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Glacier National Park's 100th Sets Visitors Record

Iceberg Lake at Glacier National Park. (Image credit: NPS.)

Glacier National Park's 100th anniversary lured more than 2 million visitors last year, a record for the park.

As the 10th national park established in the United States, Glacier National Park, in Montana, celebrated its 100th anniversary on May 11, 2010. During the first 11 months of the year, some 2,216,109 visitors came to the park, breaking the record of 2,203,847 set in 1983, the Associated Press reported.

The park held more than 130 events to celebrate the centennial, giving the public plenty of reasons to visit. [Related: Top 10 Most Visited National Parks.]

"We all feel it has been a success and the numbers certainly reflect it," Glacier spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt told the Daily Inter Lake, a Montana news publication.

Glacier National Park also launched a campaign to build new attractions and rehab others to keep the park healthy and popular for the next 100 years. Some of the projects under way include building a wildlife viewing platform, preserving Heavens Peak fire lookout, upgrading the visitor center and making the trails more handicapped-accessible.

The park was originally set aside as a forest preserve in 1900, but 10 years later on May 11, 1910, President Taft signed the law establishing Glacier National Park. In addition to being the 10th national park, Glacier is also the 10th most popular (Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is the most popular national park).

The park won't "wow" you with its peaks it has only six peaks over 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) but it is one of the best examples of glacier-carved terrain from a time 10,000 years in the past.

Visitors can view the bedrock and deposited materials exposed by receding glaciers and imagine ancient seas and the movement of giant slabs of Earth that pushed up the mountain range that is known to Native Americans as the "Shining Mountains" and the "Backbone of the World."

Glacier Park isn't just a nod to the past in fact, it has glaciers today and many can be seen from the roads around the park. Their blue ice and crevasses separate them from the snowfield above the timberline. The alpine glaciers melt and re-freeze to move snow downhill like a conveyor belt. This cycle creates U-shaped valleys that are impressively vertical.

Reach OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel at Follow him on Twitter @btisrael.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.