Montana’s Majestic Chief Mountain

September 04, 2018

ChiefMtnEPOD329c_15june18 (3)

Photographer: Ray Boren 
Summary Author: Ray Boren 

Visible over vast distances, Montana’s Chief Mountain rises like a sentinel where the Great Plains of mid-North America meet the Rocky Mountains — and also just south of the topographic boundary shared by the United States and Canada, along the 49th Parallel. The blocky peak, shown here in a photograph taken on the stormy evening of June 15, 2018, from rolling foothills and ranch lands to the north in the Canadian province of Alberta, also marks a boundary between Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and is just a hop and a skip from Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park.

The mountain, which summits at 9,085 feet (2,769 m.), is described geologically as a klippe structure, an isolated erosional remnant that has tectonically shifted from its original location. The National Park Service reports that this is due primarily to thrust faulting, in this case by way of the 200-mile-long (320 km) Lewis Overthrust underlying mountains in Montana and Alberta. Because of this type of tectonic shifting and slipping, remarkably old rocks have been forced over considerably younger ones at Chief Mountain. The blocky upper layers, primarily limestone and dolomite, are composed of ocean sediments of the Precambrian (600 million years ago). They're piled atop Cretaceous sedimentary formations that are younger by 400 to 500 million years.

Chief Mountain, called Ninaistako, with much the same meaning, by the Blackfeet people, is considered sacred by them and by other Native American and First Nations peoples and is said to possess great power. Ritual ceremonies have been performed there for thousands of years by members of the Blackfoot Confederacy, which includes the Siksika, or Blackfoot; the Kainah, or Blood; and the Pikuni, or Blackfeet. The Blackfeet in Montana jointly manage the mountain with Glacier National Park, though the park’s eastern boundary is disputed by them.

Photo Details: Camera: NIKON D3200; Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400); Aperture: ƒ/11.0; ISO equivalent: 400; Focal Length (35mm): 360.