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Glacier National Park closes to help contain spread of coronavirus

Glacier National Park is closed until further notice because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (National Park Service)

Glacier National Park is closed.

Superintendent Jeff Mow announced the closure late Friday in response to a statewide stay-at-home order, as well as guidance from Flathead and Glacier counties and the Blackfeet Nation.

There will be no visitor access permitted to the park until further notice, Mow said.

U.S. Highway 2 inside the park boundary will remain open.

“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our state, county, and tribal partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the park,” Mow said in a written statement. “We will continue to work with our state, county and tribal partners as this crisis continues and we will coordinate with them on when it will be safe to reopen the park.”

Park officials and county health officers were alarmed when large numbers of visitors congregated in the Lake McDonald area last weekend, potentially exposing themselves and National Park Service employees to the virus and violating social distancing guidelines.

On social media Friday night, many Montanans took note of those crowds and hailed Glacier’s closure as a necessary step. Others, though, lamented the closure and loss of access.

On Facebook, T.E. Lewis wrote: “After last weekend’s total disregard of CDC recommendations by visitors placing employees, volunteers and SAR personnel at risk. … You receive an A for effort. Excellent choice! This was a tough decision for the GNP, but glad to see the concern for the public until we flatten the curve of the coronavirus/Covid-19 in Montana. We are all in this together … you folks stay safe.”

“Thank you for doing the prudent, responsible, and safe action for your personnel and community at large,” added Ali Frank.

“Cannot wait for this crazy virus to be conquered so all of the world can once again enjoy the splendors of our National Parks. Stay safe rangers, we appreciate you!” said Laurel Sumner.

The critics were equally passionate. On Facebook, Fred Potts wrote: “So 1,583 square miles is not enough space to allow some visitors? Are you kidding me? I’m glad we went last summer when this nonsense wasn’t around. Good grief.”

Glacier officials urged would-be visitors to “visit” the park online via webcams,audio toursphoto galleries, and videos.

Updates about National Park Service operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Please check with www.nps.gov/glac for specific details about park operations.