Though some Mount Rainier National Park employees are to return to work at Longmire on Monday, public access to Paradise now won’t happen until April.
Recent snow and rain have slowed work on the road to Longmire, forcing park officials to push back their estimate for reopening the park’s most traveled road.
“What we have been saying all along is if everything went perfectly, we would be open by mid-March,” park spokesman Kevin Bacher said Friday. “At this point, it will be early April.”
Crews on Thursday began installing the first of two sets of culverts to deal with the rerouted Kautz Creek about three miles from the Nisqually entrance. Three culverts, 30 inches wide by 40 feet long, will be installed about a quarter-mile from the existing Kautz Creek bridge.
The creek has been flowing over the road ever since a debris pile created by the Nov. 6-7 floods forced it out of its channel and through the forest.
When those culverts are installed, crews will move about 100 yards west and install two 12-foot-wide culverts to carry the creek under the road.
“They are intended to withstand a 50-year flood,” he added.
The work at Kautz Creek and on other park roads is being funded by $36 million allocated by the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration.
Elsewhere in the park:
Wonderland Trail: Park officials have not made a final decision on whether to take reservations for hiking the trail this summer. That typically doesn’t happen until early April.
“I expect we will not,” Bacher said. “Our wilderness rangers don’t see how we can possibly do that. Based on what we already know and what our expectations are, it will be difficult if not impossible to do the entire Wonderland Trail this year.
“We expect all the lowland bridges to be washed out. We also know there are long stretches of trail we could see from air that have washed away all the way down to bedrock.”
Longmire: The first employees to return to the park’s operational center will have a daily commute to contend with. They will travel in convoys in the morning and evening along the access road south of the Nisqually River. They also will have to contend with temporary power outages as work is done at Kautz Creek.
Milepost 5: Farther east, crews have begun to repair a 65-foot slide. The plan is to rebuild the embankment.
“In order to put that in place, we have to build a temporary access road along the river.” Bacher said. “This past week, our crews have been cutting that road so they can deliver the materials to build that.”
Sunshine Point: The remaining step, sealing the roadway, requires a stretch of good weather.
Milepost 9: Park officials are finalizing the design specifications to repair another large slide beyond Longmire. This work will be done at the same time as at Milepost 5.
Visiting the park
On Sundays, visitors can walk the Nisqually Road and up the Westside Road in Mount Rainier National Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At 1 p.m. there’s a ranger-led walk up the Westside Road.
Visitors also can join a park ranger for a guided hike at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
For more information, call 360-569-2211, ext. 6131, or go to www.nps.gov/mora.
How to help
The Student Conservation Association, a nationwide volunteer conservation organization, will direct volunteer recovery efforts at the park. Those interested in volunteering may register at www.theSCA.org or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640