As the snowpack slowly builds at Mount Rainier National Park, staffers have been making the transitioning to winter operations.
The entire park is open for visitor use throughout the winter, including overnight winter camping with a valid permit. Access to the park, however, is dependent on road conditions.
The park’s main gate at the Nisqually entrance remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless hazardous conditions require a temporary closure — such as recent flooding.
The gate just above Longmire is closed nightly to ensure visitor and staff safety. Rangers and road staff will evaluate road, weather, avalanche and staffing conditions daily when making a decision on whether it is safe to open the road to Paradise, said park superintendent Randy King.
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The plan for the road above Longmire will be to have it open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., with uphill traffic halted at 4 p.m. to allow time for visitors and staff members to exit safely. Park staff members send out projected upper gate opening time via Twitter about 7:30 a.m.
For the early part of last winter, the road from Longmire to Paradise was closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays because of a staffing shortage and budget cuts.
Elsewhere in the park, state Routes 410 and 123, Stevens Canyon and the Mowich Lake roads are closed for the winter.
Visitors also are reminded that all vehicles (including four-wheel-drive) are required to carry tire chains when traveling in the park.
Here is an update on other aspects of park operations:
SNOWPLAY AREA: At press time, there was still not enough snow to safely open the Paradise snowplay area. Park managers want to have at least 5 feet of snowpack to avoid damage to the fragile meadow plants as well as for visitor safety.
OVERNIGHT CAMPING: Campers should plan their travels with an understanding of nightly gate closures. Overnight camping in vehicles is not permitted in the park. For winter camping reservations, call 360-569-6575 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
HENRY M. JACKSON MEMORIAL VISITOR CENTER: It is open 10 a.m.-4:15 p.m. weekends and holidays only. But now through Jan. 1, the center is open daily. During the winter break opening, the Longmire Information Center will be closed with staff reassigned to Paradise.
GUIDED SNOWSHOE WALKS: They are offered at the Jackson visitor center at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign-up begins one hour in advance of each walk at the information desk. Participants should dress warmly and in layers, have warm hats and gloves and wear adequate footwear for snowshoes. Sunglasses and sunscreen are also advised.
NEW FOREST OFFICIAL
Angela Elam has been named the new deputy forest supervisor at Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Elam has been working as the district ranger of the Payson Ranger District on the Tonto National Forest since June 2011.
An Arizona native, Elam has a bachelor’s degree in forest management from Northern Arizona University, and a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Arizona.
Elam also has worked at White River National Forest, Colorado; the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Arizona; the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania; and the Ashley National Forest, Utah. She began her career as a seasonal firefighter on the Mesa Ranger District, Tonto National Forest.
YELLOWSTONE GEYSER APP
While not one of the parks we always cover, there is a new app that will help visitors at Yellowstone National Park find out when Old Faithful and five other predictable geysers could erupt.
The app also includes a link to a webcam so that you can view live eruptions of Old Faithful and other nearby geysers and has an FAQ section.
The app was developed in partnership with Dr. Brett Oppegaard, Washington State University Vancouver and University of Hawaii, and the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park and Harpers Ferry Center. The app was made possible, in part, by a donation from Canon USA, Inc., through the Yellowstone Park Foundation.
The app is available in the Google Play Store and in the Apple App Store.