Glacier Guides and Montana Raft

The Impact of Eco-Tourism: Protecting Glacier National Park

Photo by guide David Moench

Glacier National Park covers over a million acres of land, is amoungst one of the country’s largest National Parks, has two mountain ranges, 130 lakes and one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America. Additionally, the landscape is said to be over 170 million years old, specifically the mountain ranges, which formed in an early ice age. With all that history, space and geology comes a very unique and diverse ecosystem.

Here at Glacier Guides & Montana Raft, we have a mission to protect this amazing ecosystem while providing outstanding guided adventure travel and lodging in and around Glacier National Park. This mission is passed down through employees and guides, partners and guests, and we know that even the smallest move can make the biggest impact. We strive to support our community and those whose ideals line up with ours. It’s important we all work to protect our wild places. Here’s a breakdown of The Impact of Eco-Tourism: Protecting Glacier National Park

Brief Glacier History and Understanding The Eco-System

Photo by guide Morgan Wren

President William Taft signed Glacier National Park into law in 1910. Since then, it has been well protected and relatively undisturbed. A large variety of plant and animal life thrive here. According to a study done by the US Geological Survey, the park supports over 200 species of birds, thousands of plant species, a variety of native fish, and over 70 unique mammal species including grizzly bears, lynx, big horn sheep, mountain goats, mountain lions, pikas and the ever elusive wolverines. The native plants that you see in Glacier National Park existed when European settlers first arrived, making it one of the few places in The United States considered a pristine landscape. Not only does it bring in millions of tourists each year (2.91 million in 2023 per Glacier National Park), but it draws the attention of wildlife biologists, botanists and researchers due to it’s wild landscape and diversity.

Now that you have some background, we can dive into why it’s so vitally important to protect GNP. As you can see above, there is so much more to Glacier National Park than just it’s towering peaks and overwhelming beauty. Each part of the ecosystem plays a role in another part. For example, USGS scientists recently began a study that dives into the effects climate change has on the growth of huckleberries, which makes up 50% of a grizzly bear’s diet. While we aren’t surprised about the negative impacts of climate change, it’s drastically altering elements within the park. Things that need protection include whitebark pine, the glaciers throughout the park and several plant species and aquatic life. When we all choose to recreate responsibly and understand that humans make a big impact, we can work together to protect these wild places to continue enjoying them well into the future.


Photo by guide Tom Matelich

This seamlessly leads us into the footprint we leave behind. We’re always happy to refer to Leave No Trace principles when bringing up the footprint we leave, and we know these by heart. Let’s cover them quickly, shall we?

  • Plan Ahead & Prepare
  • Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Others

A good rule to live by is “take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Glacier, The Flathead River and the surrounding area can continue to thrive solely due to those who visit, recreate and guide in it responsibly. WIth that comes choosing a local guiding company that knows how to protect it (👋 Hey! That’s us!). You’re contributing to the local economy AND you supporting a place that strives to keep GNP pristine. And that’s just one way YOU can make a difference in helping protect Glacier National Park. Another option would be donating to somewhere like The Glacier National Park Conservancy, where your money supports vital projects and programs throughout the park. (See our dollar add on program when you book a trip!)

Local Engagement

Staff and Guide Photo for Glacier Guides & Montana Raft, 2022

Speaking of shopping local, your dollar goes further when you support the local economies around Glacier National Park. We challenge everyone to practice responsible consumption by finding the hidden gems, locally owned shops and local guides to keep your money within the community. There are so many small towns that rely heavily on tourism to keep the lights on. By purchasing goods and services locally, visitors become active participants in the preservation of cultural diversity, environmental sustainability, and the overall well-being of the communities that make up Glacier National Park.

Our Role As Guides

We take our role, to teach our guests about Glacier National Park and The Wild & Scenic North & Middle Forks of The Flathead River, very seriously. While we strive to make sure you have a positive experience while out on the river, on a hike, in the backcountry, while fishing, or on a bike with us, we also want to ensure you appreciate the beauty of this amazing place and understand the significance of all actions to preserve it. We take great pride in educating our guests in history, geology, significance, the environmental challenges and it’s cultural importance. Beyond the facts and figures, we foster a deep connection between visitors and the natural world. Through our guided experiences, we encourage our guests to develop a profound appreciation for the these wild places and groove with the outdoors, just like we do!

Educational Programs

A Glacier National Park Ranger holds a grizzle bear skull, often used for education lectures. Photo courtesy Glacier National Park
A Glacier National Park Ranger holds a grizzle bear skull, often used for education lectures. Photo courtesy Glacier National Park

The aforementioned Glacier National Park Conservancy is a great place to start to dive into more educational programs. Money donated to The Conservancy helps fund several educational programs such as Native America Speaks and Ranger Led Education Programs. Also, Glacier National Park hosts several talks a month, where park guests are welcome, on Glacier’s natural and cultural history.

If you’re looking for an interactive way to educate yourself, we recommend our friends over at Sun Tours. They offer daily Blackfeet interpretive tours through Glacier National Park on Going-to-the-Sun Road and throughout Blackfeet Country. Booking with them is great for so many reasons. Experience the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road, learn about Glacier National Park’s history and relationship with The Blackfeet Tribe AND you’re support a local business. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Looking Forward

Work we do today will build an education and understanding in everyone visiting Glacier National Park moving forward. By making environmentally friendly decisions when traveling, you can contribute to the ongoing preservation of Glacier National Park. Through collective efforts, we can make sure our footsteps pave the way for a sustainable and vibrant future.

If you’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park and the surrounding area and think a guided trip would add to your experience, (trust us, it certainly will), take a look at our rafting, hiking, backpacking, fishing, biking and lodging options. We start running trips in May and continue throughout the summer until mid-October. Visit our trips, our “Why Choose Us” page, our “Community” page and our Environmental Efforts to learn more about Glacier Guides. We dive into what we’re doing to preserve the park, the river and the surrounding area for the future.

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