Wild Goose Island, Glacier National Park

‘A Montana Legend’

-As retold by S.E. Schlosser

“In the middle of St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park is a small island halfway between two shores. Many moons ago now, there were two tribes living on either side of the lake. While there was no direct warfare between them, the two tribes avoided one another and had no dealings one with the other.  

All this changed one day when a handsome warrior on the nearshore saw a lovely maiden from the other tribe swimming toward the small island in the middle of the lake. He was instantly smitten by her beauty and leaped into the lake to swim to the island himself. They met on the shore of the little islet, and the maiden was as taken with the warrior as he was with her. They talked for hours, and by the end of their conversation, they were betrothed. After extracting a promise from his beloved that she would faithfully meet him at the island on the morrow, the warrior swam home to his tribe, and she returned to hers.  

Oh, what an uproar they met upon their return. Neither tribe was happy at their meeting, and all were determined to break the betrothal instantly. What to do?  The man and the maiden had no doubts at all. In the wee hours of the morning, each swam out to the little island to meet one another — from there to flee to a new land where they might marry. As soon as they were discovered missing, warriors from both tribes set out in pursuit, to bring the renegades back by whatever means available.  

But the Great Spirit was watching and took pity on the young lovers. He transformed them into geese, which mate for life, so they could fly away from their pursuers and so that they would always be together. When the warriors arrived on the island, they found not a man and a woman, but two lovely geese walking among the small trees and bracken. At the sight of the warriors, the two geese stroked their necks together lovingly and then flew away, never to return.  

From that day to this, the little island at the center of Saint Mary Lake has been known as Wild Goose Island.”

Montana Legend borrowed from www.americanfolklore.net

Wild Goose Island is a tiny speck of land that dots the waters of Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park. The island rises only 14 feet from the surface of the water yet is in the center of one of the most often photographed locations along the world-famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.

If you have seen a photograph of Saint Mary Lake with the jagged mountain peaks rising all around a glassy lake, this is more than likely that image. If you’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s film “The Shining” (the one with Jack Nicholson), it is Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island that is depicted during the opening sequence to the film(go back and take a look if you don’t remember, it is an epic opening scene).

Wild Goose Island Viewpoint is the spot that most of those images were made. A pull-off from Going-To-The-Sun Road, the viewpoint offers one of those truly iconic National Parks scenes that rank up there with Tunnel View at Yosemite, Hopi Point at Grand Canyon as well as Lower Falls from Artist’s Point at Yellowstone. True iconic images of the Park System. These are images we’ve seen since childhood on postcards and wall calendars. They have the impact to spark feelings of grandeur and magnificence and played a significant role in these locations becoming protected as National Parks, and in drawing interested visitors each year by the millions.

Inside the boundaries of Glacier National Park exists what many consider to be among the most beautiful mountain regions of the world, as well as an estimated 130 sapphire lakes (Saint Mary being one of these) and a completely intact ecosystem of more than 1,000 species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals. This abundant flora includes Glacier’s signature Beargrass and wildflowers blooms like Paintbrush, Glacier Lily, and Fireweed.

Few scenes are more aesthetically pleasing than an avalanche slope or a glassy lake aglow with the soft morning light amidst the backdrop of towering peaks.

The peaks that border Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island rise to elevations over 8,000 feet and are called Red Eagle, Mahtotopa, Little Chief, Dusty Star, and Citadel, among others. This is the scene that unfolds before the eyes of the adventurous landscape photographer here at Glacier National Park. A picture postcard of classic beauty. Even if those two loving geese never returned.


Kenton Krueger








Kenton Krueger has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers, and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Katmai, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands National Parks, as well as internationally in Costa Rica & Brazil. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, and spent roughly five years writing and photographing for the award-winning Omaha World-Herald newspaper, out of his hometown, Omaha, Nebraska. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of trip leading and guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens, to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.