In 2007, I got to spend the night in the Belly River Ranger Cabin. The only catch was that I had to be "on call" for the ranger that was out, essentially volunteering my time if there were some dire emergency. It was so silent in the middle of the night, the sound of a mouse running around woke me up. In the morning, after I made my prearranged radio call to check in, I looked out the window and saw the horses and the mule with their ears perked up, watching a grizzly bear walk by the pasture. On our way out, hiking up that brutal hill to get out of the valley, we exchanged notes with the ranger coming in to take his shift at the cabin, Clay Rubano. Clay died three months later while hiking in Wyoming.
The Belly River Ranger Cabin was once occupied by Joe Cosley, a legendary rogue ranger who roamed the park basically doing whatever he wanted (illegally) and living off the land.
With so much history of its own, let alone my own personal connection with it, I was upset to learn the building had been damaged by winter snows.
Emergency Repairs Completed On Historic Ranger Cabin
By Denise Germann, Public Affairs Specialist
February 17, 2012
Park employees recently completed the challenging task of making emergency repairs and construct temporary roofing on the historic backcountry cabin at the Belly River Ranger Station, located in the northeast portion of the park.
The cabin was severely damaged during a winter storm in late December or early January. More than half of the roof shingles and a quarter of the roof were blown off by high winds, leaving the cabin directly exposed to rain and snow. A significant amount of snow accumulated inside the structure, resulting in water and ice damage to the flooring, interior finishes, furnishings, and equipment. The storm also damaged a jack-leg fence at the site.
The damage was discovered by a resource management crew conducting work in the area during the second week of January. The crew surveyed the site, removed some of the accumulated snow inside the structure, and moved materials and furnishings for better protection from the weather.
In anticipation of additional damage to the historic and culturally significant structure, including loss of the entire roof and destruction of furnishings and equipment inside the cabin, an emergency response plan was created. A four-person crew and materials were flown to the site via helicopter. The crew removed snow from the building, constructed a temporary roof, heated the cabin with the wood stove to dry out the building and furnishings, and inventoried the site to help prepare for final repairs this summer. After four days of intense work, the crew skied out.
The Belly River Ranger Station was built in 1925 and is a significant cultural resource listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The station has been in use since it was built, housing rangers, trail crews and others. It is an integral part of Glacier’s cultural legacy, and contributes to the unique character of the park’s backcountry landscape. The Belly River Ranger Station complex retains the classic configuration of structures (combination residence and office, barn, woodshed and fire cache) with few intrusions and excellent physical integrity. The locally legendary Joe Cosley, the first Belly River district ranger, lived at this site in the park’s early years.
Support from the Glacier National Park Fund helped with the emergency response plan. The fund assists the park with preservation of historic structures within Glacier and is an official partner of the park. The fund’s mission is to support the preservation of the outstanding natural beauty and cultural heritage of Glacier National Park for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations by fostering public awareness and encouraging private philanthropy. For more information about the Glacier National Park Fund, visit http://www.glacierfund.org_/.