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Wildlife Wanderings Along the Continental Divide

Are you a Glacier Institute Member?
Please give us the 3 best date options for your Personalize Educational Outing.

 Wildlife Wanderings along the Continental Divide

Personalized Educational Outings

Reminiscent of a Diego Rivera-as-naturalist mural, the exuberant scene at the southern boundary of the park leaves one breathless before hitting the trailhead. This nexus of prairie, montane, marsh, and parkland, and ultimately reaching into the sub-alpine atop Firebrand Pass peering into Ole Creek valley, one is unlikely to miss the whistling songbirds and greater menagerie of wildlife that corridor through. In this transitional plant zone, one walks through an open short-grass meadow with a seasonal presentation of showy flowers, a window box of color leading to the aspen parklands, a fire-adapted tree that blazes in the fall and whispers in the blustery winds common to this area of the park. Moving past shrubfields and coniferous forest, the talus slopes above hint at the unhurried processes of soil formation and mark the great decline of the Whitebark Pine, the Rockies’ silver sentinels. This is a catch-all trail rare on the south side!  

Meeting Time:  8:00 AM

Finishing Time: 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM (depending on pace of group)

Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp Meeting Hall (see campus map)

Food: Please bring a sack lunch, trail snacks, and at least one liter of water.

Equipment: Be prepared for any kind of weather including snow. Bring rain gear, warm jacket or pullover, gloves, a hat, and comfortable hiking shoes. It can be cold, so plan on having lots of layers of warm clothes to add and shed as necessary. Binoculars are useful, but optional.

Physical Requirements:  Moderate-Strenuous / Distance (roundtrip): 10.2 miles / Total elevation gain: 1,950 ft.

Transportation during course:  We will be traveling in a Glacier Institute vehicle.

Weather: This outing will not be canceled due to weather.

Tentative Itinerary:

8:00 AM: Meet at the Glacier Institute Field Camp

8:00 AM - 8:30 AM: After we make our introductions, we will have an overview of the day’s itinerary followed by a brief training in bear safety procedures, Leave No Trace Ethics, and trail etiquette.  

8:30 AM – 9:30 AM: Drive along Highway 2 heading East towards East Glacier.  Along the way, we will stop at Marias Pass to view the Lewis Overthrust, a geologic spectacle that scientists from around the world travel to see.

9:30 AM - 12:30 PM: The first portion of our hike will focus largely on beaver ecology as we observe the evidence of beavers in this area and discuss the effects of their dams and lodges on the surrounding streams, soils, fish, and mammals. We’ll pass through aspen parklands, a grove of trees that are critical for the many species of birds in this area. This is also an exceptional spot to identify new species of wildflowers throughout the summer, and especially June-July!!

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM: After we reach the expansive valley below Firebrand Pass, we will stop to assess the hunger and desires of the group. Depending on the season and snow cover, we can stop here for lunch or continue the hike towards Firebrand Pass. This vantage lends a terrific vista for the imagining of the vast piedmont glacier that covered the Great Plains.

1:30 PM - 3:30 PM: During our hike back to the trailhead we will take time to address the specific questions of the group that have not yet been answered.  We will also discuss how the Firebrand Pass area fits into the bigger picture of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.  We will also discuss the great fires of 1910 that burned this area and gave Firebrand its name.

3:30 PM - 4:30 PM: Return on Highway 2 to Glacier Institute Field Camp.

4:30 PM - 4:45 PM: Wrap-up, Q&A, course evaluation forms.