Master Plan
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Congress established Mount Rainier National Park by Act of March 2, 1899 (30 Stat. 993) as a ". . .public park. . . for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. . ." Enlargements to the park boundaries were made on May 28, 1926 (44 Stat. 668), and January 31, 1931 (46 Stat. 1047). An additional 210 acres was purchased on January 13, 1946, for the Ashford Administrative site.

The purpose of the park is to protect, preserve, and interpret the natural, scenic, and historical resources in Mount Rainier National Park. These include Mount Rainier, a classic example of a composite dormant volcano, with the largest single peak glacial system in the contiguous United States. The park also contains outstanding examples of the native flora and fauna of the Cascade Mountains.

In 1893, committees were appointed by the Geological Society of America, the National Geographic Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Sierra Club, and the Appalchian Mountain Club to make recommendations to Congress for the establishment of a national park in Washington to include Mount Rainier (then called Mount Tacoma).

These committees submitted a combined recommendation which was the basis for the bill establishing the park. Contained in the recommendation were the following statements:

"The combination of ice scenery with woodland scenery of the grandest type is to be found nowhere in the Old World, unless it be in the Himalayas; and, so far as we know, nowhere else on the American continent."

"Mount Tacoma is singular not merely because it is superbly majestic; it is an arctic island in a temperate zone."

"Therefore, for the preservation of the property of the United States, for the protection from floods of the people of Washington in the Yakima, Cowlitz, Nisqually, Puyallup, and White River valleys, and for the pleasure and education of the nation, your memorialists pray that the area above described be declared a national park forever."

"For the National Geographic Society, G. Gardiner Hubbard

For the American Association for the Advancement of Science, J. W. Powell

For the Geological Society of America, Bailey Willis

For the Sierra Club, John Muir

For the Appalachian Mountain Club, John Ritchie, Jr. Washington, D.C., June 27, 1894"


Mount Rainier National Park is a natural area and shall be managed in accordance with the approved policies for such areas.


Resource Description

The topography of the park is rugged and precipitous, consisting mainly of peaks and valleys. The Cascade Range on the east, the Tatoosh Range on the south, and mountains on all sides tower from 2,000 to 4,000 feet above the valleys. They are spectacular mountains but are dwarfed by the mass of Mount Rainier.

From the 2,000-foot elevation at the park boundaries to 4,000 feet, dense forests of Douglas-fir, Western redcedar, and Western hemlock clothe the valleys and hillsides. Between 4,000 feet and 6,500 feet, Western hemlock, Alaska cedar, and subalpine fir grow in increasingly open stands. Above 7,000 feet, rock, snow, and ice prevail.

The slopes of Mount Rainier provide suitable habitat for approximately 130 species of birds and 50 species of mammals. Some animals, such as deer and elk, make seasonal migrations, following receding snows up the mountain in spring and descending at the approach of winter. The elk present a potential resource management problem. Beginning in 1913, there have been six elk transplants close to Mount Rainier National Park. These animals have prospered and they are extending their range within the park. Evidence is available that overbrowsing and competition for forage occurs in some areas.

Weather is a highly significant factor in the existence of glaciers, forests, and other natural features. As moisture-laden westerly winds move inland, the first barrier they meet is Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range. Here moisture falls as rain and snow. There is a significant variation in climatic conditions within the park. For example, Paradise (5,400 feet) receives an average of 106 inches per year, and Longmire (2,700 feet) receives an average of 81 inches. Longmire has twenty percent less precipitation, one-fourth as much snow, and nearly twice as long a snow-free season as Paradise.

Some warm, clear weather may be expected in July and August and again in late winter, although clouds and fog often obscure the mountain. There is an average of 110 cloudless days each year. The snowpack of 10-30 feet at the 5,000-foot level usually disappears in early July, only to begin to accumulate again in October.

The hydrology of the park is complicated by several factors. Glacial streams change their channels rapidly and constantly, resulting in damage to roads and trails. Fall floods resulting from warm winds and rain melting early snowpacks also wipe out trails and bridges and at times other facilities. Debris flows may accompany the fall floods, or may result from glacier outburst floods, generally in late summer. These too have been extremely destructive. The snowpack that stores over half of each year's precipitation prevents the use of some of the most scenic trails and roads until July.


Approximately 70 percent of the park visitors come during June, July, August, and September, and only 8 percent come during December, January, February, and March. Regardless of the time of year, 54 percent of all visitation occurs on weekends. Mount Rainier is primarily a summer and weekend use area. About 90 percent of the park visitation is on a day-use basis. Most visitors view the features from within or near their automobiles.

Overnight use in the campgrounds and lodges comprises less than 10 percent of the total visitation. There is a strong local feeling that Mount Rainier belongs to Tacoma and Seattle, since over 50 percent of the visitors are from these cities. The people of the Puget Sound area were instrumental in the park's establishment. They have influenced its development over the years and continue to be the major users.

Less than 10 percent of the visitors to Mount Rainier camp, but they number about 135,000 each year. While campers come from many walks of life, this is one activity that is within the financial means of all segments of society. In this sense, it is one of the most democratic aspects of park use.

More than 200,000 people use the park trails each year. This is slightly more than 10 percent of the total park visitation. There are presently less than 500 horse users per year, due in part to steep terrain and lack of facilities.

Climbing Mount Rainier has increased over 400 percent in 10 years. Both guided parties and independent parties have been on the rise. The rate of increase is accelerating.

Fishing, boating, and swimming activity is very limited, due mainly to cold water in high-elevation lakes and glacial streams. Less than 200 boats are used in the park each year.

An average of 16,000 skiers use the park each winter. Other snow play use, however, amounted to more than twice that figure. Snowmobile use is almost nil. Only 50-60 vehicles are recorded annually.

There has been very little, if any, activity on the mining claim properties in the past five years. There is no grazing permitted in the park except that incidental to saddle horse trips.

In their 10-year forecast, made in 1968, the Branch of Statistical Analysis estimated that Mount Rainier will receive 1,938,700 visitors by 1977. This is a very modest increase.

Presently, there are some 8-12 days each season (Saturdays and Sundays) when portions of the park road system, parking areas, campgrounds, and picnic areas are inadequate. However, considering a 90-day summer season, present capacity is adequate. Under the section "Visitor Use," increases in picnic sites are mentioned. This involves deletions as well as increases. Several minor revisions in parking facilities are proposed.

Sanitation facilities are not adequate at high elevations on the mountain at present. Such facilities will have to be improved in both quality and quantity as the number of climbers increases.

The Rainier National Park Company is now rehabilitating existing rooms at the Paradise Inn. This is essential to bring them to an acceptable standard. There is need to replace the entire concessioner facility at Longmire to adequately serve present as well as future visitors.


The region is rich in all types of recreational opportunities. The park is surrounded by national forests and timber company lands offering big game hunting (deer, elk, goat, and bear) in addition to fishing, hiking, camping, and similar activities. More opportunities exist for development of campgrounds outside the park than within, due to lower elevations, better topography, and longer season of use. There are presently 120 campgrounds and picnic areas within a 65-mile radius of Mount Rainier, and room for development of many more.

There are eight other National Park Service areas in the State — two national parks, three historic sites, and three recreation areas — with a total acreage of 1,910,000 acres. The Forest Service administers six national forests in Washington, including approximately 9.7 million acres with 4.5 million recreation visits annually. Two national forests, the Snoqualmie and Gifford Pinchot National Forests, almost completely surround Mount Rainier National Park. Sprinkled across the State are 13 national wildlife refuges and 2.5 million acres of Indian lands. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers offer numerous recreational opportunities in the Columbia Basin Project. The State of Washington operates a park system embracing 71,838 acres, consisting of 100 State parks, 10 marine parks, and 20 historical and geological sites. Other recreational lands in the State include 364,775 acres of land and 200 lakes under the State Department of Game, two million acres of forest land, and 5,000 miles of tide and shorelands administered by the State Department of Natural Resources.

In the Pacific Northwest, tourism is the fourth largest and probably the fastest growing basic industry. Only the food, defense, and forest products industries, in that order, account for greater employment. In 1964 an estimated 900 million dollars was spent by tourists in the Pacific Northwest. In terms of participation, recreation demand is forecast to be four times greater in the year 2000 than it was in 1960.

There are four metropolitan areas located within a 65-mile radius of the park:

Seattle, population 590,000; Tacoma, 188,000; Yakima, 46,000; and Olympia, 21,000. The major portion of visitation to Mount Rainier comes from these urban areas.

Yearly visitation origins are as follows:

Washington State
   King County48%
   Pierce County31%
   Thurston County12%
Other States

There are six access roads into the park. The State Highway Commission has furnished estimates for 1990 based upon trends during the past four years. Generally, their estimates run from three to four times the present average daily volume.


General Management

Operate the park on a year-round basis, providing visitor services commensurate with seasonal demand.

Complete Park Headquarters development at Ashford site to include administrative offices, employee housing, and maintenance facilities.

Provide two management districts within the park.

Provide ranger stations, visitor centers, self-guiding interpretive facilities, maintenance facilities, and employee housing at six developed areas: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, White River, Sunrise, and Carbon River.

Collect entrance fees at Nisqually, White River, Carbon River, and Stevens Canyon entrances daily during June, July, August, and part of September. Otherwise these stations will be operated on weekends and holidays only, or until closed by snow.

Increase the park staffing level to make possible an operation at a program standard commensurate with protection and visitor needs in the foreseeable future.

Concession facilities and services will be provided as follows:

a. Longmire: Hotel, food service, service station, curio shop, and camper supplies.
b. Paradise: Hotel, food service, curio shop, guide service, and ski facilities.
c. White River: Service station.
d. Sunrise: Food service, curio shop, and camper supplies.

Acquire the remaining 165 acres of inholdings in fee simple.

Acquire lands on the southeastern end of the Tatoosh Range and Backbone Ridge as suggested in North Cascades Study Report.

Obtain scenic easements from private landowners and cooperative agreements with the Forest Service along the north, south, and west boundaries to protect the natural scenic integrity of the park.

Maintain an architectural theme on all future developments, utilizing native stone and wood.

Utilize commercial power for all government and concession facilities.

Resource Management

Clear vistas at selected points to provide and retain outstanding views of Mount Rainier and related scenery.

Manage the areas at and adjacent to Paradise through manipulation of vegetative cover to retain the subalpine wild flower fields. The system of surfaced trails will be expanded to reduce human impact on the delicate soil structure, which is susceptible to severe erosion.

Manage the Longmire meadow through manipulation of vegetation to restore and retain the historic scene.

Manage other subalpine meadows such as Sunrise, Indian Henrys Hunting Ground, Klapatche Park, Spray Park, Summerland, and Van Trump Park to retain the historic and ecological scene. This will entail progressive constraints on human use of the areas for camping. This is a very long-term objective designed to preclude damage of the kind which has occurred at Paradise. Some vegetative manipulation may be necessary based on thorough ecological research of the areas.

Control plant exotics such as the foxglove, bull thistle, Canada thistle, Scotch broom, and Klamath weed by an annual program of eradication.

Continue research on the numbers and migration patterns of elk, and on damage and threats they cause to native vegetation. Initiate control measures as necessary.

Emphasize research on deer and elk populations, glaciation and volcanism, and fire as agents affecting plant succession.

Visitor Use

Provide Class A campgrounds at elevations below 4,500 feet. Eliminate all camping from Paradise. Class A campgrounds will provide sites for either tent or trailer camping, but without utility hookups. Presently, there are approximately 900 automobile campsites within the park. Class A campgrounds will not exceed this level. Work with public land managers and private landowners on the perimeter of Mount Rainier National Park to ensure that camping opportunity is planned on a regional basis and to encourage the private sector to provide public camping facilities.

Provide increased picnicking facilities throughout the park. The total number of sites will be based on a thorough analysis of the natural and scientific values of the visitor-use areas involved.

Extend the trail system to provide better user distribution and to increase the number of lowland trails. Remove social trails and restore to natural conditions. Pave, or otherwise stabilize, selected trails in the highly used subalpine meadows at Paradise and Sunrise.

Provide for horse use within Mount Rainier National Park to the extent that such use does not impair ecological values. Historic practices of loose grazing will be reduced and ultimately eliminated. Use of concentrated horse foods makes this feasible. Those trails which cannot be maintained without undue erosion will be closed to horse use. A horse concession will not be provided.

Provide recreational fishing in the lakes and streams where this activity will not unduly disrupt the maintenance of the natural aquatic or shoreline environments. The introduction of hatchery-reared trout into the natural ecosystem will be phased out in order to improve quality angling for native fish.

Provide primitive campgrounds in the backcountry. Limit all backcountry development to areas most suitable for supporting concentrated use.

Provide snow recreation opportunity at Paradise, with attendant visitor services. Provide for snowmobile use on selected roads that are closed by snow and are away from visitor concentrations.

Provide a comprehensive and intensive climber safety program. Maintain a high camp with public shelter and sanitation facilities at Camp Muir and an emergency shelter at Camp Schurman.


The interpretive theme is: "An arctic island in a temperate zone." The "arctic island" will be interpreted as a whole, inseparably related, though set apart by elevation from its surrounding "temperate zone."

Provide the following facilities needed to interpret the park:

a. At Longmire, an all-year information and orientation station, including simple exhibits that briefly state the significance of the park.

b. At Paradise, all-year information and interpretation with programs and exhibits that relate the significant features of the mountain to visitors.

c. At Sunrise, a new seasonally operated visitor center with exhibits that pertain primarily to the alpine zone and the geology of Mount Rainier.

d. A series of new and revised wayside signs and exhibits to interpret specific roadside and trailside features, such as Nisqually Glacier, the Tatoosh Range, Narada Falls, Carbon Glacier, Emmons Glacier, and Little Tahoma Rockfalls.

e. Several new or revised self-guiding trails at Kautz Creek, Longmire Meadow, Nisqually Vista, Trail of the Patriarchs, June Creek, and other suitable areas.

f. Provide for environmental education programs geared to school children. Broaden the basic visitor interpretive program to emphasize environmental relationships.

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Last Updated: 10-May-2007