An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park
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Following the American entry into World War II in December 1941, the Roosevelt administration called upon the Park Service to join in the national war effort. This was the second time in ten years that the Park Service had to respond to a national emergency. Just as it had during the Great Depression, the NPS had to adjust its priorities and change the way it did business while protecting the core values embodied in its mission. The NPS had to recognize the extraordinary nature of the times without losing sight of the fact that, as the keeper of the nation's wonderlands, the agency bore an exceptional responsibility to the future. Wartime, like the Depression era, required a different calculus for policymaking. As the new director, Newton B. Drury, explained his agency's mission in wartime, national parks symbolized the very values that the nation was fighting for and it would not do to sacrifice those values in the cause of victory. The NPS had to ensure that the national parks would be preserved for the American people's enjoyment after the war.


The most significant effect of World War II on the Park Service was the budget and personnel cuts it wrought. These were swift and deep. Public works projects virtually came to a halt. Congress slashed park appropriations and terminated the CCC in 1942. The NPS had to cut sharply the number of seasonal hires in each park, even as it lost a sizable percentage of its permanent employees to the Armed Services. Regional offices were preserved, but with reduced staffs. The Park Service headquarters were moved to Chicago to make office space available for other agencies more involved in the war effort; the move reduced the Park Service's contacts with Congress and caused considerable attrition of NPS personnel.

In Mount Rainier National Park, the task of adjusting park operations to meet these new wartime conditions fell to a new superintendent, John C. Preston. Formerly superintendent of Lassen Volcanic National Park, Preston took Tomlinson's place in July 1941 when Tomlinson was appointed director of the Western Region. Preston saw the completion of various public works projects in the park: the Paradise Ski Lodge, the Yakima Park Campers Shelter and Blockhouse, an employees' residence at Longmire. He worked with contractors on the Stevens Canyon Road who faced wartime shortages of labor and materials for construction, and allowed these contracts to be suspended at the end of the 1942 season. Under the provisions of the Selective Service Act, the superintendent oversaw three draft registrations at designated stations in Mount Rainier National Park between July 1941 and April 1942, each one auguring a loss of park personnel to the Armed Services. Robert K. Weldon, district ranger at Paradise, was the first permanent staff member to be inducted into the army, while many temporary staff members volunteered at the end of the season. [1]

Wartime cuts in the park staff and budget paralleled a drop in visitation as gasoline rationing and shortages of automobile parts discouraged travel. The reduction in travel to Mount Rainier mainly occurred in 1943 and 1944 when official restrictions on travel were most severe. From a peak travel year in 1940, annual visitation declined as follows:


YearTotal Visitors Percent of 1940

Winter use declined from 136,220 in 1940-41 to 97,177 in 1941-42, then plummeted to practically nil for the remainder of the war years as the NPS kept the road plowed only as far as Longmire or a little above. [2]

Interpretation in Wartime

Cuts in personnel and the budget forced a sharp reduction of the interpretive program. Theoretically, the Naturalist Department had an important contribution to make to the war effort by interpreting national parks as symbols of American democracy. "In so doing," park naturalists were told at Mount Rainier, the NPS could "contribute perhaps more than any other agency to the psychology and moral phases of national defence [sic]." [3] In practice, however, the Naturalist Department's visitor services proved to be relatively expendable. In the first summer of the war, seasonal ranger-naturalists were assigned many duties that were normally covered by the Protection Department. In subsequent seasons, Park Naturalist Howard R. Stagner had to keep the Naturalist Department going without any seasonal staff whatsoever. [4]

Guided walks and lectures were the first part of the interpretive program to be cut back. In the course of one summer, Stagner conducted a mere eight nature walks, all from Paradise; gave a total of 53 slide-illustrated lectures in the lobbies of the Paradise Inn and National Park Inn; and manned only one of the four museums (at Longmire)—this with the help of one ranger. Stagner devoted most of his time to resource and planning studies. He even had to give part of his time to other national park units: he helped the custodian of Whitman National Monument prepare that unit's first circular, or visitor's pamphlet, in 1941; and he produced the first interpretive development plan for Olympic National Park in 1944. [5]

Stagner carried on certain naturalist activities through the war years in order to preserve continuity for the postwar era. He made annual measurements of the recession of five glaciers. He kept the financial accounts of the Mount Rainier Natural History Association, maintained the library, photograph collections, and museum records, and tried generally to keep the Naturalist Department "on a current basis" so that it could quickly resume a full interpretive program when it once again had a normal staff. [6]

Forest Protection in Wartime

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 precipitated a great deal of speculation about whether the Pacific Coast states might be vulnerable to invasion, or sabotage. One concern was that the enemy might attempt to set forest fires. Another concern was that the wartime drain on manpower (exacerbated by the termination of the CCC on June 30, 1942) would itself pose a threat of increased forest fires. In January 1942, Superintendent Preston joined other federal and state officials in forming the Washington Forest Defense Council. The purpose of the council was to bring about closer coordination of forest protection activities by various agencies. Preston represented the Interior Department (both the NPS and the BIA), and attended bi-weekly meetings in Olympia for several months. [7]

The park staff updated Mount Rainier's fire control plan for the wartime emergency. [8] A total of thirteen men were assigned to forest protection each summer from 1942 through 1945. Six fire guards were stationed at Gobbler's Knob, the Colonnades, Tolmie Peak, Mount Fremont, Crystal Mountain, and Shiner Peak; six others were assigned to patrol around Longmire, Nickel Creek (later Lake James), Yakima Park, St. Andrews Creek, Ipsut Creek, and Paradise; and the thirteenth fire guard served as dispatcher at Longmire. [9] The park administration equipped all fire lookouts with two-way radios, and kept portable sets on hand for emergency use in the field. Radioman Ralph McFadden set up a radio operating room and repair shop adjacent to the fire dispatcher's office at park headquarters. [10]

While the yearly average number of fires increased marginally, improvements in fire detection technique helped the park staff to reduce the total acreage that was burned—from 60 acres during the 1930s to a mere 7 acres during World War II. Reduced visitation, meanwhile, appeared to lower the proportion of fires that were anthropogenic. [11]

In May 1943, Mount Rainier hosted a Western Region Fire School. Personnel from Olympic, Crater Lake, Lava Beds, Yosemite, and NPS offices in San Francisco and Chicago attended the training session. [12]

Cooperation with the RNPC

From the standpoint of the RNPC, the decline in visitation during the war essentially prolonged the economic depression. Indeed, the advent of gasoline rationing and the discouragement of pleasure travel caused an even more precipitous fall-off in visitation in 1943-44 than had occurred in 1932-33. But the RNPC and the park administration dealt with the wartime business climate very differently than they had the earlier crisis. This time the RNPC managed to keep its financial losses to a minimum by drastically consolidating its operations. The NPS, for its part, showed more willingness to allow a temporary curtailment of visitor services. Unlike in the Depression years, it appeared to be good public policy to allow the park concession to go into a kind of semi-hibernation during the war.

The RNPC cut back lodging and transportation services. It virtually eliminated whole departments, including its photographic and guide departments. It closed its promotional office in Seattle. In this program of retrenchment, the only significant point of friction between the RNPC and the NPS developed over visitor services at Sunrise. The RNPC wanted to suspend operations in that part of the park entirely and consolidate its operations at Paradise and Longmire. The NPS did not want to go quite so far in view of its large investment in the area, but Director Drury finally authorized this deviation from the concession contract as well. At Paradise, meanwhile, the RNPC closed down Paradise Lodge and operated Paradise Inn on the "European plan" (substituting cafeteria-style food service for full dining service). The RNPC curtailed some operations in anticipation of reduced demand, and eliminated others in response to personnel shortages. Like the park staff, the RNPC suffered attrition as managers and seasonal employees joined the Armed Services or took better-paying jobs in nearby war industries. [13]

General Manager Sceva requested in August 1942 that the RNPC be allowed to eliminate transportation service between Seattle and Tacoma and Mount Rainier National Park. Superintendent Preston tried to persuade Sceva that this was too drastic. It would inconvenience the public and it might even undermine the rest of the RNPC's operation. Furthermore, it would force the NPS to allow other transportation companies to enter the field. The only way for the RNPC to preserve its exclusive right to provide transportation to and in the park would be to maintain that service through the war years. Nevertheless, Sceva persisted in severely reducing the company's schedule of trips. [14]

That winter, local ski clubs inquired whether they could charter buses to get club members to and from the park, rather than rely on RNPC stages. NPS regulations prohibited admittance of non-concessioner, passenger-carrying vehicles that were unaffiliated with a school, scientific organization, or bona fide mountain club. The question arose, therefore, whether ski clubs qualified as bona fide mountain clubs. Regional Director Tomlinson thought that the NPS should maintain a distinction between skiers and mountaineers in their relationship to national parks. He advised Preston not to allow ski club charter buses under the "mountaineering organization" exemption, but rather to grant "temporary permission" to ski clubs while wartime conditions prevailed—that is, until the RNPC resumed providing this service itself. [15]

In 1944, the Army began providing bus transportation from Fort Lewis to Mount Rainier for soldiers on leave. The Army was authorized to take transports into the park without charge if such transportation was part of a regular activity of the Armed Services. The RNPC objected to the admittance of the buses from Fort Lewis, contending that they were tantamount to a commercial enterprise. The buses were owned by a private company and were leased to the Army for purposes of transporting soldiers and their friends between Fort Lewis and other points (mostly Tacoma). General Manager Sceva alleged that some civilians were using the buses because they got a cheaper rate than they did on RNPC stages. It is unclear how this issue was resolved, but it paralleled the matter of ski club charter buses and clearly had implications beyond the current wartime conditions. [16]

During the war the RNPC sold all of its cabins at Paradise and Sunrise to two real estate companies: Washington Homes, Inc., and the Richaven Company. The cabins were taken out of the park to alleviate housing shortages among war industry workers in the Puget Sound area and migrant farmers in the Yakima Valley. The RNPC sold its 200 cabins at Paradise in 1943 for $160 each and its 215 cabins at Sunrise one year later for $110 each. [17] This was something of a windfall for the company considering that the cabins had proven unsuccessful and needed to be upgraded or removed anyway. [18] Company officials suggested that the money from these sales might be set aside to help finance hotel expansion after the war. NPS officials were sympathetic to this idea but could find no legal way to bind those funds for such use under the terms of the concession contract. Instead, the money went to retire a part of the company's indebtedness. [19]

Planning for the postwar era began as early as 1944. Though the RNPC was in a weak position financially, it was obvious that the park stood on the threshold of a new era. The RNPC's president, Alexander Baillie, submitted a detailed program for concessioner improvements on October 14, 1944. In general, he proposed a downscaling of the Sunrise development and an upscaling of the Paradise development. There would be a limited demand for overnight accommodations at Sunrise, he predicted, although day-use facilities would need to be nearly as elaborate as those at Paradise. The Paradise Inn and Annex, meanwhile, were worn out and outmoded and should be replaced by "a first-class resort hotel," while the Paradise Lodge and Government Ski Lodge should be remodeled and combined into one operation for the so-called auto camp tourists. Baillie proposed that the facilities at Longmire be remodeled and refurnished, but suggested that the cabins there, unlike at Sunrise and Paradise, be retained. In view of the RNPC's weakened financial condition after a decade and a half of depression and war, Baillie urged the federal government to pay for the foregoing building improvements. As for the winter season, the RNPC favored reducing its services to a minimum level. Finally—and this caused dismay among NPS officials—Baillie suggested that the scenic highway above Paradise which the NPS had considered and rejected in the late 1920s be reconsidered. "This mile and a tenth of highway should be the number one project on the road program for Mount Rainier National Park," he wrote. [20]

Preston commented at length on the plan on November 9, 1944. His staff had not reached unanimity on the type of accommodations needed at Sunrise, Paradise, and Longmire, but they agreed on one thing: that the park should not be developed to accommodate all weekend visitors. Therefore, development plans should include overflow accommodations outside the park. Preston agreed with Baillie that the Sunrise Lodge should be completed in order to furnish some overnight accommodations and a larger day visitor and campground type of use. Motel cabins were not necessary at Yakima Park, but should probably be encouraged somewhere along the White River outside the northeast boundary of the park. Paradise Inn and Lodge should be rehabilitated, not replaced by a luxury hotel. The best use of the Government Ski Lodge would be to remodel it for use by government employees. At Longmire, Preston and his staff thought the best course was to tear down the existing concessioner buildings and start over with new cabins and a central service building. Both Longmire and Paradise should be kept open for winter use. Finally, Preston was "vigorously opposed" to the proposed scenic highway development, and urged that the boathouse and boat rental service at Reflection Lakes be taken out. Regional Director Tomlinson added some margin notes: complete the Sunrise Lodge without cabins; tear down the Paradise Inn and build a new hotel, if necessary; beware of the flood hazard at Longmire. [21]

One week after V-J Day, NPS officials met with Paul Sceva, now president of the RNPC, to negotiate a basis of agreement for the return to peacetime conditions. [22] The two parties agreed to the following outline of postwar developments:

1. Yakima Park. The cafeteria or restaurant would operate in Sunrise Lodge in 1946, but the RNPC would not be required to furnish overnight accommodations.

2. Paradise. The RNPC would not be required to provide overnight accommodations during the coming winter, but would operate both the Paradise Inn and the Paradise Lodge during the summer of 1946. Use of the Government Ski Lodge would be determined later.

3. Longmire. The RNPC would remodel and refurnish the National Park Inn for all-year service. The cabins and dormitory would be removed.

4. Reflection Lakes. The RNPC would remove the boathouse and discontinue boat rental service by January 1, 1946.

5. Above Paradise. The proposed scenic road would not be built. The NPS would improve hiking trails to Glacier Vista, perhaps paving them to prevent erosion and to encourage visitors to keep on the trails.

6. Guide and Photographic Departments. The RNPC would relinquish all rights to guiding, except saddle horse trips. All summit climbs would be made under permit by the NPS. The RNPC's photographic service would be eliminated.

7. Additional Buildings. All new accommodations would be hotel-type structures rather than cabins. The NPS would not attempt to provide adequate accommodations in the park for peak weekend demand.

8. Government Ownership of Buildings. The NPS would adopt the long-range objective of purchasing the RNPC's buildings. The RNPC would be a potential operator under a new operating contract.

9. Concession Contract. At the expiration of the present concession contract in 1948, the RNPC would be willing to accept a five-year contract.

10. Building Maintenance. The RNPC would be required to maintain and keep all buildings used by it in a good state of repair.

As this document revealed, the RNPC was emerging from ten years of economic depression and four years of semi-hibernation during the war. Mutual agreement on this list of items smoothed the way for a return to normalcy in Mount Rainier National Park. The list also highlighted the three largest issues on the agenda for the park administration in the postwar era: rehabilitation of old buildings, the problem of winter use, and planning how to cope with the burgeoning weekend crowds.


The nation's call to arms brought demands by grazing, lumbering, and mining interests to open the parks for resource exploitation. These demands were often cloaked in patriotism, couched as if the nation's vital interest were at stake, when in fact they were motivated by profit and did not really promise to have any measurable effect on the war effort. In responding to these pressures, NPS officials had to make sure that the public, in its patriotic zeal, did not lose sight of national park values.

One week after the U.S. was officially at war with Germany and Japan, Secretary Ickes issued a general directive to all his bureau chiefs for "full mobilization of the Nation's natural resources for war.. .upon a basis best suited to serve our military and naval forces without waste, and with a view to saving all that we can of such resources for future generations." [23] With regard to the national parks, Ickes advised the NPS to work with military authorities in determining whether natural resources were actually needed in the war effort. Wherever proposed uses would be apt to cause "irreparable damage," the NPS would insist on learning (1) whether all reasonable alternatives had been exhausted, and (2) whether the demands were based on a strategic need. [24] NPS officials used these two litmus tests to thwart proposals for the exploitation of grazing, timber, and mineral resources in Mount Rainier National Park. The NPS also perfected its water right claims on the Nisqually River at this time.


In March 1942 a stockholder in the Mount Rainier Mining Company by the name of Ole Oakland wrote to Senator Mon C. Wallgren of Washington for help in reactivating his company's mining operation. Oakland alleged that NPS rules and regulations were preventing his company from mining copper ore in Glacier Basin, and suggested that the law of 1908 which prohibited mining in Mount Rainier National Park now ought to be repealed. Oakland claimed that opening the park to mining would be patriotic. "All I know of the stockholders [indicates that they] are 100% for Defense and help to the Government," he wrote. [25] Explaining to Drury a month later why he had called for the senator's help in this matter, Oakland insisted: "I am going to keep trying with what help I can get to see if we can't get some extra metals out to beat the Japs. . . .I have no personal ill will against persons connected with [the] Park but oh well, let's lick Hell out of the Japs." [26]

Senator Wallgren forwarded Oakland's letter to Drury and simply asked for comment. Having led other Washington politicians in the fight for Olympic National Park, the senator was an unlikely person to support mining in Mount Rainier. Drury gave Wallgren a detailed account of the Glacier Basin mining operation, including the imprisonment of the company's first president for defrauding the stockholders and the subsequent complications over ownership. This was enough to convince Wallgren that the exigencies of war did not require any special consideration for the mining operation. Although the Mount Rainier Mining Company would make further demands and plans for reactivating the mine as the decade wore on, it was no longer a wartime issue.

As numerous requests like Oakland' s came in for mining in other parks, Drury decided on a definite procedure for handling all such war-related inquiries about mining. Whenever a mineral prospect appeared to have potential for furthering the war effort, Drury wrote in a memorandum, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist would investigate the prospect in company with a park naturalist or other NPS representative. There was one more such request in Mount Rainier National Park. Unfortunately, when the second inquiry concerning Mount Rainier was made that summer, the new procedure was ignored. [27]

This time the inquiry came from a Puyallup attorney, Robert D. Campbell, through Representative John M. Coffee of Washington, regarding a copper prospect near Mowich Lake. The NPS referred the inquiry to the U.S. Geological Survey and the War Production Board. John J. Collins of the U.S. Geological Survey investigated the area on his own, without notifying Superintendent John Preston or Park Naturalist Howard Stagner. Collins found that the ore was too low-grade to be worth mining, and furthermore, he had just completed mapping a large copper-molybdenum deposit elsewhere which would obviate any need for Mount Rainier copper. This was good news for the park, of course, but both Preston and Stagner felt chagrined that they had been left in the dark until the investigation was completed. [28]


Due to the nature of mineral resources the NPS had no choice but to respond on a case by case basis to potential mining developments. No one could state categorically that a national park did not contain strategic minerals, nor did it serve national park purposes to do geologic testing in order to prove that no such mineral deposits existed. It was different with grazing resources. The past effects of livestock on plant and soil conditions could actually be studied in many cases, and the data were relevant to the Park Service's overall mission of preserving the flora and fauna of the national parks in a natural condition. Consequently, in 1942, the NPS set out to quantify the national parks' minimal grazing resources and demonstrate conclusively that their use during the war would not be warranted. After a system-wide study, the NPS reported in the spring of 1943 that the consequences of opening the national parks to grazing as a war measure "would be out of all proportion to the slight increase in the food supply that would be attained." [29] Secretary Ickes concurred in this judgment. The Park Service's aggressive policy succeeded in holding the line against stockgrowers. [30]

Study of the grazing resources of Mount Rainier National Park occurred in two phases: Superintendent Preston transmitted a quick compilation of data to the regional office on July 29, 1942 for use in the NPS report covering system-wide grazing resources. Park Naturalist Stagner then made a more detailed investigation and report the following summer. [31] Stagner's study, "Some Ecological Factors Relating to Possible Cattle Grazing in Mount Rainier National Park," was the most thorough report on the problem to date, and probably led the park administration to take a closer look at the use of saddle horses in the park after World War II.

Stagner addressed (1) the history of grazing in Mount Rainier National Park, (2) the potential cattle range areas in Mount Rainier and the implications for park administration if the park were opened to grazing, (3) the general relationship of grazing to the scenic and scientific values of national parks, and (4) the specific ecological effects of cattle grazing in Mount Rainier. It was this last section of Stagner's report that had implications beyond the current wartime demand for grazing privileges.

Stagner argued that the effects of grazing in Mount Rainier's highcountry meadows were more severe than in most other mountain areas because of the composition of the soil, which was largely volcanic ash. The ash was light and porous, retaining relatively little water. The soil was generally poor in minerals and contained little humus. The abundance of grasses and lupine gave such areas a deceptively luxuriant appearance, but once the plant cover was weakened the soil became subject to severe wind and water erosion. Cattle would potentially damage the vegetative cover of these areas not so much by overcropping the forage as they would by trampling the plants and compacting the soil. The past experience with cattle grazing in Yakima Park during and after World War I showed how quickly the covering of bunch grasses and lupine could give way to barren soil. Once removed, the plant cover took many years to restore itself. It was said that Yakima Park's wildflowers did not appear the way they had before World War I until about 1934 or 1935. [32]

Stagner's report went into the files for use in case Washington state's stockmen should agitate for permission to graze cattle in Mount Rainier National Park. Regional Director Tomlinson, facing renewed pressure for the opening of national parks to grazing in the spring of 1944, sent a circular to all superintendents in the Western Region reiterating the Park Service's strong opposition. The main contest over grazing privileges revolved around the demands of California's drought-stricken stockgrowers for access to the national parks and monuments in that state, and it appears that no similar demand arose in the Pacific Northwest. [33] But the grazing issue had called attention to how vulnerable Mount Rainier's meadows were to trampling, and in time the park administration would recognize that crowds of people could do nearly as much damage as herds of cattle.


In 1943, the NPS accomplished another task which had been contemplated for many years: it perfected title to all of its water rights claims in the Nisqually River drainage. [34] A. van V. Dunn, a hydraulic engineer with the water rights section of the Branch of Land Acquisition and Regulation in the regional office, investigated the existing situation and filed eight new applications with the State Supervisor of Hydraulics. The water rights filings covered new diversions and supplemental supplies for old ones (all of which had been deeded to the government or originally claimed by the NPS). The old diversions embraced the early water rights claims of David Longmire and John Reese to Rampart and Edith creeks respectively, both filed in 1906; the claims associated with three early hydroelectric plants built on the Nisqually River at Longmire, Van Trump Creek, and the Paradise River; and the Park Service's own claims for its diversions at the Nisqually Entrance, Sunshine Point, and on a nameless tributary to Fish Creek, near Tahoma Vista. [35]

Water rights were a minor issue in Mount Rainier, as the Park Service's claims seemed relatively secure in the event that water rights claims on the Nisqually, White, or Cowlitz river drainages should ever be adjudicated. But Dunn's investigation did turn up two interesting points. First, the situation in the Nisqually drainage was somewhat complicated by the fact that the Park Service's claims rested in part on the prior rights of private interests which were later deeded to the government. Second, some of the Park Service's points of diversion were located only a few miles below glaciers, where the amount of stream flow could be influenced by glacial recession. Thus, as the Paradise and Stevens glaciers receded, the flow toward Stevens Creek and the Cowlitz River drainage increased while the flow toward the Paradise River and the Nisqually River drainage decreased. "If the same trend continues," Dunn cautioned, "we shall either have to divert water from Stevens Creek to the Paradise, or move our power plant." For the time being, however, the eight new water rights filings left the park in a satisfactory situation. [36]


The gravest threat to national park forests during World War II came from the airplane manufacturing industry's demand for Sitka spruce. In January 1943, Drury prepared to make Sitka spruce in Olympic National Park available for logging, but the need to log national park timber never actually eventuated. By September 1943, the War Production Board had withdrawn its earlier request; alternative sources of Sitka spruce in Alaska, British Columbia, and elsewhere in Washington sufficed. [37] The controversy was relevant to Mount Rainier only in that it focused Washington residents and NPS officials on the Olympic Peninsula rather than Mount Rainier. As in the 1930s, controversies over the protection of Mount Rainier s resources during World War II were overshadowed by conservation battles in Olympic National Park.

There were no demands to log timber in Mount Rainier National Park on behalf of the war effort. When one forest tract in the park was proposed for logging in 1944 (see below), no pretense was made that the timber sale would boost the nation's war production. Rather, the controversy revolved around private versus public interests in the case of a national park inholding owned by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company.


World War II produced a boom in the Pacific Northwest's timber industry which would continue well into the postwar period. Logging companies, now using heavy trucks instead of narrow-gauge railroads, moved their operations farther and farther into the Cascade Range. In 1944, the Skate Creek Logging Company offered to purchase a 204-acre tract belonging to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company located in the southwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park. The isolated tract dated from the 1926 boundary extension. The imminent threat of logging inside the park proved to be a catalyst that enabled the NPS to close a land deal with the Northern Pacific which it had sought for nearly twenty years. Although the forest area was saved, it was a Pyrrhic victory; the land deal presaged a new era of heavy logging around all sides of the national park.

The history of this land deal, like that of the Longmire property, illustrates how difficult it was for the NPS to secure funds for land acquisitions. It will be recalled that the park boundary was adjusted in 1926 to conform to the Nisqually and Carbon rivers in the southwest and northwest corners of the park respectively, thereby adding two slivers of land to the park. Since the land surrounding the park was checkerboarded by the Northern Pacific land grant, fractions of three alternate sections owned by the railroad now came within the park boundary (two along the Carbon and one along the Nisqually). By far the largest parcel was the 204-acre tract located between the park road and the Nisqually River about two miles from the Nisqually Entrance (see map).

The Northern Pacific called the Park Service's attention to the three parcels soon after Congress enacted the boundary adjustment, asking whether the government expected to acquire it. At that time, Congress had not appropriated any funds for national park land acquisitions. [38] But three years later, in 1929, Director Albright negotiated a deal with the officers of the company. The government would pay the Northern Pacific for half of the land's value, estimated at $20,000, and the railroad company would donate the other half to the government. [39]

The Northern Pacific executed the contract, and the contract was approved in principle by Assistant Secretary John H. Edwards on September 4, 1930, but then the deal hit a snag. Asked by Edwards to review the contract, the department's solicitor, E.C. Finney, suggested that the deal might compromise the government's case involving the whole Northern Pacific land grant, which was then in litigation. The Department of the Interior then referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney General, who asked that the purchase be held in abeyance until the suit was settled. [40]

The litigation finally concluded, negotiations started over again in the fall of 1938. On May 5, 1939, the Northern Pacific offered the government an option to purchase the property under the same terms as before, at $20,000 on a "50/50" basis. The government accepted the option on May 3, 1940, one day before the offer was to expire. The option allowed the NPS three years to confirm the accuracy of the property appraisal and obtain the funds, but as no funds were made available for land acquisitions during the war, it finally became necessary to request a one-year extension of the option, to May 3, 1944. Then, in the spring of 1944, it was learned that the Northern Pacific was cruising the timber on this parcel and on other sections close to the park with a view to selling the timber, and that the company would not renew the government's option after it expired on May 3, 1944. [41]

It soon came to light that the Skate Creek Lumber Company had offered to buy this tract for $42,000—more than four times what the Northern Pacific stood to gain by selling it to the government. During May, June, and July 1944, Director Drury, Regional Director Tomlinson, and Superintendent Preston all had separate communications with Northern Pacific officials in an effort to get the company to renew the government's purchase option through the end of the war. Company officials rejected their pleas, indicating that the tract would be selectively logged by the lumber company. Finally, on July 25, 1944, Superintendent Preston wired Drury for permission to go public with this imminent threat of logging in the park. [42]

Northern Pacific Railway Company ownership map
The Northern Pacific Railway Company held land in the northwest and southwest corners of the park. In 1944 it tried to sell the shaded area shown above to a logging company but encountered strong opposition.

The publicity worked to the Park Service's advantage. Even though Northern Pacific officials pointed out that they had been trying to sell the property to the government for nearly twenty years, they did not win much sympathy for the railroad. Articles appeared in the Seattle and Tacoma newspapers: "N.P. May Log in Rainier Park," "Plan to Log Park Tract," "Rainier Tract to be Logged." [43] The RNPC, the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, the Northwest Conservation League, the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, and The Mountaineers all objected to the planned timber sale. [44] According to a senior Northern Pacific official, The Mountaineers stated that in the event the railroad was unable to consummate a deal with the government "they would like to have the opportunity of raising funds in order to make up any difference." [45] The company was further embarrassed when an article on its plan to log in the national park appeared in the October issue of National Parks Magazine. [46] As a result of all this negative publicity, the Northern Pacific decided to postpone its timber sale.

The problem remained of finding money with which the NPS could purchase the Northern Pacific tract on a 50/50 basis. Congress had last made an appropriation for national park land acquisitions in 1939; this source of matching funds had long since been exhausted. Northern Pacific officials approached Representative John M. Coffee on the need for a bill, but the prospect of getting such a bill passed in wartime was not good. Drury conceived another plan. The Park Service had recently sold a small parcel of land from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. In February 1944, he had obtained authorization from the Comptroller General to use these limited funds for land purchases in other parks. [47]

The Northern Pacific suggested that $40,000 was a fair value for the land; that is, it would sell the land to the government for $20,000. Considering the fact that recent appraisals of the timber and the land now ranged from $50,000 to $70,000, this was a good deal. Drury offered $15,000. He intimated that that was as much as the NPS could offer, although the Great Smoky Mountains land sale had netted $25,000. Perhaps the director had other, equally urgent needs for the remainder of his land acquisition funds, or perhaps he had reliable information that the Northern Pacific wanted to sell. There was no question that Drury considered the land purchase a top priority; leaving no stone unturned, he called upon his old friend Horace Albright, now president of the United States Potash Company, to pressure Northern Pacific officials to accept his proposal. Drury's hard bargaining finally succeeded where earlier efforts had failed. In August 1945, three small parcels of the Northern Pacific land grant—205 acres on the Nisqually River and 100 acres on the Carbon River—were deeded back to the United States. [48]


NPS officials went out of their way to make national parks available for recreational use by the U.S. Armed Services during World War II. Director Drury, in his annual report for 1943, made special, laudatory mention of Mount Rainier (along with Olympic, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Mount McKinley) for its role in serving thousands of military personnel. Busloads of soldiers who were stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, received free trips to Mount Rainier while they anxiously awaited word as to what theater of war their units would be sent. Drury observed that this alone was "significant justification of the national-park concept," for untold numbers of soldiers were "being given opportunities they never had before, and may never have again, to see the inspiring beauty and historical significance of this land of ours." [49]

Making national park facilities available for troops had other benefits as well. It brought some desperately-needed business to the park concessions, who were hurting again due to the sharp curtailment of tourism during the war. (The RNPC avidly supported proposals by the Army and the Navy to establish a rest center at Mount Rainier in 1943, but this did not materialize. [50]) And perhaps most importantly, it blunted accusations by grazing, lumbering, and mining interests that national parks were not making their share of sacrifices for the war effort. NPS officials well remembered the national park experience in the First World War, when these same interests had made inroads in the national parks supposedly in the cause of boosting the nation's war production. Perceiving that the Park Service might have a choice between opening the parks for use by military personnel or for use by war profiteers, NPS officials had no difficulty deciding between the two. [51]

Mount Rainier's most significant contribution to the war effort was its use as a training ground for ski troops. Mount Rainier attracted the military for the same basic reason that it attracted natural scientists and tourists: it stood out as an "arctic island in a temperate sea." The vertical zones that made the fauna and flora of Mount Rainier so diverse and beautiful also made the area a good place to find terrain and weather conditions which could simulate fighting conditions in the European Alps and the European winter. Snow and inclement weather were abundant, and if Army officers found the weather at Paradise too mild for their purposes, they only had to march their soldiers higher up the mountain to test cold-weather clothing and equipment under the most severe conditions. Men tested sleeping bags and snow suits on the summit of Mount Rainier. They did sentry duty at night wearing a kind of sleeping bag with legs and feet. One party of ski troops made a circuit around the mountain carrying rifles and 85-pound packs. [52]

The Army found Mount Rainier an attractive ground for mountain infantry exercises because of its location near Fort Lewis, too. Established as an Army training camp in World War I, Fort Lewis survived the Army's lean years in the 1920s and 1930s to become one of the major Army installations on the West Coast in World War II. In the 1930s, the commanding officer of Fort Lewis had cooperated with Superintendent Tomlinson of Mount Rainier National Park on the administration of the CCC. Still, despite the Army's longtime presence nearby, the use of Mount Rainier for mountain infantry exercises developed fairly suddenly. On a November day in 1940, a platoon of the 41st Infantry Division, calling itself the Military Ski Patrol, arrived at Paradise for a "preliminary instruction exercise," accompanied by public relations officers and a photographer from the Seattle Post Intelligencer. The four-hour visit heralded a full winter of ski training and maneuvers by a second "Military Ski Patrol"—twenty-four soldiers of the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, also based at Fort Lewis. These soldiers were quartered in government housing at Longmire. [53]

The two military ski patrols from Fort Lewis were of an experimental nature; this was the first time in the history of the U.S. Army that soldiering and skiing were being combined. With the possibility growing that the U.S. Army would be called to fight in central Europe, Army officials began to contemplate the need for specialized mountain units. The idea was given a special impetus by the impressive performance of Finnish ski troops in the Winter War of 1939-40. In that conflict, the greatly outnumbered Finns deployed swift-moving, lightly-armed, ski troops with deadly effect against the ponderous Soviet Army. Photographs of Finnish soldiers on skis gained wide circulation in the American press. Following exploratory discussions with the presidents of the National Ski Association and the National Ski Patrol during the summer of 1940, the Army initiated military ski exercises with small groups of volunteers at Mount Rainier and at Lake Placid, New York; Old Forge, New York; Camp McCoy, Wisconsin; and Fort Richardson, Alaska. [54]

The first regiment of ski troops, the 87th Mountain Infantry, was formed at Fort Lewis the following November. Army units in all parts of the country sent their crack skiers to the new regiment. The U.S. Forest Service and the NPS contributed more than a score of rangers. Meanwhile, the War Department entered an agreement with the National Ski Patrol, a civilian organization, to recruit experienced skiers for the special unit. New England ski clubs and Ivy League ski teams provided numerous volunteers. Many European immigrants and exiles joined the 87th Mountain, prompting one writer to call it a virtual foreign legion. [55]

The thousand-man regiment wintered at Fort Lewis during the winter of 1941-42 and sent contingents to train at Paradise under a cooperative agreement with the NPS. In a noteworthy compromise, ski troops claimed full use of the rope tow above Paradise Inn on week-days and yielded the ground to park visitors on weekends. [56] The Army rented and occupied the Paradise Lodge and Tatoosh Club facilities of the RNPC. [57] In the spring of 1942, the 87th Mountain transferred to the Army's new Camp Hale, located on the Continental Divide in Colorado, where it formed part of the 10th Mountain Infantry Division.

More Army units were dispatched to Mount Rainier for special training in the fall of 1943. These included a 100-man detachment of ski troops from the 10th Mountain Infantry Division, a 150-man force from the 938th Aviation Engineers who undertook snow camouflage tests, and a 30-man unit of photographers from the Army Signal Corps who made an army training film. These units pulled out by the end of November 1943, ending Mount Rainier's role in World War II as a training and testing ground. [58]

Ski troops drill at Paradise
Ski troops drill at Paradise. (Photo courtesy of Mount Rainier National Park.)

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2000