Glacier Nat'l Park's Biggest Wonders Melting Away

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Part of the glory of visiting Glacier National Park is to see the remnants of the large boulders of ice that helped carve the area's mountains thousands of years ago.

But the Montana park has one increasing problem -- those glaciers are disappearing.

"There were 150 glaciers in Glacier National Park at least through 1850," Dan Fagre of the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Now just 25 remain and they're continuously melting.

Previous computer models predicted the glaciers would disappear by 2030. But the warming and melting has increased recently, and now the estimate is much sooner.

"It's probably close to 10 years faster than what we originally suspected," Fagre said.

The warming also means less snowfall and a smaller snow pack. That will lead to less water and drier forests -- which could seriously alter the vegetation and hurt the grizzly bears and other wildlife in the park.

Natural Beauty

The park is a sight to see. The grandeur of the soaring mountain peaks are stunning when piled up one after another. Water is seen throughout the park, whether in a quiet creek or rushing over a cliff.

"It was the Creator who created all of this. He created the beautiful animals and this beautiful wilderness that we might appreciate Him," Glacier Park tourist Rob Boothby said. "That we might turn our eyes to Him, that we might turn our hearts to Him and that we might appreciate all that He's done for us."

Part of the park's beauty can be seen from "Going-to-the-Sun Rd." -- a winding highway that climbs the area's mountains and vallies.

"That was the intention of that road," Glacier Park science chief Jack Potter said. "(It was) to make those types of views accessible to people who weren't taking multi-day horse trips or long hikes, and I think it succeeded."

Each spring, brave workers risk their life and climb along the sheer cliffs that the road hugs, sometimes digging it out of 70 feet of accumulated snow.

About 700 miles of wilderness trails criss-cross Glacier Park's one million plus acres.

An influential conservationist dubbed Glacier "the crown of the continent." He found its peaks to be such soaring wonders, he said they made the fairly mountainous Yellowstone National Park look like flat country.

"It's a restorative place for the spirit and soul," said Michael Ober, author of Glacier Album. "People need places like this to sort of regenerate themselves and gear up to go back to their daily lives."

More than Mountains

Dozens of varieties of plants and flowers cover the slopes, fields and meadows with a vivid carpet of color.

There are also man-made marvels -- lodges constructed in the 1910s by a visionary who commanded they be built to match the grand mountains around them.

Park workers took a cedar forest and built a winding wheelchair-accessible path through it so all can enjoy the towering trees.

Men didn't just ram the Going-to-the-Sun Rd. across the Continental Divide. They then built a boardwalk up from its highest point so visitors could easily go higher. After a mile-and-a-half hike, visitors come to the spectacle of Hidden Lake, with massive peaks looming over the water.

In the other direction is a trail right along the Continental Divide.

Glacier National Park was carved by ice ages ago, but offers an array of wonders to see.  Still, if visitors want to navigate the park for a look at its glaciers, they will have to come soon -- since the part is expected be be glacier-free in the near future.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.