GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – The peak of fire season may be behind us but crews are still battling the Howe Ridge Fire in Glacier National Park which has forced the partial closure of its most popular road for weeks during peak visitation.
It was announced earlier this week that the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be reopened to limited shuttle travel later this week but fire managers are still working to keep firefighters and park visitors safe as the tourist and fire seasons wind down.
Fire managers say that a lot went into the decision about reopening the road and they feel it’s safe for limited access by shuttle bus only.
“We’ve got firefighters working here this is there only escape road this is there only road. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is the only road,” said US Forest Service Information Officer Penny Bertram. “So add in the normal traffic patterns here in Glacier this time of year it could be between 10-and-20,000 people on this road.”
Bertram pointed out that in the event of an evacuation, the road would also be the only way out for visitors.
“So if something were to happen how would we get a lane of traffic turned around with all those cars get all those people out of here and how would the firefighters manage to escape?” Bertram said.
“Then add in a fender bender a car that is not operating and stops and then you have a traffic jam and that’s how bad things happen and so the Park is keeping this road closed and then starting Friday there will be that very limited access to allow people to come up but in very limited numbers for now,” she added.
Bertram says there’s a chance the road could open fully but for now, shuttle and tour services will provide visitors safe access to Logan Pass via the West Glacier Park Entrance.
Visitor services have continued in all other areas of the park, and Bertram says plenty of visitors continue to access the park via the St. Mary Entrance as well as the Many Glacier and Two Medicine park areas.
“Still the best way to get to this Park is through the east side going to Highway 2 going to the east side and then going over to Logan Pass,” Bertram said.
The road was originally closed for public safety on August 12th because of the Howe Ridge fire.
-Nicole Miller reporting for MTN News