Idaho's last glacier apparently disappears

Idaho’s last glacier is gone, I think.

The Otto Glacier has been called the last remaining glacier in Idaho since the 1980s. The last vestige of an ancient ice age was located in south central Idaho’s Lost River Range, tucked into the north slope of Mt. Borah, Idaho’s highest peak.

Retired Boise State University professor Monte Wilson was its discoverer and he named it after his colleague and the glacier’s co-discoverer geologist Bruce Otto. Wilson annually visited the glacier in the 1980s.

When I talked to him in 2007 about the glacier he was unsure if it still existed. Even in the 1980s the Otto glacier was small and only a remnant of its former size.

The Otto glacier was in what is known as the Rock Creek Cirque, according to Robert K. Moseley, who proposed in 1992 to protect the area because of its rare plants. Borah Peak rises 2,000 feet out of the cirque and on this steep wall lies a permanent snow field.

The Otto Glacier was tucked in a depression at the base of the wall, Moseley said, quoting Otto’s 1976 and 1977 papers.

“In 1975 measurements, the glacier was about 1,300 feet long and 1,000 feet wide at the widest point,” Moseley wrote. “Using seismic equipment, ice thickness was found to vary from 210 feet directly below the firn line to 60 feet near the toe of the glacier.”

The snow field feeds several springs at the base of the slopes but there is no glacial lake like in many other cirques in Idaho’s alpine regions. The elevation rises from 9,400 feet at the treeline to the top of Borah at 12,662 feet, he said.

I contacted BSU geologist Jen Pierce, who was leading a research team in the Lost River Range in 2007. Pierce was unaware of the Otto glacier and skeptical of its existence. She said all she saw on Borah were permanent snow fields.

If its true that Otto Glacier was still around in the 1990s but now is gone then it is another sign of the warming of the planet that more than 2,500 scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say is likely due to the burning of fossil fuels. In nearby Glacier Park in Montana scientists predict its glaciers will be gone in two decades so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Idaho’s lone glacier melted away when we weren’t looking.

Scientists say a lot of things we value could disappear in the next few decades no matter what we do to combat climate change. Perhaps the Otto Glacier should become a reminder of to us that we don’t always know what we’ve got until it’s gone.

Even back in the nineties I remember that

it was speculative whether or not Mt Borah had a real glacier or just an ice field. I don't remember where I read that though. It is possible that it never really was a glacier, I think the definition hinged on whether they could actually measure movement on the thing.

You already know I feel about Global Warming.

No more really pristine brewing water?

Way to keep it in perspective FO


Sadly, your lack of concern

Sadly, your lack of concern seems to be pervasive:

Since it 's a nearly closed atmospheric system on Earth...

eventually all those used resources will be back. Who cares if it happens while you or I am alive? You have a crappy view of our place in the scheme of things. Nothing we do means a rip to the universe, Newton proved all matter is conserved in that energy cannot be created nor destroyed and it's just damned silly and selfish of you to assume we mean anything at all in any sense.

Global Warming Hype?

Why is this a story now? Did someone go up there recently and see this glacier was gone? Or was it something that the author pulled out of a file because there was nothing else to write about that day? Was it ever a glacier? Are you sure its gone?

Now I'm for reducing our output of pollution, and reducing the amount of crud we put into our air and water, but I am skeptical about motives.

PS - movement does define a glacier, whether its advancing or retreating.

Getting warm

Thanks for posting this information on the Borah ice. For those of you wishing to expand your horizon on this subject, Rob Tuft has been kind enough to post a few of my 820 different Idaho peaks on his website. Under Recess Peak, see a photo of the Brocky Glacierette at the head of Fall Creek in the Pioneer Mountains. Rock glaciers occur in all of Idaho's high mountain ranges. See Rob's "Pahsimeroi Ridge Walk" for an example of these. For those willing to use a little imagination, see SON Mountain for what the piedmont Horseheaven Glacier would have looked like. See "Two Morse Peaks" to imagine the magnitude of a Pleistocene alpine glacier in the Lemhi Range.
Re: global warming, common wisdom says Idaho is too cold for scorpions. In the recent past I found one of these critters doing just fine in the Sublett Range of southern Idaho, so they are moving north out of Utah. Stay cool... Rick

Scorpions favor stages and especially Germany.

This is sad.

It's really sad that Idaho's last glacier has disappeared. There's nothing quite like the beauty of an ice field and it's unfortunate Idaho's residents won't get that anymore.

That valley will have to get ice from Jackson's now...


Facebook is the enemy of privacy. Logging into it here or clicking Like is is insanity. We are free our sites should be clear of nonsense. Demand service.

snooze button

Barker your story starts here "of an ancient ice age"
and ends with "no matter what we do to combat climate change".

Mother nature is bigger than you and your enviro friends, (despite your donut consumption).