We thought the 2015 drought and fire year was bad. One of the many area fires started within a mile of the cabin early in the summer that year, and the lake level of our shallow little Duck Lake dropped very, very low. The summer of 2017 has managed to eclipse it, though.
Forests exist because of water, and it’s not unusual to see a couple of rainy days (or more) during a typical week’s stay in Glacier Country. Rains keep the fires at bay, water levels high and forests green. 2017 started off great with lots of snow, followed by lots of rain in the spring. We were rejoicing and looking forward to a normal, if not great water year. Then a high pressure system parked itself over the western United States, and the temps soared while the rains ceased. We haven’t had hardly a drop of water in Glacier Country since mid-June. All the green grasses that grew with all the spring rains dried up, the water evaporated, and Montana and the surrounding states and Canadian provinces became a tinderbox. Dry lighting started several fires in the northwestern US and Canada which have raged for weeks. Air quality recently has been horrible. Duck Lake is lower than I think we’ve ever seen it. 2017 started out so well, and now has eclipsed the 2015 fire and drought season.
This is Mother Nature, though. You have rainy years and drought. It goes in waves and cycles.
The year we bought the Duck Lake Vacation Rental (2003), it was a horrible fire year. It seemed all of Glacier National Park was on fire. A huge fire (the now infamous Robert fire) started about one mile away from the cabin one day before we moved in in late July. Our neighbors across the road saw us show up with a U-Haul and semi-jokingly asked if they could use the U-Haul to move their stuff out after we emptied it. All we could do was hope for the best. We spent the rest of that summer watching helicopters with enormous buckets fly in to dip water out of Duck and nearby Spoon lake to drop on the fire. It was fascinating to watch!!! The air was filled with smoke, and it permeated the walls and every fiber of fabric in the cabin, taking years to purge the odor from inside the house.
This year, the big fire making national news is the Sprague fire, located 5 miles north/northeast of West Glacier. It’s 17 miles from the cabin as the crow flies. Other area fires, several burning for several weeks, have contributed to smoky conditions, but everyone is focused on the Sprague. The Sperry Chalet, a 103 year old icon / establishment / attraction in the back country of Glacier National Park was lost to the Sprague fire. Lake McDonald Lodge closed early this year for safety reasons due to the threat of the Sprague fire. Going To The Sun Road between the southern end of Lake McDonald and Logan Pass is also closed for safety reasons due to the Sprague fire. To say the 2017 fire season has been emotional is an understatement.
Happily, the weather is now beginning to turn to fall. A cold front came through today that dropped traces of snow on the Logan Pass visitor center. The cooler temps, along with predicted rains over the next few days, should extinguish the fires and put an end to the 2017 fire season in short order. Halleluiah!
Fall is an AMAZING time to visit Glacier Country and Glacier National Park. With the fire season winding down, we hope that those who kept the faith that the area fires would be under control at this time fully enjoy and appreciate all that Glacier National Park has to offer during this spectacular time of year. Looking at today’s weather and forecasts, we’d personally love to be there right now.