Flooding forces Mount Rainier NP to close Nisqually entrance

Flooding at Mount Rainier on Tuesday forced the park’s closure and the evacuation of guests and some staff, acting superintendent Tracy Swartout said.

A log jam at Kautz Creek threatened a bridge before workers cleared the debris, but water spilled over the road prompting the closure of the Nisqually Entrance in the park’s southwest corner. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Nisqually River. The Nisqually River stream gauge near the park shows the river flow jumped from 925 cubic feet per second at 3:45 p.m. Monday to 11,500 cfs at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Swartout said water leaked into some facilities, including the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, and crews are working to pump the water. Sandbags were placed along the road at the volunteer campground across the river from Longmire.

About 20 park employees, some of whom live at Longmire, remained in the park Tuesday, but guests of the National Park Inn where evacuated.

About five inches of rain at Paradise coupled with about six inches of melted snow fueled the flooding. There was also flooding on the Carbon River, but no reports of damage, Swartout said.

The section of road between the Nisqually Entrance and Longmire was under construction over the summer and construction is scheduled to resume in the spring. Swartout said the flooding is not expected to setback roadwork.

The park will access reopening on Wednesday morning.

While the rain and melting snow conjured memories of the historic 2006 flood that caused $36 million in damage to the park, Swartout said there was no indication Tuesday flood would do that type of damage.

During the 2006 flood, 17.9 inches of rain fell in 36 hours filling the Nisqually River to its record flow of 21,800 cfs. The ‘06 flood destroyed the Carbon River Road (now classified as a trail), wiped out the Sunshine Point Campground near the Nisqually Entrance, undercut facilities at Longmire and damaged trails and roads.