Glacier National Park in western Montana lies astride the continental divide formed by the spine of the Rocky Mountains. Water flowing off the continental divide in this area can flow west to the Pacific Ocean, northeast to Hudson Bay or southeast to the Gulf of Mexico. Glacier was designated as a National Park in 1910 protecting an area of just over 1 million acres (410 thousand hectares). As the name implies, glaciers were a significant feature of this area, with about 150 glaciers present when National Park status was conferred.
Today’s photo is of the lower gorge of Avalanche Creek, which is fed by Sperry Glacier perched near the summit of 9,258 foot (2,822 m) tall Gunsight Mountain. Starting at Avalanche Lake, the creek flows northwest until crossing beneath Going to the Sun Road, it flows into McDonald Creek, and eventually into Lake McDonald. On the western side of the continental divide, the area is the easternmost edge of the area influenced by the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest. Hemlocks, cedars, ferns, and mosses thrive in the moist conditions typically found here. Note the abundance of mosses and ferns flanking the sapphire blue waters of the creek.
Unfortunately, the warming of Earth’s atmosphere caused by the increasing density of the heat-trapping blanket of carbon dioxide from the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas by humans has had a serious impact on Glacier National Park’s namesake glaciers. Of the roughly 150 glaciers present in 1910, only about 25 glaciers larger than 25 acres (10 hectares) remained in 2010. Sperry Glacier, once one of the largest glaciers in the park, has lost 75% of its surface area since the middle of the 19th century. This trend is obviously not confined to Glacier National Park, but is being seen worldwide as glaciers, and large ice sheets shrink or become unstable. The tale being told by the Earth’s ice is one of a warming world. Unfortunately, the evidence clearly implicates human activity as the cause.
This photo was taken with a Canon EF17-40 mm f/4.0 lens zoomed to 35 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk. III. The exposure was set to 1/10 sec at f/11 and ISO 800.