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Glacier Park’s heart and soul: 93-year-old ranger

Lyle Ruterbories, 93, is pondering retirement from Glacier Park, where he has worked for more than 20 years.
Lyle Ruterbories, 93, is pondering retirement from Glacier Park, where he has worked for more than 20 years.

Lyle Ruterbories may leave after 20-plus years

WEST GLACIER , Mont.– At 93 years old, Glacier National Park Ranger Lyle Ruterbories is contemplating retirement from his seasonal position at Kintla Lake Campground, but isn’t ready to make it official just yet.

Ruterbories has worked as the  Kintla Lake Campground seasonal park ranger for the past 20 years. Prior to that he’d been volunteer campground host with his late wife Marge Ruterbories since the late 1980s.

Kintla Lake Campground is the most remote frontcountry campground in Glacier National Park. Located in the northwest section of the park known as the North Fork, only a few miles from the U.S.-Canada border, visitors often come to Kintla Lake seeking solitude and recreational opportunities such as fishing or canoeing.

Each week Ruterbories travels the rough and bumpy Inside North Fork Road from Polebridge to Kintla carrying food, water, and propane to the remote Kintla Ranger Station, which has no electricity, running water, or telephone.

The Kintla ranger must be skilled at rustic living, able to live and work independently and possess a wide-range of skills to accommodate various resource and visitor needs, park officials say.

Daily duties include managing campground facilities, collecting fees, educating visitors on resource and park history topics, and conducting trail or lake patrol as time allows.

It’s a rigorous job description even for a young pup. Yet park officials say Ruterbories often goes above and beyond his daily duties, contributing countless hours to numerous projects.

He’s installed log barriers for each campsite parking spot to protect vegetation, constructed a log rail fence around the Kintla Ranger Station, leveled Kintla campsites and built walking paths to Kintla Creek and the beach area of Kintla Lake.

Ruterbories refinished the wood floor of the Kintla Ranger Station himself and pulls weeds in the Kintla Lake Campground area almost daily.

“Lyle has high expectations for running a first-rate campground and he consistently delivers quality work each and every year,” North Fork District Ranger Scott Emmerich said. “Lyle is a positive role model for those who complain about getting old. He’s proof that age is just a state of mind.”

Born in 1920, Ruterbories grew up on a Nebraska farm during the Great Depression and served in WWII before settling in Wheat Ridge, Colorado with his wife and six children. A sheet metal worker by trade, Ruterbories retired from the nuclear weapons production facility, Rocky Flats Plant, after a 30-year career.

In 1962, at the urging of their son, Ruterbories and his wife visited Glacier Park, where they made an immediate connection that lured them back nearly every year. Eventually, they worked as a team at Kintla Lake Campground. He was the park ranger and she the camp host.

“You become part of this place,” said Ruterbories. “My wife called Kintla her paradise on Earth.”

Marge Ruterbories passed away in 2005. The couple were married for 65 years and together they traveled to 93 countries, including Antarctica twice, but they kept coming back to Glacier.

Ruterbories plans to continue to travel after retiring from his work at Glacier National Park. One of the things he enjoys most about his job at the campground is the opportunity to meet and connect with people from all over the world.

“Visitors return to Kintla every year just to see Lyle,” noted Emmerich. Ruterbories planned to return home to Colorado soon after the summer season ended at Kintla Lake Campground last weekend. His project list includes building a sun room and solar heating system for his house.

 “Lyle has a zest for living, a positive work ethic and never ending curiosity,” said Emmerich. “He will be sorely missed at Glacier National Park when he retires, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return for at least one more year.”