Glacier National Park is located in the state of Montana, bordering the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia(BC) to the North and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation to the very east. Glacier National Park contains two large mountain ranges, sometimes referred to as the southern extension of the Canadian Rockies ranges, with over 130 local named lakes, more than 1,100 different species of native plants and hundreds of species of native animals. The Glacier National Park ecosystem is spread across 1,584 miles, and is the centerpiece of what has been referred to as the "Crown of the North American Ecosystem", a region of protected land encompassing 16,000+ miles. The famed built Going-to-the-Sun Road, a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, traverses through the very heart of the Glacier National Park and crosses the Continental Divide, allowing visitors high breathtaking views of the steep Lewis and Livingston mountain ranges, as well as surrounding dense forests, high alpine tundra, flowing waterfalls and two very large lakes. Along with the interesting Going-to-the-Sun Road, five historic area hotels and snow chalets are listed as National Historic Landmarks in and around Glacier National Park.
Glaciers iconic buses and mountain goats are prized photos for visiting tourists.
Montana’s Glacier National Park is filled with mountains and valleys which were carved out into their current forms by the giant glaciers of the last large ice age; these glaciers have largely retreated and disappeared over the last 12,000 years. Clues of widespread glacial scouring are found throughout the park in the shape of U-craved valleys. Also found are glacial arêtes, glacial cirques, tarn lakes, polished rock, and larger melt lakes spreading from the feet of the highest glaciers. Since the end of the last large ice age, various warming and cooling trends have occurred due to volcanic dust, solar radiation, and varying ocean circulation. The last short cooling trend was during the “Little Ice Age”(not a real ice age) which took place approximately 1550 to 1850. During the Little Ice Age, the glaciers in the Glacier National Park grew and advanced a little, although to not nearly as great an extent as they had during the Huronian, Cryogenian, Andean-Saharan, Karoo Ice Age and the Quaternary glaciations.
During the middle of the 20th century, the study of photographs, maps, and expedition notes from the past century provided real proof that the 150 glaciers existed. Those glaciers have now retreated, and in many cases melted altogether. Repeated location photos of the glaciers, such as the historic and current pictures taken of Grinnell Glacier between the years of 1938 and 2009, help to provide visual confirmation of ongoing retreat and melting.
During the 1980s, the U.S. Geological Survey started a more encompassing study of the remaining glaciers in the park, which is still going on to the present day. By 2010, 37 glaciers remained in much smaller sizes, but only 25 of these were considered to be true ”real glaciers" of at least 25 acres in size. Many are now classified as just large snow and ice fields. If the current planet warming trends continue, all of the remaining historic glaciers in the park will be completely melted by 2030. This glacier retreat follows the worldwide pattern that has accelerated in every region. Without a major climatic pattern change in which colder and wetter weather returns and remains, the glaciers mass balance, which is the ice accumulation vs. the ablation (melting) rate, will continue to be at a loss and the Glacier National Park glaciers will soon disappear, leaving behind only their moraines fields as evidence they were ever there.