Belly River Valley

The Belly River Valley and its tributary valleys are some of Glacier’s premier backcountry destinations. The name Belly River is an English translation of the Blackfeet word Mokowanis, specifically the intestines of bison. Mokowanis Lake retains the Blackfeet name.

The Belly River contains several high peaks, including two of Glacier’s six “10ers”, Mount Merritt and Glacier’s highest peak, Mount Cleveland. Several other noteworthy peaks can be found rimming the region, including Chief Mountain (a holy mountain to several Native American tribes in Montana and Alberta), Gable Mountain, Natoas Peak, Mount Ipasha, Cathedral Peak and the Stoney Indian Peaks.

Fed by multiple lakes and glaciers, the Belly’s headwaters lie on the eastern side of the Continental Divide, springing forth from Ahern, Ipasha, Cheney, Old Sun glaciers, as well as the recently declassified Miche Wabun and Whitecrow glaciers. The Belly River has many forks, emanating from several valleys which also contain many lakes. All of the valley floor lakes have backcountry campsites, including Elizabeth, Helen, Cosley, Glenn’s and Mokowanis. These lakes afford incredible fishing opportunities, but these are the easily reached lakes. Perhaps the defining characteristic of the Belly River Valley are the many high alpine lakes which cannot be reached by trail, including Sue, Margaret, Ipasha, Kaina and Whitecrow Lakes, among others. The number and various colors of these lakes make for one of North America’s more pristine and beautiful wonderlands. The Belly and its many tributary lakes eventually flow northeast out of the park and into Canada where they eventually meet with the Oldman River and then the South Saskatchewan River and onto Hudson Bay.

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