream. We saw and heard lots of birds, a beaver and at one point we could smell the clean hint of wildflowers.
Stacy paddling down the small creek that connects Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes in Glacier National Park, Montana © 
Tony Bynum casting a fishing pole in Swiftcurrent Lake. No fish were harmed in the making of, or during this trip. I guess I've lost my touch - not even a bit all day long! 
A reminder. If you plan to take a boat into Glacier National Park, be sure to read the new rules. Personal watercraft can be self inspected and for motor boats, you'll need to have them inspected by the park service.  Here's a link to the details about boating and permits in Glacier National Park. 

We had a great trip. It's nice to know that we have such a spectacular place to go. Glacier National Park is part of our public domain. It's managed for the benefit of all. Sure, there are managment issues, but to those who would choose to sell or transfer ownership of this great land legacy to a third party, I say RUBBISH!  #keepitpublic #ourwild #nationalparks #glacierpark  Please be advised. Taking public lands away from it's owners could be hazardous to your political career!
Tony Bynum on Swiftcurrent Lake using the Werner Paddle to bounce a little light into his face for a photo! Mount Wilbur in the background. ©stacy dolderer 
People ask often, what gear I use. Here are few from this trip. Without this gear, my adventures both in Glacier National Park, and abroad would not be possible. This is not a paid advertisement, this is a personal trip I took in Glacier National Park. No payment was rendered during or after the adventure.

Werner Paddles - for this trip we used the Werner Nantahala canoe paddle. Lightweight, strong, and built for river's and flat water paddling.

Pakboats - we used a Pakboat Wilderness 170, the workhorse of their line up. What a boat! I've had this boat on all types of water from class III to lakes and would not trade it for anything . . .

Over Board camera bags - This is the DSLR Pro model.  It goes on every single water adventure I do. I've had this bag in waters from Montana to New Zealand and it's works!

Cheers, Tony Bynum

 This is not a paid advertisement, these blog posts are my own. While I do often receive gear and occasionally payment from sponsors, this post was not paid. This was our adventure and our's alone!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Glacier National Park - it's really open now!

Glacier National Park has "officially" opened. I know the Park Service will tell you, "we are always open," and technically, they'd be correct. What I'm talking about are the Two Medicine, Chief Mountain, and Many Glacier Roads. Those three roads are what allow access into the Park on the east side (Cut Bank Road too). 

Saint Mary is the beginning of the Going to the Sun Road, and it's been open to the Rising Sun campground and boat launch for a couple of weeks now. On the west side the road is open to cars until Avalanche Creek. Some hiker biker access is allowed, consult the National Park Service, Glacier National Park for more specific road and access information.  

I'm happy to say that not much has changed. Glacier National Park is still, in my opinion, the most remarkable place in the lower 48 states! Maybe that's because I've been a year around resident here for the past dozen years.  

Tony Bynum skipping rocks across Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. The lake was so calm it's reflection looked like a mirror.  ©tonybynum All rights reserved. Please contact me for licensing. 
Just in case any of you are wondering, I can verify also that the smell of the alpine, the cool breeze blowing off the Two Medicine Lake, the birds chirping, and the often loud crashing of cornices busting off Rising Wolf Mountain are also still happening! 

On a recent trip to the "lake" (Two Medicine Lake) as the locals call it, I found Wolverine tracks, Grizzly tracks, Wolf Tracks, Lynx scat. I photographed myself at the lake skipping rocks, a scruffy little snowshoe hare, and a mature male Spruce grouse - my favorite grouse species.

Fresh Wolverine Track in the snow. ©tonybynum 
Male Spruce Grouse in a fir tree. ©tonybynum All rights reserved. Please contact me for licensing.
A snowshoe hare molting it's winter coat . . .  ©tonybynum All rights reserved. Please contact me for licensing.
Glacier Park is officially open. Few if any local resources are operating on the east side, but the park is open. 

For those that like Mexican food, Serranos in East Glacier opened for business on May 1. 

If you're on facebook, I started a "Glacier National Park Art" page a place where people can go to share their own art of the park. . .  Please, if you're on Facebook, and you have something to share, by all means, post it! 

I'm also looking for partners to work with me on this blog.  Photographers, writers, painters media, etc.  My idea is to open this platform up to some of my friends.  I've had this page for 10 years I think and It's time to show the world more than just my words, and photographs . . .  I'd like this to become a community supported page.   

If you're interested please send me a short description of who you are, what you do, and why you'd like to partner with me to produce, the "glacier park photographer."  


Tony Bynum 

Tony Bynum 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Glacier National Park - Summer 2015

Glacier is, well, Glacier! How can you beat this place? I don't want to sound like a worried farmer, but it is dry this year. We should expect quite a fire year in Glacier Park. Keep your fingers crossed that we don't wind up with a catastrophic fire!

Here's a quick photo I grabbed this morning (June 28, 2015). What a pleasure it is to live and work in such an amazing place. #blessed  Tony Bynum

Sinopah Mountain, Two Medicine Valley, Glacier National Park, Montana. © 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dead Grizzly in the Paola Creek Area -

Information Sought on Dead Grizzly in the Paola Creek Area
John Fraley,  

Grizzly Bear Sow with two cubs. © 

KALISPELL, Mont. — On May 20, 2015 Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) grizzly bear biologists and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Special Agent investigated and retrieved the carcass of an adult female grizzly bear from the Paola Creek area of the Middle Fork of the Flathead Drainage located on the Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana.

The carcass was transported to the FWP lab in Bozeman where examination revealed that the grizzly bear had been shot.

There was evidence of additional bears at the site and a remote camera photographed two yearling grizzly bears that were orphaned due to the death of the adult female. The young bears are about 15 months old and looked to be in good condition. The decision was made to leave the young bears in the wild.

FWP and the Service are asking for anyone with any information on this case to call 1-800-TIP MONT. Callers do not have to identify themselves and a reward of up to $2,000 may be available for information leading to a conviction.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Glacier National Park - Landmark Areas now CLOSED to the public!

A record number of visitors toured Glacier National Park in 2014 (read more about that story here). During the same year that Glacier National Parks set a record for visitation, officials closed the Logan Pass area to off trail travel. 

logan pass triple falls closed
Triple Falls, aka Twin Falls or Colliding Falls, in Glacier National Park is now CLOSED! © 

Logan Pass is at the top of the Going to the Sun Road, arguably one of the most impressive and attractive alpine area for visitors in Glacier National Park (at least in August).
logan pass parking lot glacier national park
Logan Pass parking lot at the top of the Going to the sun Highway. © 
After over 100 years of open access, Glacier National Park officials closed several popular areas including, Reynolds Creek, Oberland, and Clements Mountain to off trail travel. The closure applies to everyone but certain park officials, or other people with proper permits, but as far as going anywhere off the Hidden Lake Trail to take photographs, or just walk, forget it. 

The large area in light yellow or light green - (I can't tell which I'm partially color blind) - that covers most of the central map area, is the closed portion of Logan Pass. Source: 2014 Glacier National Park Compendium. 
The Following is taken directly from the Glacier National Park Compendium.

B) The following areas are closed, as posted, to ALL OFF-TRAIL TRAVEL for the
protection of revegetation projects, existing resident vegetation and seasonal habitat for
congregating bighorn sheep and mountain goats:

1) The Logan Pass area, which consists of all areas within the following exterior
boundaries: Oberlin Peak climber trail, from the trailhead, to Oberlin Peak;
Oberlin Peak to Clements Peak; Clements Peak, along Clements Ridge, to the
first switchback on the Hidden Lake Trail; first switch back on the Hidden Lake
Trail, along the first bench above Hidden Lake, to Reynolds Pass; Reynolds Pass,
along the southern edge of the Hanging Garden area, to the cliff wall above the
Reynolds Creek valley; and bound by the remainder of the cliff wall, above
Reynolds Creek valley, and Going-to-the-Sun Road. Refer to map section at end
of chapter. Exceptions:
i) The following trails are not included in this closure: Logan Pass
Visitor Center walkways, Hidden Lake Trail, Oberlin Peak climber route,
Clements Peak climber route and Reynolds Peak climber route.
ii) Over snow travel is not included in this closure, so long as travel is
NOT conducted over bare ground, rock, or vegetation and all travel is on
contiguous snowpack immediately accessible from established trail
corridors [see 36 CFR 1.5 (a)(1)(iii)(H) for wildlife distance
iii) Administrative functions and special use or research permitted
activities are not included in this closure (Glacier National Park 2014 Compendium).

I called Glacier National Park Officials and asked if there was a way to get a permit to photograph the Triple Falls, they said no. In fact, they said no and sounded surprised I would even ask (I think almost every park employee I've ever met or come across dislikes photographers).   

Thousands of photographs of Triple Falls, (aka, Twin Falls, Colliding Falls), the meadows of around Rynolds Creek, various other unnamed waterfalls, and wildlife have been used to “show off the park,” and the state of Montana for decades. Who know’s how many lives have been changed and how many forever lasting memories have been made possible around the Logan Pass area and at Triple Falls. 

One of the best known, modern day landscape photographers, Galen Rowell (deceased August 2002) first made the Triple Falls image famous when it appeared on the cover of Outdoor Photographer. Although many of us had been there, and photographed it over the years, Galen managed to make it one of Glacier National Parks most iconic photographs.

people photographing triple falls glacier national park
Two people photographing Triple Falls (Twin Falls) in Glacier National Park. ©
triple falls glacier national park
Triple Falls (Twin Falls) black and white, Glacier National Park. I took this photograph many years ago when the area was open. Notice that shortage of water falling over the rim. In most photographs taken of this location, you'll notice much more water colliding and flowing over the rock faces. The area was historically open when the water was mostly gone in order to protect the delicate nature of the place. I always restrained from following the crowds of people who would go to this location when it was prime for photography, because it was closed. Admittedly, I would have preferred to have a photo of this location that's as good as the thousands of others that have been made of it in the past - I choose to use my judgement.  © 
Interestingly enough, Galen was known to think, and discuss the impacts that nature lovers like himself had on the health of our environment. He was somewhat conflicted by the commercialization of our places due to his own actions, but always did his best to follow the rules, and make the protection of a place his priority. I believe he did think we were capable, as photographers, of overdoing it -- by loving our places to death. Well Galen, if you can hear me now, we've loved Glacier National Park to death. Sorry bud.  

Here's a real example of a heart warming story made possible by Triple Falls. Two kids journeyed to Glacier National Park to find this magical place that they'd only seen in pictures. Turns out they were looking for Triple (Twin) Falls - this is their story. 

As you watch the video notice how trampled the area already is. I’m not sure of the exact date this video was made, but It looks too early for this area to be open. There’s to much water and the area is much to wet.  

In the past it was open only after the soils had dried out and the plants had gone to seed. In some years it would not open at all. So, I suspect these kids either ignored the closer, or did not realize they the area was off limits. Nonetheless, their story is one that will no longer be possible unless others choose to break the law by trespassing.

What's important to note is that to my knowledge, no public impute was ever gathered. People were not asked about this closure and not included in any discussion that I'm aware of as to the potential for closures. Obviously few people likely even recognized that there was a problem, yet the park service decided to close it anyhow. Is there not a solution to this problem that might include the people who own the land, you and I? 

The truth is, parts of Glacier National Park are being managed by a standard not even known in the most protected landscapes, our nations wilderness areas. At least in wilderness areas people are allowed. I'm not saying rules are unimportant or that this area of Glacier National Park should not have tighter restrictions, but to make the executive decisions to just close it for good is disturbing. 

I'd like to know if this closure matters to you. If it does, please comment or give the Glacier National Park a call (maybe comment on their facebook page too). 

Read the rules for yourself if you like.  Here's a link to 2014 Glacier National Park Compendium .