Glacier National Park
When it comes to the myths and legends of the United States, I've always been drawn to them. Maybe it was my parents reading me stories as a kid, or maybe it's just that I'm drawn that way. Some of the Native American stories are the most beautiful, or heartbreaking, because they tell the story of America just like the stories of Glacier National Park.
It used to be known to Native Americans as the "Shining Mountains" and the "Backbone of the World". from the Northern Rocky Mountains you can see more than a million acres of every kind of landscape imaginable. Forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys.
Throughout history, people have traveled to Glacier National Park's rugged peaks and clear waters. They looked for places to make their homes, and inspiration for survival. At least, for those strong enough and brave enough to venture forth.
There's actually proof that humans lived in the area which dates back something like 10, 000 years. In the prehistoric era, the Glacier National Park was part of a route that the American Indians tracked to cross the mountains. It was vital for accessing resources, as bison lived on the east side.
The Kootenai Indians referred to Lake McDonald as "The Place Where They Dance." This is a spot in Glacier National Park where they would return to the foot of the hidden lake in order to dance and sing songs. This was used as a way that they could receive help from different spirits.
The Kootenai traditions came to an end with the arrival of the white settlers. Milo Apgar was a homesteader who arrived in the area in the early 1890's, along with many other settlers.
At this point, the Kootenai weren't the only tribes who lived in the area that is now known as Glacier National Park. The Blackfoot Indians lived by the prairies which stretched out along the east of the Rocky Mountains. The Salish and Kootenai lived in the western valleys and would travel over the mountains for game and buffalo.
Most of the early European explorers actually came into the area because of their love for fur and hunting pelts. Beaver was particularly plentiful in and around the area, and so they came to hunt them.
Today we think that the name "Lake McDonald" is actually named after the Hudson Bay Company's fur trader, Duncan McDonald.
The story goes that on one trip, McDonald was on an expedition on the east side of the Rocky Mountains when he was warned that a Blackfoot war party were waiting to ambush him and his scouts. Rather than risk losing the battle, they turned and camped at a beautiful lake.
On one of the big cedars that night, Duncan McDonald carved his name. When this was found, years later, it became Lake McDonald. After the fur traders came to the area, they were followed by miners, and then settlers who were looking for land they could turn into their homes.
The first homesteaders to enter the area actually arrived a few months prior to the completion of the Great Northern Railroad. For some time the Railroad had been encouraging tourists to stop at Glacier National Park. They used the native people's accommodation as their tourist stop.
Crossing to the north side of the Middle Fork, the homesteaders passed through or nearby the future headquarters area of the park on their way to Lake McDonald. The first homestead claimant was a German immigrant called Frank C. Geduhn.
In February 1891, Geduhn had been sent by the Butte and Montana Commercial Company to locate a water claim. He reached Lake McDonald by the end of that month. The area of Glacier National Park was so beautiful and scenic that he fell in love. Geduhn went to the county courthouse to file the paperwork for his business.
After he had filed the water claim, he returned to the lake in order to stake a homestead claim for himself. This was at the foot of the lake. A second homesteader, known as John "Scotty" Findlay made his claim to a homestead in the spring. The third settler arrived, John Elsner, and staked his claim sometime that summer.
It was about this time that Milo Apgar and Charles Howes traveled from the east side of the Rocky Mountains. They followed the line of the railway and ended up in the same part of Glacier National Park as the homesteaders in about June.
As the settlers had already made their claims at the head of the lake, Apgar and Howes claimed homesteads at the foot of the lake. This area was known as McDonald's Creek.
At the end of 1892, Findlay drowned in McDonald Creek and Geduhn took over Findlay's claim at the head of the lake, vacating his own at the foot. Settlers continued to come to the area and stake their claim to their homesteads.
It as in 1906 that George Snyder sold his homestead and hotel property on Lake McDonald to John E. Lewis. Lewis then built and developed Lake McDonald Lodge which you can still see today. He then moved to Belton where he built a hotel, which is now part of the Glacier National Park headquarters.
In 1910, President Taft signed the bill establishing Glacier National Park as the country's 10th national park.
In the stunning area of Glacier National Park, you can find so many things to do. There are over 130 lakes. 740 miles of trails. You can also see one of the widest ranges of native American wildlife - from grizzly bears and wolverines, to 270 species of birds which live or visit the park. There are two historic hotels and 13 campgrounds, and a multitude of activities including biking, boating, fishing, horseback rides, and more.
Throughout the park, you can also see a huge number of historic buildings and historic districts that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.