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Glacier National Park stresses water safety after three drownings in two weeks | State of the State

Glacier National Park is urging park visitors to exercise caution when using the water after three drownings occurred there in the past 14 days.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. – “When visitors come to Glacier National Park, one of the first things they notice is how crystal clear and beautiful the water is; lots of waterfalls, cascades, you can see the rocks because the water is so clear, the rocks are beautiful. And it’s almost like a mermaid for people… But the water is very dangerous in Glacier National Park, especially this time of year, because of how high the water is, how fast it flows and how cold it is,” said Gina Icenoggle, spokeswoman for GNP.

Over the past two weeks, we have seen just how dangerous the water in Glacier can be – there have been three drownings there in the past 14 days.

The first drowning occurred when 26-year-old Gillian Tones slipped on wet rocks and fell into Virginia Creek (between Virginia Falls and St. Mary’s Falls).

Glacier National Park Drowning Victim Identified

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 25, 2024, 8:00 AM

“Right now we have high runoff because of the snowmelt that’s still happening in the mountains. So the rivers and streams are high and fast, and it only takes a second to get into the current and get swept away,” Icenoggle said.

The second drowning occurred when a 26-year-old man was hiking toward Avalanche Lake when he fell into Avalanche Creek, where the current carried him into a ravine.

Glacier National Park reports two drownings Saturday

Below is a press release from Glacier National Park sent on July 7, 2024.

“Friends reported seeing him standing on a rock and were unsure whether he had bent down to touch the water, was standing, lost his balance, or whether the rock was wet, slipped, fell into the water and was quickly carried away by the current,” Icenoggle said.

Icenoggle says the Avalanche Trail is not closed to the public and rangers are still monitoring the area because no body has been found so far.

“We suspect the body is stuck in the ravine, and because it is moving so high and fast, and large boulders are rolling down the length of the ravine, it is impossible to send out rangers who could effectively search the ravine,” Icenoggle said.

Please note that this water comes from snow runoff, so it is very cold.

“Once you get in the water, you quickly get hypothermia, and your limbs start to go numb and don’t function very well,” Icenoggle said.

The third drowning occurred at Lake McDonald when a 28-year-old man from Nepal was swimming near the Sprague Creek Campground.

His friends told park staff that he was an inexperienced swimmer and that they saw him go under the water and not come up.

Park officials want to remind anyone near the body of water to remember that the rocks are usually wet and slippery, and if you are a swimmer, especially if you are inexperienced, you should use a life jacket or buoyancy aid.

“Come and enjoy Glacier National Park, but be very careful around water, especially streams and rivers that flow. I know people want to be a part of it, they want to be able to touch it and experience it. But it’s really, really dangerous to take the power of that water for granted,” Icenoggle said.

There was one drowning death in the park last year, at Avalanche Creek. Icenoggle says drowning is the leading cause of death in Glacier National Park.