Heavy snowfall in Glacier National Park this week has heightened avalanche danger along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and prompted officials to limit access to the road, which has yet to be cleared end-to-end from winter's snows.
More than 20 inches of snow fell in the park's high country this week, and several slides were spotted near Haystack and the Alps areas of the Sun Road on the west side of the Continental Divide, according to park officials. The slides swept across the road. Avalanche danger above Haystack Creek on the wst side and Siyeh Bend on the east side of the divide is expected to remain high through Friday.
"Due to the hazards of wide-spread slides, access for park personnel and park visitors is limited through Friday at The Loop along the west side of the road. Hiker-biker access will be to The Loop on Friday," a park release said. "Beginning Saturday, it is anticipated that hiker-biker access will be unlimited from Avalanche, although visitors are encouraged to use caution and travel will not be recommended past The Loop. The hazards of falling rock, snow and debris on the road and possible snow slides may be encountered."
On Friday, the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be open to vehicle access to Rising Sun. It is anticipated that vehicle access will be available to Jackson Glacier Overlook by mid-day Sunday. There is no hiker-biker access on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road surface will be rough, a gravel surface, from Rising Sun to Jackson Glacier Overlook.
The St. Mary Campground remains closed due to flooding and water damage, the park reported. Some areas of the campground may be available this weekend. Access to the Kintla Lake area is closed at the head of Big Prairie, seven miles north of the Polebridge entrance in the North Fork District of the park.
Additionally some flooding has been reported at Goat Haunt, near the United States-Canadian Border. The dock facilities on Waterton Lake have sustained some damage. The tour boat operation has been temporarily suspended, and the area is being closely monitored for any additional flood damage.
Park personnel continue to monitor other areas of the park as well, including the Many Glacier and St. Mary areas. The need for any evacuations has greatly lessened, but will be closely monitored as temperatures rise.
Plowing work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road is anticipated to resume on Sunday. Crews will assess the situation along the higher areas of the road, and have several areas to plow through again. Most of the equipment was moved to lower elevations on Tuesday as snow began to fall and additional snow was predicted. Some guard rail was destroyed with the recent snow slides along the road, and additional damage is anticipated to be located as crews are able to access the higher locations.
It is unknown when additional vehicle access will be available on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.