Magazine article Sunset

The Best Way to Explore Glacier May Be by Boat

Magazine article Sunset

The Best Way to Explore Glacier May Be by Boat

Article excerpt

The best way to explore Glacier may be by boat A 10-minute paddle from Many Glacier Hotel and 5-minute portage to Josephine Lake, and you're int he unspoiled heartland of Montana's Glacier National Park.

Canoeing is just one of the ways you can see Glacier--and its Alberta neighbor, Waterton--by boat. Blessed with scores of ice-carved lakes, ready access, and a fleet of cruise boats and rental craft, the parks offer visitors view-filled boating unequaled by any other park in the West. It doesn't take much planning: cruises are frequent enough that you can take advantage of good weather as it comes. Or you can rent a boat for an hour to a day.

Finding a room at park hotels is another matter. Try for cancellations, or stay southwest of the park in Bigfork, Kalispell, or Whitefish, in the Flathead Valley.

From excursion boats (many dating to the 1920s), you'll enjoy views unavailable from the highway, and see more wildlife, too--bald eagles, bighorn sheep, black bear, moose. As you cruise, you'll hear about park geology, weather, and wildlife from the captain or a park ranger.

Hikers can use cruise boats to shave miles off trail destinations. Catch the first boat in the morning, hike all day, then ride the last boat back. Some cruises schedule an early hiker's sailing; others include short ranger-led hikes to waterfalls and lakes.

It's boating season: just drop in

Daily cruises start in mid-May in Waterton, early June in Glacier, and continue through mid-September. Six lakes each offer at least four sailings a day (some offer up to seven in midsummer). Pick up a schedule at park visitor centers.

You can't reserve--just show up at the boat dock 20 minutes before the next sailing. Popular tours have backup boats to handle overflows.

Boats range up to 80 feet, with cabin and deck space for up to 200 passengers (most are smaller). Bring a windbreaker, sweater or jacket, rain gear, and maybe a picnic lunch.

Two parks, six lakes

Glacier Park Boat Company handles crusies and rentals on the U.S. side of the border. Write to the company at Box 5262, Kalispell, Mont. 59903.

Waterton Inter-Nation Shoreline Cruise Co. offers tours from the townsite. Write to Box 126, Waterton Park, Alberta T0K 2M0, or call (403) 859-2362.

Glacier National Park. Lake McDonald: from the lodge at the north end of the lake, 10 miles northeast of West Glacier on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Tours (55 minutes) cost $5, $2.50 for ages 6 through 12; the sunset cruise is especially popular.

Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes: from Many Glacier Hotel, 12 mines west of Babb on Many Glacier Road, 1-1/4-hour tours link both lakes with a short walk. Mid-July through August, a daily hiker's special leaves at 8:30; the ranger takes you to Grinnell Glacier, 1,500 feet above the boat landing. …

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