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The Father of Glacier National Park

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News and Adventure from Glacier National Park

George Bird Grinnell is widely regarded as a towering figure in the American conservation movement. Not only is he recognized as “The Father of Glacier National Park”, but he’s also recognized as “The Father of American Conservation”.

Born in 1849, Grinnell was an explorer, historian, anthropologist, naturalist, writer and founder of the Audubon Society. As editor of Forest and Stream he crusaded for more than a decade for more stringent protection of Yellowstone’s wildlife. He campaigned tirelessly to defend the fledgling park from commercialization, and specifically focused on protecting bison from hunters, as Yellowstone was its last refuge. In 1894 he fully exploited a famous poaching incident that occurred within the park boundaries. Less than two months after the incident, the Lacey Act of 1894 was passed by Congress, which was a direct result of Grinnell’s persistent reporting. The act protected wildlife in Yellowstone, and made violations punishable.

Grinnell made his first visit to Glacier in 1885. He was so inspired by the scenery that he spent the next two decades working to establish it as a national park. In 1896 he was one of three commissioners to sign the treaty with the Blackfeet Indians that transferred ownership of the land that would become Glacier National Park.

During his first visit to the future park Grinnell would discover the glacier that now bears his name. Today, Mount Grinnell, Grinnell Lake, Grinnell Falls and Grinnell Glacier are all named in honor of him. During his final visit to the eponymous glacier in 1926, Grinnell noted in his diary that, “the glacier is melting very fast and the amount of water coming from it is great. All these glaciers are receding rapidly and after a time will disappear.”

Grinnell (second from right) and a hiking party on Grinnell Glacier in 1926:

Grinnell and his wife, Elizabeth, circa 1925:


Ramble On (2nd edition book on the rich history of hiking)
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park


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