The best way to explore Glacier may be by boat.
Canoeing is just one of the ways you can see Glacier--and its Alberta neighbor, Waterton--by boat. Blessed with scores of ice-carved lakes, ready access, and a fleet of cruise boats and rental craft, the parks offer visitors view-filled boating unequaled by any other park in the West. It doesn't take much planning: cruises are frequent enough that you can take advantage of good weather as it comes. Or you can rent a boat for an hour to a day.
Finding a room at park hotels is another matter. Try for cancellations, or stay southwest of the park in Bigfork, Kalispell, or Whitefish, in the Flathead Valley.
From excursion boats (many dating to the 1920s), you'll enjoy views unavailable from the highway, and see more wildlife, too--bald eagles, bighorn sheep, black bear, moose. As you cruise, you'll hear about park geology, weather, and wildlife from the captain or a park ranger.
Hikers can use cruise boats to shave miles off trail destinations. Catch the first boat in the morning, hike all day, then ride the last boat back. Some cruises schedule an early hiker's sailing; others include short ranger-led hikes to waterfalls and lakes.
It's boating season: just drop in
Daily cruises start in mid-May in Waterton, early June in Glacier, and continue through mid-September. Six lakes each offer at least four sailings a day (some offer up to seven in midsummer). Pick up a schedule at park visitor centers.
You can't reserve--just show up at the boat dock 20 minutes before the next sailing. Popular tours have backup boats to handle overflows.
Boats range up to 80 feet, with cabin and deck space for up to 200 passengers (most are smaller). Bring a windbreaker, sweater or jacket, rain gear, and maybe a picnic lunch.
Two parks, six lakes
Glacier Park Boat Company handles crusies and rentals on the U.S. side of the border. Write to the company at Box 5262, Kalispell, Mont. 59903.
Waterton Inter-Nation Shoreline Cruise Co. offers tours from the townsite. Write to Box 126, Waterton Park, Alberta T0K 2M0, or call (403) 859-2362.
Glacier National Park. Lake McDonald: from the lodge at the north end of the lake, 10 miles northeast of West Glacier on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Tours (55 minutes) cost $5, $2.50 for ages 6 through 12; the sunset cruise is especially popular.
Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes: from Many Glacier Hotel, 12 mines west of Babb on Many Glacier Road, 1-1/4-hour tours link both lakes with a short walk. Mid-July through August, a daily hiker's special leaves at 8:30; the ranger takes you to Grinnell Glacier, 1,500 feet above the boat landing. Fare: $6 and $3.
St. Mary Lake's: from Rising Sun boat dock, 6 miles southwest of St. Mary on Going-to-the-Sun Road, 1-1/4-hour cruises offer fine views of such mountains as Heavy Runner, Citadel, and Almost-a-Dog. You can connect with optional 2-hour ranger-led walks. Fare: $6 and $3.
Two Medicine LAke: from dock at Two Medicine Lake, 12 miles northwest of East Glacier on State 49 and Two Medicine Road, rangers guide walks on two different 45-minute sailings; $5 and $2.50.
Waterton Lakes National Park. Upper Waterton Lake: 2-1/2-hour tours cross border and stop at the Crypt Lake trailhead (you can hike from here up to a secluded lake on the Alberta-Montana border) and at Goat Haunt, Montana, where you can hike on your own or with a ranger. Cost: $8 and $4. The boat dock is in the town of waterton, 37 miles northwest of Babb via U.S. 89, State 17 (Chief Mountain Road), and Alberta highways 6 and 5.
Rent a small boat or launch your own
Canoeing and rowing offer a chance to exercise road-stiff muscles, fish for Eastern brook trout, and explore every curve of the shore.
Rental craft are limited, but turnover is rapid as most visitors rent for only an hour or two. If you want a boat for all-day use, be at the docks when they open at 8:30 (they close 1/2 hour before sunset). You cannot transport rentals to other lakes, and camping from small rental boats is prohibited.
Rates run $4 an hour for rowboats (McDonald, Swiftcurrent, and Two Medicine lakes), $8 an hour for boats with electric motors (Two Medicine) or 5-1/2-horsepower gas motors (McDonald). Canoes (Swiftcurrent, Josephine, and Two Medicine) rent for $4 an hour.
In Waterton Lakes National Park, you can rent small boats at Camereon Lake, 11 miles west of Waterton townsite; another concession may open at the townsite marina this year. For more details, call Parks Canada at (403) 859-2445.
Motorists carrying their own small boat can launch at all lakes notes, as well as at Kintla and Bowman (limit of 10 hp on both) on Glacier's northwest side.
Where to stay, where to camp
For rooms in Glacier, call the park concessioner at (406) 226-5551 until fall. For a Montana-wide lodging directory, call (800) 541-1447. For a guide to Waterton lodging, write to Superintendent, Waterton Park T0K 2M0.
In midsummer, Glacier's 15 campgrounds generally are full by 2 P.M. All 1,066 sites ($5 and $7) are first come, as are the 400 sites in Waterton ($6 to $11).
Admission to Glacier is $5 per vehicle (good for a week); a one-day entry pass to Waterton costs $2 per vehicle.
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|Title Annotation:||Montana's Glacier National Park|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1988|
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