Glacier National Park History

GNP History


Welcome to the GNP History section of our webpage.  

Glacier National Park has a rich history.

“Blackfeet Braves near Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, five men in traditional garb, one of the men is Two Guns White Calf, pre-1925. Probably a Fred Kiser photograph.   Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park Archives

“Blackfeet Braves near Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, five men in traditional garb, one of the men is Two Guns White Calf, pre-1925. Probably a Fred Kiser photograph.
Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park Archives

Before white man arrived on the scene the First Peoples were writing their own story.  Unfortunately, there is little recorded about their history and what we do have are based upon oral traditions that may have been changed over time.

When white man arrived we too had stories about the places that were seen in this spectacular place.

I post a new blog every week about the history of Glacier National Park.  It may be about a mountain, a stream, or even someone climbing a mountain a long time ago but it definitely will be history.

I hope to be able to dig up little Fun Facts about Glacier National Park that make you say “Wow, I didn’t know that.”  If I do that once in a while I will have met my goal of helping you get to know your Glacier National Park a little better.

If you have some Fun Fact about Glacier National Park that you want to share please contact me in the CONTACT US section.

How This All Started.

Blake is a history buff who also enjoys climbing peaks in Glacier National Park. While researching about the names of peaks in Glacier for his climbing guidebook series Blake found some very interesting information about the names in Glacier.

It became clear that much of the history behind the names was being lost.

As Blake dug deeper into the history at the GNP Archives and read books written in the late 1890s and early 1900s he discovered a wealth of information that needs to be known.

Purchase Now

Purchase Now

What They Called It presents stories about Glacier’s place-names that most visitors are familiar with as well as numerous stories about little known places along Going-to-the-Sun Road. The book features a historical look at the names behind the places in Glacier National Park.  It can be purchased from our on-line store for $19.95 plus shipping.

This book contains the stories of over 100 names along Going-to-the-Sun Road and includes full-color photographs and panoramas with places identified to help you get the most out of your visit to Glacier National Park.

A second volume featuring names on the east side of the park  will be released in the fall of 2015. 

The GNP History Blog

Join Blake each week as he takes a look at the incredible places in Glacier National Park and delves into a bit more of the story behind the name.

Blake will also share insider tips for making your visit to Glacier just a bit better.

Make sure you sign up for the GLACIER NATIONAL PARK HISTORY BLOG on the sidebar of this page and you will receive the latest blog in your email.

You can also check out RECENT POSTS and search for place names in out TAGS on the sidebar as well.

Here are the latest posts about the History of Glacier National Park.

The East-Side Oil Boom – That Wasn’t

The HistoryOne of the most fortuitous near misses in what was going to be Glacier National Park occurred under the present day Lake Sherburne.

Oil was discovered in the Swiftcurrent Valley and this started The Many Glacier Oil Boom.

Here is how it started.

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Lake Sherburne



September 29, 2014 – Belton – Andrew or Daniel

Before 1949, West Glacier, MT was called Belton.  Belton served as the starting point for visitors coming to the west side of Glacier National Park.
For a short span of time, Belton was home to the park headquarters at Belton Chalet.There are a few theories about who or what inspired the name Belton. Some suggest that Belton was a trapper, a town, or even a cook.The cook theory seems most likely, and there are two possibilities.  One of the cooks was named Daniel Webster Bell.

 Read More:


September 27, 2014 – Where Do You Park Your Thunderbird?

There are many interesting names on the east side of Glacier National Park.  Thunderbird Island may be one of the most unique and the Blackfeet have a story to support its name.

Montana is not known for having thunderbirds.  Occasionally, one may zoom overhead during an airshow or roar past a slower motorist on a highway.


But first let’s look at the name of the lake where Thunderbird Island is found

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All of us have favorite places in Glacier National Park, I have favorites for history too.  Here are a few of my favorite articles about Glacier’s history.

Heavy Shield Mountain

30 June 2014

Mount Wilbur (9,321 ft. / 2,842 m.) is the showpiece of the Many Glacier Valley.

This peak received its current name in 1885 when George Bird Grinnell named it for a business partner, E. R. Wilbur.

Mount Wilbur from the false summit of Mount Grinnell

The peak was unclimbed until Norman Clyde summited it in August of 1923.  In those days it was thought to be impossible to climb to the summit of Mount Wilbur.  Clyde, an accomplished mountaineer, climbed it solo and built a huge cairn that was visible the next day from the patio at the Many Glacier Hotel.  This removed all doubt that he accomplished this incredible feat.

Read more:

Can You See Me Now?

Fall colors at its best!Montana Highway 89 travels between East Glacier Park and Babb, Montana. Locally it is called The Looking Glass Highway. Many visitors drive this road to access the Two Medicine Valley and those who are brave enough accept the challenge and drive between the Two Medicine Road Junction and Kiowa Junction.This is a horrible road!

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The Cold Hard Truth About Iceberg Lake

The Story Behind The Name

The 3,000 foot drop from Iceberg Peak to Iceberg Lake

If you have never hiked to Iceberg Lake you have robbed yourself of one of the best hikes in Glacier.  Believe it or not I saw Iceberg Lake from the summit of Iceberg Peak before I saw it from the shoreline.  Both views are amazing.

So here is how this lake got its name.  Better yet here is the story about who named the lake.

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