They've unleashed the snowplows in Glacier National Park, which means it shouldn't be too terribly long before the Going-to-the-Sun Road is once again open end-to-end.
Plowing of the Sun Road beyond Lake McDonald Lodge is scheduled to begin Wednesday, April 1 and proceed to Avalanche Creek to accommodate access by contractors to rehabilitate and pave the picnic area and campground entrance. Park crews are also currently plowing the Chief Mountain Road near the park’s northeast corner.
Plowing of other east side park roads, such as Many Glacier, Two Medicine and the east side Sun Road will begin, in sequential order, once Chief Mountain Road plowing is completed. On the east side, there will likely be two separate segment openings. First, the segment from St. Mary campground to Rising Sun Campground will open for vehicles and subsequently, the road will open from Rising Sun to Jackson Glacier Overlook.
Weather and snow conditions permitting, the east side crew will provide initial access above Siyeh Bend for HK Contractors, Inc. to prepare for final paving of 2006 storm damage repairs near the east side tunnel. This paving is scheduled to begin in mid-May and be completed by mid-June.
On the Sun Road’s west side, the segment from Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche is traditionally free of ice and open to vehicles by late April. Vehicle access will remain gated at Avalanche until the entire Sun Road opens over Logan Pass to allow for spring road rehabilitation above the Loop.
Other park roads, or segments of respective roads, including the Chief Mountain Road, will open to vehicle traffic when conditions allow for safe travel. However, as Many Glacier Valley provides critical winter range for wildlife, the Many Glacier Road typically does not open to vehicles until the third weekend of April each year to reduce stress on wildlife. Park campgrounds are also plowed as necessary to meet their respective opening dates.
Several park roads, including the Camas Road and Cut Bank Road, are typically not plowed, but are allowed to melt out, with vehicles allowed on them once the roads have dried. This spring, however, given paving on the Sun Road at Avalanche Creek, the Camas Road will be plowed in April to accommodate spring bicycle and hiker use.
Portions of the Inside North Fork Road will also be undergoing repairs this spring. Road work will occur this spring on a landslide above Fish Creek and other spring runoff-damaged sections such as the Anaconda Creek area. The Inside North Fork Road will open for vehicle traffic when repairs are completed and it is safe for visitor traffic.
“With plowing under way and summer approaching, this is a good time to remind the public that the Sun Road is still under rehabilitation," says Glacier Superintendent Chas Cartwright. "Park visitors should only expect to drive as far as Avalanche and Jackson Glacier Overlook this spring. Despite the Sun Road rehabilitation, our road crews still must work in the same challenging conditions as in years past.
"Safety remains our top priority and we will again use avalanche forecasting technicians to help monitor conditions through avalanche zones throughout the spring opening process,” the superintendent adds.
While the road work and plowing will limit some public wheeled-access early in the season, Superintendent Cartwright points out that "visitors can hike or bicycle beyond vehicle closures when crews are not working; exact distances will depend on plowing crew locations and construction activity.”
Signs will indicate when closures for hikers/bikers are in effect and caution should be exercised. Visitors are also reminded that when park roads are closed to vehicle use, all pets are prohibited on them.
Visitors should always be alert for snowplows and other heavy equipment on park roads as well as areas of ice and/or slush, avalanche zones and/or fallen rock. Additionally, spring snowstorms can cause hazardous driving conditions and/or temporary road closures. Visitors should also be aware of wildlife on park roads. Please report any bear or mountain lion activity or sighting, regardless of the location, to a park ranger.