The beautiful Poia Lake sits in the Kennedy Creek drainage just north of the main Many Glacier Area of Glacier National Park. With a little bit of effort going over Swiftcurrent Ridge, you can enjoy this beautiful lake in a quieter area of the park.
We’ve been doing quite a bit of citizen science work as part of their citizen science program this year. It’s a fun way to explore the park and help keep track of the animals roaming, flying, floating, and just living their lives in this wonderful landscape. This year we’ve done surveys of loons, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, harlequin ducks, and pikas.
July 14th-15th this year was “Loon Days” where we try and survey every single lake in Glacier to get a snapshot of how many loons and how many loon chicks there are. This data helps us understand how the populations are doing. Since we were going to be there with a spotting scope and binoculars, we decided to do a mountain goat/bighorn sheep survey as well as a pika survey in the talus fields we encountered before the lake.
The day started out sunny and warm, so we knew it was going to be a hot one. As we worked our way up Swiftcurrent Ridge, we stopped to check out the myriad flowers while numerous birds flew around with recently fledged Cedar Waxwings and Chipping Sparrows following their parents begging for food. After a bit of forested walking with pocket meadows, we broke out into more open meadows higher up getting sweeping views of Apikuni Mountain to the north and the Many Glacier area to the south and west.
As we approached the top of the wooded ridge, we circled around Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake, a lake tucked into the mountain with no real inlet or outlet. A few more switchbacks and then it was a lot of downhill into the Kennedy Creek drainage. As we got to the valley floor, we were rewarded with lovely views of a shoulder off Yellow Mountain with a seasonal waterfall still crashing down. Kennedy Creek flowed down below us as we gently climbed up along its banks.
I’d forgotten how much elevation we needed to gain to get up to the lake. Fortunately the expanding views give you a reason to pause. Kennedy Creek crashes down as a series of cascades while to the south, Apikuni Mountain’s eroding hillside is perfect Pika habitat and we heard a few of there “Eeeeeps” from the talus fields.
We entered the forest just before the campground, then lake where we spotted the uncommon Boreal Chickadee while three Clark’s Nutcrackers flew overhead. We passed through the campground, then to the edge of the lake.
Common Loons are fairly uncommon at Poia Lake, so we didn’t expect to see any. While we didn’t see any loons, we did see quite a few Barrow’s Goldeneyes and a few Canada Geese. After we filled our our survey forms, we moved across the footbridge and up to the hillside. We did our mountain goat/bighorn sheep survey where we saw a female bighorn sheep with her lamb. Later, after the survey, we spied a mountain goat which we noted in the survey later.
On the way back, we did a couple of pika surveys which involved us traveling through the boulder fields, looking for their hay piles and scat. We were trying to collect scat for some DNA analysis, so we put on some latex gloves and collected them into little envelopes for sending to the lab later.
Once we were done with our science stuff, we filtered some water and began the trek back up and over the ridge to our vehicle.