Must be summer, as crowds hit the North Fork

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It must be summer. There have been precious few sunny days and tons of mosquitoes, but human activity is certainly summer-like.

The NFLA has already held its first meeting of the year and their social calendar is underway. We have had a float day as well as a dance, and summer residents dot the landscape.

Both the Home Ranch Store and Cafe and the Polebridge Mercantile and Northern Lights are busier than ever and the food is as good or better than ever. I have already enjoyed pizza at the Northern Lights (a Friday evening specialty) and both ribs and steak at Home Ranch. Shawn Agnew is truly a master at the grill and their real french fries are a taste sensation.

Likewise, the Polebridge Mercantile is still serving up delicious baked goods and both hot and cold sandwiches for lunch.

Problem with all of this good stuff plus the improved North Fork Road is the increased traffic. I counted over 90 cars from Fish Creek turnoff to Home Ranch Store on Saturday — an all time high count. Not much, if any, commercial traffic. Just folks out for a drive, floaters pulling boat trailers, and maybe a few lost tourists.

Whatever the cause, I see our North Fork lifestyle slowly eroding.

Parking in downtown Polebridge is getting more and more congested and I am convinced that despite the “slow down” and 10 mph signs we are likely to have an accident.

Kintla Lake and Bowman Lake campgrounds are often full to capacity, and Glacier National Park’s plans to control traffic and inspect watercraft are likely to create more problems than they solve — we will see.

On the Forest side of the river, the USFS still refuses to address sanitary needs, and launch sites are often overridden with parked vehicles, folks waiting to launch, and slow movers obstructing the launch site.

On the river itself, floaters don’t see too many other boats since most folks tend to travel at about the same speed. Increased river traffic is most noticed by fishermen on shore, who sometimes see more than a dozen boats pass by while fishing for dinner. Oops, can’t do that anymore, this is a catch-and-release river except for whitefish and lake trout, and the creeks are all closed to fishing.

Despite fewer campgrounds, lousy toilet facilities and no money for trails, the Forest Service depends more and more on volunteers to maintain the trail system while applying for yet more money to improve the road to provide better public access to public lands. Seems a bit counterproductive to me. What do you think?

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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