Glacier Park Photographer

Glacier Park Photographer
Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island, Glacier National Park, Montana

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Glacier National Park - new boating rules may help protect the Park Waters from invasive species

DO NOT PLAN TO USE YOUR OWN WATERCRAFT ON EAST SIDE LAKES UNTIL JUNE 1, 2017! Lake Mcdonald and the North Fork area lakes will be open for personal, nonmotorized, hand carried boats only (NO TRAILERS WILL BE ALLOWED IN GLACIER PARK WATERS  AT ALL) on May 15, 2017 - WITH LAUNCH PERMIT ONLY!

Stormy waters on Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. © Tony Bynum 

Last year Glacier National Park officials closed park waters, under an emergency order, when invasive, non-native muscles were found just east of the Blackfeet Reservation at Tiber Dam. Tiber Dam is about 120 miles east of Glacier Park and sits 10 miles south of Highway 2, between Chester and Galata - yep, between Chester and Galata . . .

A single boater on Lake Mcdonald, Glacier National Pake, Montana. © Tony Bynum

This year, although the threat still remains and likely will forever, Glacier National Park has crafted new regulations for the 2017 summer season. (link to Glacier National Park boating page with new rules). Here is an exert from the Glacier National Park boating page.
You must thoroughly clean, drain, and dry all of your boating, wading, and fishing equipment before coming to the park. A free launch permit is required to launch all non-motorized watercraft in Glacier National Park. In order to qualify for the permit, all such boats, arriving at the park, must be cleaned, drained, and dried prior to inspection by NPS staff. Boats that pass inspection will be issued a launch permit, which is valid as long as your watercraft stays in the park. It is critical that all boats be cleaned, drained, and dried or a permit will not be issued.

Boat trailers are not permitted to enter park waters. All trailered non-motorized watercraft must be hand carried to launch points.

Inspection stations for hand-propelled watercraft will be located on the west side of the park in Apgar Village (for Lake McDonald and North Fork area lakes), and the east side of the park at Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier Ranger Stations.

Though launch hours are not restricted, inspection hours are limited. Hours vary throughout the park and will be adjusted seasonally. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, permits are available from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Apgar boat ramp (Station closure time will be adjusted as summer daylight wanes) and from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at all other locations - St. Mary Visitor Center, Two Medicine Ranger Station, and the Many Glacier Ranger Station.

Boaters wishing to launch on any North Fork lakes must obtain a permit at Park Headquarters, and then immediately proceed to their North Fork launch location after inspection.Boaters living in the North Fork area who wish to boat in North Fork lakes, should contact the Polebridge Ranger Station for inspection procedures.

Glacier National Park only provides boat inspections and permits for boaters launching on park waters. Inspections and launch permits for Blackfeet tribal waters are available on U.S. Hwy 2 between East Glacier and Browning and at Chewing Black Bones Campground, just north of St. Mary MT. (https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/boating.htm) 
This is, in my view, a logical response to the threat of waterborne invasive species. I don't like it, but it's logical and probably the best option.

There are holes and issues that still need addressing, but until the Park Services can come up with a better plan, I think caution is the better park of valor.

Issues that still need addressing publicly.
  • Local boaters. What about local people who's boats only go into Glacier Park waters and never leave the area? Many local people live and recreate in the Park. Every time we leave the official boundary of the Park we have to get reinspected. There should be a special use permit for those of us who live here and regularly use Park waters with our own personal watercraft. There could be a provision that if the watercraft is used in any other water, it must be re-inspected, otherwise, it can be used. 
  • Issues related to Park boundary waters like the Middle Fork (not in the park but is the southern boundary) and the North Fork of the Flathead River, and Lower Two Medicine Lake, and Waterton Lake. According to GNP Officials, Waterton Lakes also has a moratorium on motorboats but allows self inspection of hand paddled boats). The question is, how are we going to keep invasive species out of waters located in multiple jurisdictions? The "flimsy" inspection program won't be enough. It's a start but until the NPS Glacier National Park makes a real public relations push I fear we'll wind up with invasive species in the Park. The Blackfeet Tribe is requiring boat and wader inspections too! 
Option for those who want to boat Glacier Park but done/can't/won't bring your own boat. 
  • Use Glacier Park Incorporated boats - expensive and now, due to increased demand, will be harder to rent. But, you can rent canoes and other paddle style boats, or take a ride on one of the historical, guided boat tours. 
Glacier Park Boat Company operates several historic boats. This is Swift Current Lake in Glacier National Park. © Tony Bynum

Happy Boating - Swift Current Lake, Many Glacier, Glacier National Park - © Tony Bynum
Link to additional Glacier National Park Photographs

Always wear your Personal Floatation Device. Happy Boating in Glacier National Park. Tony Bynum



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