Glacier National Park was created by President Taft on May 10, 1910. Serviced by the Great Northern Railway at East Glacier and West Glacier, tourism quickly grew even before roads were carved into the landscape. Historically traversed on horseback and by wooden boat, the early visitors enjoyed rustic lodgings erected by Louis Hill and appropriately spaced a day’s ride apart.
Today’s visitors still enjoy the historic lodgings at the Belton Chalet, Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier Park Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel and Prince of Whales Hotel in Waterton. Two backcountry chalets continue to cling to the craggy heights of Glacier’s mountains at Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet, serving guests when the snows recede enough to grant access. Mountain top fire lookouts are still staffed with lone watchmen, and the grizzly bears still roam free eating huckleberries and ruling their ecosystem.
As the rail line made progress towards the Pacific Ocean in the 1890’s, towns sprang up along the way. Columbia Falls was, and is still, a timber town with a pioneering history where the mighty Flathead emerges from Bad Rock Canyon and flows south to Flathead Lake. The communities of Hungry Horse and Martin City boomed during the Great Depression era with the construction of the Hungry Horse Dam. Coram was a rail stop with a lumber mill, and Essex got its start with a lodge for rail workers at the Izaak Walton Inn. Polebridge was, and always will be, a remote off-grid outpost with a historic mercantile. West Glacier and Apgar retain their historic character today, even with millions of visitors passing through each summer.
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