Glacier Park

Staffing Challenges Force Early Closure of Two Medicine Boating Season

Due to the threat of aquatic invasive species and the inability to staff seasonal inspection stations, Two Medicine is closed to boating effective immediately

By Beacon Staff
Sinopah Mountain is reflected in Two Medicine Lake on a calm morning in Glacier National Park on Oct. 15, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park will close to boating for the remainder of the season due to staffing and equipment challenges at the popular park entrance’s aquatic invasive species (AIS) boat inspection station, according to a Friday afternoon news release. Boating and AIS inspection stations in all other areas of the park remain open for the remainder of the season, including the St. Mary station operated by the Blackfeet Nation.  

Glacier National Park partnered with the Blackfeet Nation and the nonprofit Glacier National Park Conservancy to open AIS stations at St. Mary and Two Medicine lakes for the first time since the 2019 season. While other boat inspection stations in the park, including the AIS station in St. Mary, continue to be staffed and to operate successfully, the remote location of Two Medicine has contributed to challenges in staffing and equipment. 

Prior to this summer, St. Mary and Two Medicine lakes had been closed to boating since the end of the 2019 season due to COVID-19 and lingering staffing challenges. In 2021 and 2022, the park attempted to operate the stations but were unsuccessful in recruiting enough staff to work at all locations.

Last year, Glacier Park officials and Blackfeet tribal leaders began negotiating a contract to use tribal inspectors to reopen the stations.

According to a July 17 announcement, the tribal leaders and park administrators struck an agreement to recruit tribal inspectors to operate the stations, which are meant to guard against the threat of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

The announcement signaled the first season motorized boating was allowed on St. Mary Lake since mussels were detected in Montana in 2016.

In November 2016, Glacier Park officials immediately closed park waters to all watercraft following the discovery of destructive mussel larvae in Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs east of the Continental Divide, just 100 air miles from the boundary of Glacier Park and the headwaters of the Columbia River Basin. It was the first such detection of the invasive species in the state’s history.

Waters from Glacier’s extensive network of lakes, rivers and streams are the headwaters of three major watersheds that reach the Columbia River Basin and the Pacific Ocean; the Missouri River and the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of Mexico; and the South Saskatchewan River and Hudson Bay.

“It is critical that these headwaters are protected to prevent the spread of invasive species throughout the continent,” according to the park’s news release.

“We’ve been successful at reopening the St. Mary station – which is purposefully designed for boat inspections and is being staffed by our partners – but the set-up at Two Medicine has been more challenging,” Dave Roemer, superintendent of Glacier National Park, said in a prepared statement. “Taking a pause will allow us to dedicate our collective efforts on the east side of the park to inspection stations at St. Mary, Many Glacier, and Browning to ensure the protection of these waters. We are grateful for our ongoing partnership, and plan to get an early start next year to have inspection stations for boating at Two Medicine, St. Mary, and lakes in the Many Glacier area in 2024.” 

All watercraft launched within Glacier National Park must be inspected for AIS prior to launching. AIS inspections are required for protection against non-native species that can devastate native aquatic ecosystems, as well as negatively change visitor use and enjoyment of park waterways. AIS can come in many forms, including animals such as zebra and quagga mussels, plants such as Eurasian watermilfoil, or pathogens such as whirling disease. These species can hitch a ride on any equipment including motorized and non- motorized watercraft such as float tubes, kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and trailers. 

For more details, including location and hours of operation for all AIS stations in the park, please visit the park boating webpage.