None of these mines ever hit a big load and over the years, rangers began to suspect the claims were made for other purposes. By June 30, 1907, there were 165 mining claims located within the park. Some were thought to have been created by folks just wanting a summer cabin on the mountain. Others might have been part of illegal hunting operations. There were also cases of suspected timber poaching. In 1907, the Washington Mining and Milling Company asked the Secretary of the Interior for permission to construct a road from the nearest road at Fairfax out to their claims, about 6 miles. The project was approved but they only built the portion within the park, and told rangers it was a private road not open to their use. Interestingly, when rangers investigated the road, many more trees had been cut down than what was actually needed for the road.
As the river made accessing the campground and trails more difficult, it also had another effect. With no easy view of Mount Rainier, many folks decided to bypass this isolated quarter of the park and go to Paradise or Sunrise instead. The northwest corner became a much quieter place with relatively few visitors on the trails and roads. Today, the park works to find a balance with the forces of the mountain while still allowing access to the quiet corner of the park. Visitors can hike or bike year-round up the old Carbon River Road from the park boundary to the backcountry campsites at Ipsut Creek. From there, hikers can continue on the Wonderland Trail to the Carbon Glacier or Spray Park. The road to Mowich Lake is open in the summer to cars and there are the walk-in campsites near the lake. To better help day hikers, backpackers, and bicyclists enjoy the quiet corner of the park, the Carbon River ranger station was moved from the park entrance to a larger building refurbished from a local homestead called the Thompson Place, located just a few miles from the park entrance.
Learn more about visiting Carbon River and Mowich in the quiet corner of the park.
Wonderland: An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park. Theodore Catton. Seattle, Washington. May, 1996.
Highways In Harmony. National Park Service website.
Last updated: June 7, 2019