Debris on State Route 706
Debris on State Route 706 (WSDOT Photos)

Wash­ing­ton State’s first Nation­al Park, which encom­pass­es the state’s tallest peak and one of its most endur­ing sym­bols, Mount Rainier, has become total­ly inac­ces­si­ble due to flood­ing and mud­slides that have blocked roads lead­ing to all of its entrances, includ­ing the famous Road to Par­adise:

Crews are work­ing to remove debris from land­slides cov­er­ing all roads to Mount Rainier Nation­al Park, but it’s unclear when access to the park will be available.

Both state Route 410 near Green­wa­ter and Route 706 in Ash­ford closed Thurs­day after relent­less rains trig­gered sev­er­al slides.

The week­end brought progress to the work on Route 410.

Three of four land­slides were cleared from a 20-mile stretch, with crews work­ing overnight to remove trees, mud and oth­er debris that spilled across all lanes, accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Transportation.

Although locals were grant­ed access Sun­day evening, a one-mile clo­sure remains between Mud Moun­tain Road and Greenwater.

And that’s not all. Not only are the two main high­ways lead­ing into the park closed, but there is also “no access to Car­bon Riv­er in the north­west cor­ner of the park due to a washout of Fair­fax For­est Reserve Road E. between Mowich Lake Road and Man­ley Moore Road on route to the Car­bon Riv­er Ranger Sta­tion,” the Nation­al Park Ser­vice reports in its Road Sta­tus report.

As a con­se­quence, it is not pos­si­ble to vis­it the park right now.

The park’s oth­er entrances are all closed for the win­ter, includ­ing the por­tions of State Route 410 that wind through Chi­nook and Cayuse Passes.

While WSDOT is doing its best to get State Route 410 cleaned up so that Crys­tal Moun­tain Ski Resort can reopen, State Route 706 is in such bad shape that work can­not even be under­tak­en to clear the debris right now. WSDOT explains:

Many trav­el­ers who vis­it Mount Rainier Nation­al Park often refer to State Route 706 east of Ash­ford as “the road to Paradise.”

But after sev­er­al days of tor­ren­tial rain, the road to Par­adise now resem­bles a mud­dy creek bed com­plete with large boul­ders, six-foot deep debris and sev­er­al streams in areas where they should­n’t be. In short, the road­way is a mess and the hill­side above is extreme­ly unsta­ble. That means the road, which first closed due to slides at 4 AM on Feb­ru­ary 6th, will remain closed with no time­frame for reopening.

While we know keep­ing the high­way closed is frus­trat­ing to res­i­dents and back­coun­try adven­tur­ers seek­ing the tran­quil­i­ty of one of our state’s most notable land­marks, until water from the dis­placed streams is redi­rect­ed, we can’t reopen the highway.

Besides the dam­age to State Route 706, there’s also dam­age to park roads and struc­tures, includ­ing at Park Head­quar­ters in the Long­mire His­toric Dis­trict:

Con­tin­ued flood­ing with­in park bound­aries was caus­ing dam­age to roads, trails, and his­toric struc­tures, includ­ing the Nation­al Park Inn at Long­mire and oth­er nation­al­ly-sig­nif­i­cant build­ings with­in the Long­mire Nation­al His­toric Land­mark Dis­trict. Sev­er­al build­ings in Long­mire had lost crit­i­cal sys­tems as sump pumps have been unable to keep up with water intru­sion, the park reported.

Crews are were eval­u­at­ing road and drainage sys­tem dam­age between the Nisqually entrance and Long­mire; how­ev­er, con­tin­u­ing pre­cip­i­ta­tion was ham­per­ing crew progress.

Ini­tial indi­ca­tions are that the park’s main entrance road had sus­tained some dam­age near Sun­shine Point (where a cat­a­stroph­ic flood washed out the entrance road in 2006).

There is an emer­gency route into Long­mire that is being used by park offi­cials to resup­ply the essen­tial per­son­nel stay­ing there, but this route can­not be used by the pub­lic. It will be some time before Mount Rainier can accept vis­i­tors again.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts