It took a while. Going on three years, in fact. But Glacier National Park crews finally have been able to get the Inside North Fork Road open to traffic. Just don't plan on driving the family sedan down it.
This stretch of dirt and gravel happens to be the oldest road in Glacier, having opened for traffic, such as it was in those days, in 1901 when oil was struck near Kintla Lake. Today the Inside North Fork Road is a 28-mile narrow, bumpy, gravel road between Fish Creek and Polebridge, providing access to some of the park’s most pristine wilderness areas.
Most of the Inside North Fork Road, which was back in business as of this past Friday, has been closed since a storm in November 2006 caused extensive damage. Two areas of the road were impacted by that storm. At the Anaconda Creek crossing, approximately 14 miles south of Polebridge, flood waters washed out a section of road. An ongoing project is under way to make permanent repairs there, but park officials say current repair work has made the road safe for vehicle use.
At the McGee Meadow Hill, approximately 2.7 miles from the park's Fish Creek entrance, saturated soils caused a major slough to cast-off one lane of the road. Temporary fixes were completed in 2007 and 2008 to open as much of the road as possible while long-term repairs were made, which have just been completed.
Now, the fine print of this road reopening: Recreational, towed, and low-clearance vehicles are strongly discouraged from traveling this road. In ideal conditions, about two hours are needed to travel the whole road. Visitors may encounter downed trees, and therefore should have a hand saw or ax with them. Drivers should also use caution on blind curves and watch for oncoming vehicle and bike traffic on the narrow winding road.