Tag Archives: Many Glacier Valley

Blue or Turquoise?

The HistoryThere is a special view of a lake that I never get tired of. Many people have enjoyed the same view but it takes a lot of work to get there.

Every time I see the lake it reminds me of just how incredible the colors of water, rocks, trees, and grasslands truly can be. I spend a great deal of time just soaking it in because I never know when I will be back there again.

Each time I have a hard time deciding if the lake is blue or turquoise.

Cracker Lake from the summit of Mount Siyeh

Cracker Lake from the summit of Mount Siyeh in 2012.

Cracker Lake is located about 4,000 feet below the summit of Mount Siyeh. I have been up there a few times and on all but one of the climbs I enjoyed looking at the glacier milk-filled lake. The 2010 trip to the summit yielded airplane views with peaks sticking out above the clouds but no view of Cracker Lake.

Cracker Lake is said to have been named in 1897 after two prospectors left their tin of crackers hidden in some rocks near a mineral lead they were examining on the shore of the lake.

L. S. Emmons and Hank Norris started calling the lead “where we left the crackers” and soon the area came to be referred to as Cracker Lake.

Before this event the lake was called Blue Lake.

“Blue” hardly fits as a descriptive name for this lake that is more turquoise in color than blue. The silt from Siyeh Glacier gets suspended in the water and sunlight refracts off of the particles and produces this beautiful color of blue. When the glacier is gone the color of the lake will likely change to dark blue.

Another lake in Glacier is named for its color. Can you tell me the name of the lake and who provided the name?

James Willard Schultz, who named a lot of places in Glacier, suggested the name Carrier Woman Lake. I am not sure who Carrier Woman was but she surely was influential since naming places for influential Blackfeet was part of Schultz’s agenda while naming peaks and places in the park.

The Cracker Lake Mine was a huge part of the mining operations in the Many Glacier area. A great deal of money was invested and a crude “road” was built up Canyon Creek to deliver mining equipment to the head of Cracker Lake.

Cracker Flats

Cracker Flats with Altyn Peak and Apikuni Mountain in the distance in 2014.

The Cracker mine shaft was dug some 1,300 feet into the mountain. In the end the whole business investment ended up yielding no ore and the investors pulled the plug on the mine.

The equipment that was hauled there was never used and remains at the head of Cracker Lake as a testimony to man’s fight to better themselves against a great deal of adversity. If you visit this site please leave everything the way you find it. Tampering with or removing property in any national park is a federal offence. 

Frank Bond of the National Park Service referred to the mine as the Cracker Jack Mine in 1929.

Cracker Lake is a sight to see. I personally have yet to visit the shores of the lake but I have seen it from all of the peaks surrounding it. I have had little time to just trail hike as my passion is climbing peaks in Glacier.

A trip to the shoreline of Cracker Lake is on the list as are most places in Glacier National Park.


  1. Imagine hauling huge mining equipment through this valley.

    Imagine hauling huge mining equipment through the rock-filled Canyon Creek valley. 2014 photo taken during fire season on the Wynn Mountain climb.

    Take a Hike. There is one trail leading to Cracker Lake. The Cracker Lake Trail is a little over 6 miles one way and it climbs about 1,500 feet. The first half is also used by the horse concessionaires and it is littered with “road apples” and ruts from the numerous horses using the trail. Dodge the road apples and make the hike from the trailhead near Many Glacier Hotel. Once you pass the spur trail to Cracker Flats the horse traffic greatly diminishes and the smell gets much more pleasant. Get an early start and bring water.

  2. Stay out of the mine. Although it is super tempting please do not enter the mine shaft. This whole mountain is unstable and although it is unlikely a portion of the mine shaft could collapse at any time. Most mines have multiple shafts and drops and it would be unfortunate to get injured or lost up there. You also never know what kind of animals hang out in a mine shaft. I have heard of people running into grizzlies in this mine shaft.
  3. Carry Bear Spray and your Camera. Yes there are bears here and yes you will want your camera to capture the views.

Is the lake blue or turquoise? Let me know what you think and drop me a line if you know who named the other lake.

I am on a quest to learn more about the names in Glacier National Park and I have found a lot of super cool stuff. Let me know if you want to know the story behind the name of your favorite place in Glacier National Park.

Purchase What They Called It from my on-line store if you want to learn more about the names in Glacier National Park.

© Blake Passmore 2015


Seeing Beauty In Everything

The HistorySometimes I see things and go places in Glacier National Park that few other people ever get to experience.

There are a few moments that I will never forget such as being greeted by a pika on Allen Mountain, hearing elk bulging in Buttercup Park while we were ascending Mount Ellsworth in the Two Medicine Valley, and the spectacular view from the summit of Mount Cleveland.

I also will never forget seeing a wolverine in the basin east of Reynolds Mountain. Throw in a handful of encounters with grizzly bears and I can say that I have a lot of great memories. It is times like these that help me keep things in perspective and cherish the simple things in life. They also help me slow down and look for beauty in the most surprising places.

Natahki Lake from the Mount Henkel route.

Natahki Lake from the Mount Henkel route.

Over the last few years I had heard of a basin in the Many Glacier Valley that nestled two beautiful alpine tarns. It was said that this basin was difficult to reach and was protected by cliffs on all sides. It was also said that this place was magical. As a Glacier mountaineer that kind of description captured my attention.

This basin is as special as the famed Shangri La below Mount Wilbur in Many Glacier. I am pretty sure that it is good there is no hiking trail to this magical place.

This is the kind of place that I imagine the Blackfeet people would use to escape from the view of their enemies or just to go to get some rest and relaxation.

Last year I saw this place from above and then got to visit the valley as we returned from climbing Apikuni Mountain. We had no intention to ascend to the basin but severe weather forced us off the ridge into the valley.

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Apikuni Falls

This place called Apikuni Basin, a large hanging valley, can be found above Apikuni Falls in the Many Glacier Valley. A one mile walk up a hiking trail leads to the base of Apikuni Falls. The waterfall pours over a steep cliff that guards the approach to a beautiful basin above.

Something even more special is guarded by another set of more challenging cliffs further up the valley. The upper portion of the basin is the location of another smaller hanging valley that was carved out by glaciers many years ago. The glacier left two beautiful shallow bodies of water called tarns.

A place like this needs a special name and the upper tarn located below Altyn Peak has a great name.

For some reason the lower tarn is unnamed but the upper one is named Natahki Lake.  This shallow body of water is named for James W. Schultz’ wife, Natahki, which translated means Fine Shield Woman.

Natakhi Lake in the Apikuni Basin below Altyn Peak.

Natakhi Lake in the Apikuni Basin below Altyn Peak.

Schultz was instrumental for recording numerous volumes of information about the Blackfeet Nation and was adopted into the tribe. His Blackfeet name was “Apikuni” or “Appikunny” and the basin, creek, waterfall, and the mountain are named for him. Appikunny means Far-Off-White-Robe in the Blackfeet language.

Fine Shield Woman was the daughter of Chief Heavy Runner.  She was one of the survivors of the Baker Massacre (see V1- 55 of What They Called It). Schultz wrote that she was a person who saw beauty in everything.

It is fitting that this lake be named for a Natahki who saw beauty in everything despite surviving a horrible massacre. It is also fitting that Schultz and his wife Natakhi be remembered by having places in Glacier National Park named for them.

Perhaps we could learn something from Fine Shield Woman’s example. We have so much but most of us are never quite satisfied with what we have.

Natakhi chose to be happy in her life circumstances and this is the example we could all follow.

Life is not about having what you want,

it is about wanting what you have.

Do you want to learn more about the history of Glacier National Park? I am on a quest to learn more and I would be glad to help find answers to your questions. Drop me a line at info@climbglacier.com and I will see what I can find out.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2015



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.

In 1901, Sam Somes was working in a tunnel setting dynamite charges.  He found seepage of oil in the tunnel and took samples; he even formed the Montana Swiftcurrent Oil Company with a group of friends.

Soon a well was drilled but did not produce gas or oil. That well has the distinction of being the first oil well drilled in the state of Montana.

A few years later, Mike Cassidy  observed bubbles rising in a small feeder creek of Lake Sherburne.  He formed an oil company and drilled a hole.  In 1905 they found gas but no oil.  There was enough gas coming out of the well to heat Cassidy’s home from 1907 to 1914.

A 1923 map of oil and gas claims indicated that all of the wells were within two miles of the present day Sherburne Dam and water covers most of the sites.

Can you imagine how different the Many Glacier Valley would have been if oil had been profitable?

Pretty much all that is left now are a few names of places along the reservoir.

Most notable is Cassidy Curve.

Visitors driving to Many Glacier are sure to notice the rough road while driving into the park.  This is not because of poor road construction or a lack of maintenance.  This gravel-pocked section of road is in an area called Cassidy Curve.

This area is where the tectonic plates of the earth’s surface are colliding and the area is constantly being pushed up.  The results is a road surface that is always in disrepair, it literally can’t be fixed.

Many 1

Hopefully the Blackfoot Nation and the National Park Service will continue to work together at protecting this spectacular area for our children’s children.

Do you have a particular name in Glacier National Park that you want to know more about?  Respond with a comment or drop me a line and I will get to work on it.

Thanks for joining in for this small bit of fun history about Glacier National Park.  Not all of it is true but it is interesting.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2014