|About the Site|
|Mt. Rainier National Park|
The road system in the park is quite impressive, providing visitors with access to spectacular scenery from their cars while still preserving 96% of the park as wilderness. There are approximately 80 miles of paved road within the park and 150 miles if you count unpaved, gravel roads.
At one time there was a plan to build a road completely around the mountain. However, after 1921 and following the advocacy of the conservation group The Mountaineers, this plan was abandoned and the north and west side of the park were allowed to remain largely in a wilderness state. The main, paved road runs in an east-west direction in the extreme southern section of the park, and connects with a north-south section of road in the extreme eastern section of the park.
Paradise to Longmire The largest number of visitors to Mt. Rainier National Park enter through the Nisqually entrance station. This entrance, which includes the famous log arch and which is located at an altitude of 2000 feet, is shown below.
The arch was created in response to a request from park superintendant Edward S. Hall in 1910. The arch was originally built of cedar logs and stood 24 feet high and 22 feet wide. The arch was originally built in 1911 and was reconstructed in 1972.
The most heavily used road in the park is runs from the southwest or Nisqually entrance to the park to the Longmire area and then climbs the mountain up to Paradise. This road, originally built between 1903 and 1911, was carefully designed to add to the scenic value of the area.
The road leads past the visitor complex at Longmire. Below, a section of the road running beyond the National Park Inn can be see with a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier in the background.
Longmire to Paradise Beyond the Longmire area, the park road climbs steadily toward the Paradise area. The road to Paradise is the most heavily used of the roads in the park, due not only to the popularity of the Paradise Valley area but also because the road is kept open throughout the winter. this section of the road also provides some of the best views of Mt. Rainier, the Tatoosh Range, and the southwest section of the park.
For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.
This road was one of the first roads built in any national park. It was designed by Eugene Ricksecker. In 1908 an improved highway to the Nisqually Glacier was opened. In 1911, the road all the way to Paradise Valley was completed. President William Howard Taft road in the first car to make the trip from Longmire to Paradise, although the car had to receive some help from horse at several spots along the way.
A noteworthy section along this section of the road can be found at Ricksecker Point. Here there is a side spur from the Paradise road with several pull-offs which provide outstanding panoramic views of the Tatoosh Range and Nisqually Glacier and Nisqually River.
Looking in a southerly direction from Ricksecker Point provides a view of the Tatoosh Range.
Another view from this area shows mountains and forests. Ricksecker Point provides views of the Tatoosh Range, Rampart Ridge, and the valley of the Nisqually River.
Another view of the mountains from one of the overlooks on the road at Ricksecker Point is shown below.
The spur road along the edge of the ridge can be seen below, during the winter.
The most noteworty views from Ricksecker Point are of the Nisqually Glacier and the Nisqually River which descends from its terminus. In the picture below, the bridge where the main park road crosses the river can be seen below the glacier. In the 1840's, when the area was first visited by Americans, the glacier stretched far below this place.
Interestingly, the view of the glacier and the Nisqually River may be clear while the mountain itself is completely invisible because of clouds and fog.
Paradise Areas There is a loop off of the main road which leads to the Jackson Visitor Center, Paradise Inn, and other features in the visitor complex in Paradise Valley. In the picture below the roads can be seen in the lower half of the picture with the Tatoosh Range in the background.
Another view of the loop road with the Tatoosh Range in the background is seen here.
Beyond Paradise The park road, particularly in the south section of the park, features a number of turnouts which provide outstanding views of Mt. Rainier and other features of the park. One turnout just beyond the Paradise loop provides a spectacular view of the Tatoosh Range and the valley of the Paradise River.
This turnout, and many others, feature beautiful stonework.
Southwest of Paradise the park road crawls along the walls of Stevens Canyon. The road can be seen below on the north wall of the canyon.
The road in Stevens Creek Canyon was completed in 1957. It provides spectacular views for its full passage through the canyon.
The park road crosses many rivers and steams on scenic stone bridges. The bridge below shows the Cowlitz River as it flows below the road in the Box Canyon.
Mather Memorial Parkway One of the noteworthy roads in the park is the Mather Memorial Parkway, named after Stephen T. Mather, the first director of the National Park Service. The road stretches 53 miles in a north-south direction in the east side of the park. This road began as an Indian trail, and later was established as a mining road. The parkway itself was established in 1931. Mather was insistent that the beauty of the area be carefully maintained in the construction of the road.
Road to Sunrise Another of the most spectacular roads in the park is the road to Sunrise. The road provides access to the Sunrise area from the Mather Memorial Parkway on the east side of the park. The road climbs up Sunrise Ridge and is the highest paved road in the state of Washington. It provides several spectacular vistas of the east side of Mt. Rainer and other mountains in the Cascade Range. Below is a shot of Mt. Rainier and the road to Sunrise.
The road makes a switchback around a parking lot at Sunrise Point. This location, at an altitude of 6100 feet, provides views of Mt. Rainier as well as a number of other mountains, which on a clear day might include Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.
The idea for the turnout here was conceived of by Asabel Curtis. Curtis was a prominent photographer who as also a conservationist and early advocate for Mount Rainier National Park. The stonework at Sunrise Point, evident in the picture below, was done by laborers of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.
The road continues into Yakima Park and the Paradise visitor complex.
Birds and Animals
Among the attractions of the park are the variety of wildlife. 50 different mammals can be found in the park.
The Columbian black-tailed deer is one of two subspecies in the park. It is probably the most popular of the large mammals in the park, as well as the most common. Here, one of these deer can be seen before disappearing in forest cover.
In addition to mammals and other ground animals there are a number of winged creatures which can be observed throughout the park.
There are 145 to 150 species of birds which can be fond in Mt. Rainier National Park. Snags provide excellent places to perch or nest, as can be seen in the picture below.
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