Oldman River Headwaters Quiz

by Jeff Gruttz

The Quiz:

For all our Southwest Alberta hikers / geography keeners….. which number is closest to the number of glaciers, or visible remnants thereof, contained in the most southerly drainage basin traversed by the GDT, the Oldman River drainage basin? Clue: this is a semi-trick question.

  • 0
  • 3
  • 5
  • 8
  • 12
  • 16
  • 20
  • 25
  • 32


Closest answer – 25. While there are not any glaciers in the Oldman River’s ALBERTA section of its drainage basin, there are several in MONTANA’S Glacier National Park in the Oldman basin. Two Oldman tributaries flow northward from Montana into the Oldman River upstream of Lethbridge: the St. Mary River, at approximately 11 km upstream of Lethbridge, and the Belly River, an additional roughly 19 km upstream. A third river, Waterton River, empties into the Belly River south of Fort Macleod.

Glaciers (or remnants) in the Waterton River’s headwaters (perhaps others): Carter Glaciers (2+), Dixon, Thunderbird, Hudson, Herbst.  Total – 6+

Herbst Glacier below Mt. Custer. Hudson Glacier between Lake Nooney and Lake Wurdeman on the wall just south of the lakes. Seen looking south into Glacier N.P., USA, from the Carthew-Alderson Trail in Waterton Lakes N.P., Canada.

Glaciers (or remnants) in the Belly River’s headwaters (perhaps others): Ahern, Ipasha, Chaney, Shepard, Whitecrow, Miche Wabun, Old Sun.  Total – 7

Glaciers (or remnants) in the St. Mary River’s headwaters (others as well?): North Swiftcurrent, Swiftcurrent, Salamander, Grinnell, Gem, Siyeh, Sexton, Piegan, Red Eagle, Logan, Blackfoot, Jackson.  Total – 12.

Swiftcurrent Glacier below Mt. Grinnell (left). Seen looking southwest from Swiftcurrent Pass Trail in Glacier N.P., USA.
Left to right:  Gem, Grinnell, and Salamander Glaciers. Grinnell Glacier is mostly hidden from this angle, in its bowl. Seen looking southwest from near the Many Glacier entrance to Glacier N.P., USA.
Piegan Glacier. Seen along Piegan Pass Trail at the meadows just below Piegan Pass. Glacier N.P., USA.
Blackfoot Glacier and Jackson Glacier. Seen along Gunsight Pass Trail, Glacier N.P., USA.
Siyeh Glacier (extends out of the picture to the left) above Cracker Lake.  Seen looking looking southwest from Cracker Lake Trail in Glacier N.P., USA.


My interest was aroused for further research when I read this about the Oldman River’s flow rates:

 “Streamflows peak in early July, then recede steadily into late summer as the mountain snowpack disappears, and are sustained through the fall by run-off from glacier melt and whatever rain happens to fall”

 … excerpted from this source (of unknown complete volume title or author), bottom of page 1:  https://www.ubcpress.ca/asset/12421/1/9780774807128.pdf

Say what? Glacial meltwaters flow into the Oldman River? Not the Oldman River with which I’m familiar in Alberta! Ah yes …. but the Oldman River’s drainage basin extends into Montana. Why of course: Glacier National Park!

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