People often have fond memories of visiting Glacier National Park, even decades after their journey to the park ended. Some may think that spending eternity in Glacier would be a dream come true, a gift from God.
Well, the National Park Service may be able to accommodate, that is, make a dream reality. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Section 2.62b (Memorialization), cremated ashes of humans can be spread in national parks.
Section 2.62b says, “The scattering of human ashes from cremation is prohibited, except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit, or in designated areas according to conditions which may be established by the superintendent.”
The key language here is “except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit, or in designated areas according to conditions which may be established by the superintendent.”
At Glacier National Park, the steps to make this happen are straightforward. Complete an Application for Special Use Permit, Spreading of Ashes. In this case, in the “proposed activity” part of the application, is your request to scatter cremated human ashes. Add details as you choose, such as a statement about relationship to the deceased. The application also asks for detailed information about preferred date, location, and time, as well as alternate choices. Other specific information is requested on the form, as well.
The Park’s administration will review the application and make its decision on whether to issue a permit, which allows for an individual to go forward with scattering human ashes in the Park.
PDF of the application is online on Glacier National Park’s Website.
Or obtain an application form from:
Glacier National Park
West Glacier, MT 59936
Spreading human ashes is a private and sensitive matter, so exercise good judgement when on public lands. Doing its part, Glacier National Park’s administration has special rules/regulations/guidance pertaining to this activity.
On its Web site, the Park’s administration writes as follows:
“In Glacier National Park, human ashes may be disbursed only in undeveloped areas of the Park; that is, not within 200 feet of any developed location, such as a road, trail, building, parking lot, boat ramp, swimming beach, campground, lake, etc. The ashes must be scattered and not deposited in any type of container. No marker or memorial of any sort may be placed at the site.”
“Also, please keep in mind that winter-like weather can occur at any time during the year, usually November through April, which may make access to a particular area impossible.”
“When you are ready to disburse of the ashes, send in a special use permit application and a letter will be sent to you which will serve as the official permit required by the citation referenced above and the instructions regarding location and notification will serve as the terms and conditions required by the citation. This letter or a copy thereof must be in the possession of at least one member of the party present when human ashes are scattered in the park.”
How many permits for spreading of ashes in Glacier National Park have been approved in recent years? According to Park officials, 2015: 17 permits; 2016: 16 permits; 2017: 27 permits; 2018: 21 permits; 2019: 20 permits; 2020: 16 permits (through September).
Some believe that spirits of the departed soar over the mountain peaks and valleys in Glacier during warm summer evenings. During winter months, spirits hibernate beneath timber falls and openings in nooks and crannies of mountain sides at lower elevations.
That the National Park Service and the U.S. government are happy to accommodate the wishes of many Americans is appropriate in this case. All parties gain satisfaction with this arrangement. Surely, peace of mind comes to family members. Further, the ashes, once a life, are returned to the natural environment, co-mingled with the elements and plants and animals in the Park.
Montana lodging does not have to be expensive, that is, if you are willing to go off the grid. For the grand sum of $35 per night, Crandall Creek Cabin is available. This is a U.S. Forest Service property in western Montana. The cabin has a 5-night stay limit maximum. Sleeps up to six people.
This rustic cabin is about 24 miles northeast of Wilsall in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The area around the cabin is in the foothills of the Crazy Mountains. Access is by a dirt road and a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is a must to get here.
Need to know (info from U.S. Forest Service): no power in cabin, no garbage service, no water in cabin, cell phone coverage limited or not available, risk of hantavirus at remote cabins.
Call the Yellowstone Ranger District Livingston Office at (406) 222-1892, during weekday business hours (MST) for more information about the cabin. This cabin is not too far from Livingston (about 52 Miles), so may be a good option for some travelers. Reservations handled by Recreation.gov.
Great Falls (pop. 58,701) get its name from five magnificent waterfalls that existed during historic times on the Missouri River near the City of Great Falls. Over many years, dams were built on the river and three of the falls largely disappeared from the natural landscape. Only Crooked Falls and Rainbow Falls remain untouched. Nevertheless, much beauty can be seen in the area around the dams and along the Missouri River more generally.
Interstate Highway, IH-15, is a main north-south road that runs through Great Falls and connects the city with Canada to the north and Helena, Butte, and Salt Like City to the south. Another major road, Montana State Highway 200, runs east-west through Great Falls and is the main artery across a huge swath of central Montana, running from North Dakota in the east to Idaho in the west.
Great Falls is headquarters for a vast region. And an amazing city. To the east and north of the city are endless plains, to the west the Rocky Mountains. Fun in the outdoors beckons in the city and the vast largely unpopulated hinterlands spreading out in every direction.
Giant Springs State Park, one of state’s best parks, is almost inside Great Falls city limits. Giant Springs is a great place for hiking, bicycling, picnicking, fishing, and bird watching all the while experiencing wonderful scenery along the Missouri River. The park is famous for its underground spring that pumps millions of gallons of water into the Missouri River every day. A segment of River’s Edge Trail passes through the park. All of this can be had with an urban environment close by.
Great Falls has two major museums: C.M. Russell Museum tells the story of an early artist during Montana’s frontier days. Many originals of Russell’s art are on display. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretative Center in Great Falls is a classic. Exhibits at the museum explain the discovery of the region by Lewis & Clark at the beginning of the 19th century.
If you stay overnight or for a few days, the historic Hotel Arvon is a good choice. The Celtic Cowboy, a pub and restaurant adjoining the hotel, is amazing for its old-world charm. Lots of craft beers to drink here. Think Irish. Dante’s Creative Cuisine in the downtown area is tops for evening dining.
Great Falls is not the first thing tourists think about when they plan a trip to Montana. Many should reconsider, less an opportunity is missed to enjoy so much offered in and around Great Falls.