Mount Rainier Roads and Bridges
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was assigned the task of constructing a park access road in 1903. The Corps had recently completed the road system for Yellowstone National Park, and this experience would prove helpful in the rugged terrain of Mount Rainier. Surveys for the road were conducted in 1903 and 1904 under the direction of Eugene V. Ricksecker, a talented civilian engineer employed by the Corps' Seattle office. Construction began in August 1904.
The road to Paradise was planned as a "pleasure road" for park visitors, taking advantage of the glorious views and providing access to some of the most spectacular glaciers and waterfalls. A maximum grade of 4 percent, considered the steepest over which horses could trot and cyclists pedal, was adopted. The natural terrain was followed wherever possible, creating a road of gentle grades and graceful curves.
In July 1908, the road reached the Nisqually Glacier, and was hailed as the first road in America to reach a glacier. The road was completed to the "Camp of the Clouds" at Paradise Valley in 1910; however, automobiles were not permitted on the upper section of the road until 1915.
When President William Howard Taft's touring car made the trip to Paradise Valley in 1911, the road was not completely passable, and the car was dragged into the valley by a team of mules. Considerable improvements had to be made before private automobiles were allowed to make the complete journey four years later.
The new road immediately proved popular and visitation at Mount Rainier National Park soared. Visitors could leave Seattle or Tacoma in the morning, have lunch at Longmire Springs, and spend the afternoon in Paradise Valley.
| Introduction | Acadia | Blue Ridge Parkway | Colonial Parkway | Generals Highway | George Washington Memorial Parkway | Great Smoky Mountains | Mount Rainier | Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway | Shenandoah's Skyline Drive | Southwest Circle Tour | Vicksburg | Yellowstone | Yosemite | Discover History |