Monday, June 29, 2009

Fire and Ice

Nowhere else in the country is there a mountain lake larger than Lake McDonald.

For reference, a large mountain lake is typically around 100 acres. Yet Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald is 10 miles long and about a mile and a half wide.

One of the creeks and streams that empty into the Lake is Snyder Creek (above), which runs adjacent to Lake McDonald Lodge.

The Lake, which lies in a giant bowl, is surrounded by thickly forested, towering mountains. It was created ten thousand years ago during the last ice age. Massive glaciers with a height of more than 3000 feet slowly crept down from the mountains, pushing a massive amount of dirt, rock and other debris ahead of it (called a moraine) that often reached more than 200 feet high.

It also scoured a deep depression underneath its path. As the ice age ended and the glaciers began to rapidly retreat, a part of the glacier broke off. Trapped in the massive bowl that the glacier itself created, the glacier melted and, fed by additional inflows from other melting glaciers, created Lake McDonald.

In contrast to the lush forest lining the eastern shore of Lake McDonald are these reminders of the Robert fire of 2003. By mid-September of that year, there were 16 large fires in the region covering more than 310,000 acres. Of that total acreage, 145,000 were within Glacier National Park. And of that total, 39,000 acres were burned in the Robert fire. Even so, Glacier National Park estimates that only 10 percent of the entire Park burned.

In comparison, Glacier National Park averages 14 fires each summer and has averaged 5000 acres burned each year since 1988.

Built between 1913-1914 on the eastern shore of picturesque Lake McDonald is rustic, Swiss-chalet style Lake McDonald Lodge. The lobby is a large, open space three stories in height. Balconies surround the upper portions of the lobby on three sides.

On the east wall of the lobby an inglenook-type fireplace of enormous size has Indian designs scored and painted in the masonry above the opening. The lobby edges of the inglenook are surrounded with a log framing similar in design to that of the rest of the lobby.

Finally, a short distance from Lake McDonald is this section of McDonald Creek. Swelled by the spring thaw, the creek flows wildly into Lake McDonald.

I was told that the reason for the greenish color of the water is due to what one Red Bus driver called "glacier flour," rock dust so fine that it would not settle out of a container of water allowed to sit undisturbed for some time.

Another driver said the rock was called Grinnell argillite.

No comments: