An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park
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Perhaps no other aspect of national park history has stirred such lively interest as resource protection, or what is now called natural resource management. As set forth in the acts creating the early national parks, the essence of the national park idea was to preserve nature for the enjoyment of the people. The National Park Service Act of 1916 refined and codified this idea with its classic formula that the purpose of national park management was "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." But the preservation of nature for the public's enjoyment is a deceptively simple mandate. Nature itself is culturally defined, and concepts of nature have changed markedly over the course of the twentieth century. Consequently, the National Park Service's guiding star changed position over the years; the service took a new compass reading from time to time and adjusted its course accordingly. The history of natural resource management must therefore begin with an understanding of how the goals which shaped policy have shifted over time.

Prior to the creation of the National Park Service, natural resource policy in the national parks emanated from each park's establishing act and from the Secretary of the Interior. The institutional framework for developing national park natural resource policy was very weak. Interior Department officials generally responded to natural resource issues as they arose in each park, making little effort to formulate system-wide policy guidelines. When such an effort did occur, it was invariably feeble. A good illustration of this was Secretary of the Interior Walter L. Fisher's reliance on one "expert lumberman" for advice on how the department should handle the logging of dead and down timber in Glacier National Park in 1911. A copy of this memorandum was placed in the department's files on Mount Rainier National Park, where a similar timber sale was already in progress (and drawing criticism for its sloppiness and doubtful legality). The five-page memorandum constituted the most in-depth analysis that the department ever undertook on this seemingly vital issue. [1]

Natural resource policy in the national parks was also weakened in this era by the ascendancy of utilitarian conservation, or "Pinchotism," named for its leading exponent, Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot's ideology has been interpreted in various lights, but at root it was a modernization of the age-old conceptualization of nature as a storehouse of riches for humankind to develop and use—modernized in the sense that Pinchot wanted humankind to apply its scientific understanding of nature in order to ensure an efficient, or "wise," use of nature's bounty. Appointed chief of the new U.S. Forest Service by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, Pinchot made the Forest Service aggressively utilitarian, or use-oriented, in its outlook and aims. His philosophy of conservation soon pervaded all the other federal land management agencies. He declared the preservation of scenery to be a waste, and proposed that the national parks be brought under the administration of the Forest Service. Although preservationists like John Muir, Horace McFarland (who led the long fight for a national parks bureau) and Stephen T. Mather were able to prevent Pinchotism from overtaking the national park idea, there was an increasing tendency by the Secretary of the Interior during this era to accommodate utilitarian objectives in the national parks.

Given this institutional and philosophical context, much natural resource policy in Mount Rainier National Park's early years developed at the local level. This was partly by default, partly by design. All of the superintendents appointed to Mount Rainier National Park before 1916 were local men, sensitive to the economic interests of the local population. All were themselves utilitarian conservationists to one degree or another. Their utilitarian values molded the way they perceived (and managed) natural beauty. Green timber excited them. Insect-damaged trees, old bums, and "overmature" stands appeared to them to mar the scenery. Cutting down and removing these blighted trees enhanced the park. They wanted "game" (not wildlife) to be plentiful, and they took steps to eliminate predators in order to increase the number of deer and mountain goats in the park. They referred to all developments such as roads, trails, and buildings as "improvements," revealing their traditional image of nature as something inert, awaiting the creative hand of humankind to make it beneficial.

This chapter examines how the above influences shaped natural resource policy in Mount Rainier National Park from 1899 to 1916. The chapter is divided into four sections on mining and prospecting, water development schemes, forests, and wildlife.


Following consultation with James Longmire and other local people in the late 1890s, the authors of the Mount Rainier Park Act decided there would be little harm done by accommodating miners and prospectors in their bill. [2] Thus, a brief two lines were added to the end of the bill, which provided that the park would remain open to mineral location under the Mining Law of 1872. This feature of the bill raised no objection in Congress, and even the Secretary of the Interior waited until after the law was passed to criticize this section in his annual report for 1899.

Yet the provision for mining in Section 5 of the Mount Rainier National Park Act flatly contradicted Section 2 of the act which declared that all mineral deposits (together with other specified features) would be preserved from injury or spoliation and retained in their natural condition. The only explanation for this blatant contradiction in the law was the fact that Section 2 had been copied directly from the Yellowstone Park Act when the bill was first drawn in 1893, while Section 5 was introduced late in the evolution of this bill. After the law was passed it quickly became obvious that the provision for mining and prospecting not only made it impossible for the Department of the Interior to protect mineral deposits in the park, but compromised the department's ability to protect other natural resources in the park, too. [3]

Under the Mining Law of 1872, a prospector could locate a mineral claim wherever he could show there was a reasonable prospect of mining precious metals. His claim gave him the right to dig tunnels or holes in the earth, divert water from streams for sluicing, and cut down trees with which to frame his diggings and erect buildings. The mining law did not give the prospector the right to bear arms, much less hunt in the park, but park officials nevertheless showed some reluctance to separate the prospector from his gun whenever he requested permission to take a gun into the park. Thus, the allowance of prospecting and mining in the park set up a peculiar double standard between prospectors and other park users while placing trees, water courses, and wildlife, together with mineral deposits themselves, at risk.

Acting Superintendent Grenville F. Allen tried to give a picture of the extent of prospecting in his annual reports. Allen reported that 90 prospectors were known to have entered the park in 1905, and that the number of new claims filed with the Pierce County auditor rose from ten in that year to 104 in 1906 and 165 in 1907. It could readily be seen that the park attracted a significant number of prospectors and that it was soon peppered with claims. Probably Allen ceased giving the number of prospectors after 1906 because they were becoming harder to distinguish as a group from pleasure seekers. "In most cases," he wrote in 1907, "the claimant makes a summer camping trip, does a few days' nominal assessment work, and returns to his usual vocation." [4] By and large these were not professional miners or prospectors. The vast majority of claims consisted of no more than four blazes on trees, the posting of a notice of the location, and the filing of it in the office of the county auditor. [5] Often the claim notices bore such vague descriptions that the park administration had no idea where the claims were located, Most of the significant claims were located in Glacier Basin (northeast of the mountain), above Longmire Springs, and in the Carbon River area. [6]

At first Allen was inclined to regard the prospectors as no more than a nuisance. He reported that most of the claims were made in good faith, and judging by the dearth of successful mines in the vicinity of Mount Rainier National Park he did not think any paying mines would ever eventuate inside the park; therefore, it might be expected that prospecting in the park would fade over time. The prospectors themselves seemed "on the whole to be careful of their fires, and to desire to comply with the regulations." [7] But with the huge number of new claims in 1906 and 1907, Allen changed his mind. Many so-called prospectors used their claim locations to build unsightly cabins, and no doubt came back to these cabins to hunt the park's game in the fall. Furthermore, many of these claimants left slash lying around wherever they built cabins or cut trails, increasing the fire hazard. These conditions would only grow worse. Consequently, Allen recommended a thorough examination of the mining districts in the park with a view to invalidating all claims that showed no mineral values so that these claimants could be removed from the park for trespass. It could then be ascertained whether conditions warranted consideration by Congress of a law to repeal Section 5 of the Act of March 2, 1899. [8]

Assistant Engineer Eugene Ricksecker made much the same recommendation in a long letter to Secretary of the Interior Garfield on October 18, 1907. [9] Congress should be asked to amend the Mount Rainier Park Act, and a USGS geologist and mining expert, Ricksecker urged, should be detailed to the park to report on all existing claims. Ricksecker's letter followed Allen's report by just a few weeks, and probably reflected some discussion and agreement between the two men on the park's most important needs. (They offered similar recommendations for improving wildlife protection, too.) This was not the first time that the Corps of Engineers had complained about the policy of allowing mining and prospecting in the park, nor was this a new concern for the Secretary of the Interior. [10] Yet it seems probable that the combined effect of Allen's and Ricksecker's advice in the fall of 1907 made a crucial difference, for the desired amendment to the law was inserted in the Sundry Civil Appropriations Act approved by Congress on May 27, 1908. [11]

This law only prevented the location of new claims, however. It made no provision for the elimination of existing claims. The Department of the Interior still had to cope with dozens of prospectors who already had claims in the park. Over the next three years, numerous claims were invalidated by the General Land Office because they were inadequately described in the notice of claim, or they were not marked on the ground, or the claimant failed to do the necessary annual assessment work. A few claims persisted, however, and would cause trouble for the park for decades to come. Thus the problem of mining in the park changed after 1908, but did not go away. Park officials no longer had to cope with a yearly horde of prospectors, but they now had to try as best they could to contain the damage as the claimants carried out their annual assessment work and built "improvements" on their claims.

The change in the law raised two underlying legal and administrative issues for park officials that would frame the issue of mining for as long as any claims remained in the park. First, inasmuch as the mining claims were all marginal, park officials had to assess at what point it became worthwhile for the administration to challenge each claim and attempt to have it annulled. Second, the new park regulations that accompanied the 1908 law restricted the claimants' right to dig, divert water, cut timber, and erect buildings, to the confines of his or her claim without the permission of the Secretary of the Interior. But in practical terms, a successful mining operation required timber for the mine, an access road for getting supplies in and the ore out, and a staging area for buildings (known as a mill site, whether or not the ore was actually milled there). All of the significant mining operations after 1908 either attempted to claim a mill site or requested permission to build a road, or both. Two mining operations received permission to cut timber. The law was ambiguous as to how much the department needed to cater to these marginal mining operations in permitting such ancillary developments on park lands.

The Department of the Interior's response to these requests varied with each mining operation. Park officials attempted to assess whether mill site claims and applications for timber cutting or road construction were in "good faith." Their assessments varied. Another important variable related to the location of the mining operation relative to the park administration and the center of visitor activity. The mineral area near Longmire Springs was under the close eye of the park superintendent and the Corps of Engineers' Assistant Engineer Eugene Ricksecker. The mines in the Carbon River Valley were under the surveillance of a permanent district ranger. But those in Glacier Basin had very little oversight in this era. The department's treatment of these different concerns grew noticeably more lax the farther they were from the park administration and the center of visitor activity. Discussed below are three mining operations in the Longmire area, two in the Carbon River Valley, and one in Glacier Basin. These were the major mining concerns in the park, though in a couple of cases they would lie virtually dormant until a later era.

Short Canyon Mining Company, Longmire

Frank and Emma Hendricks and three Hendricks brothers located four quartz-lode mining claims (named the Pete, Eagle, Discovery, and Hendricks) around 1902. The claims were situated on the west bank of the Nisqually River about one half mile above Longmire Springs. [12] It appears that neither Acting Superintendent Allen nor Assistant Engineer Ricksecker was even aware of the claims when Frank Hendricks asked for permission to build a short road connecting the claims to the park road above Longmire Springs. The newly surveyed park road, it seemed, went directly through one of the claims. [13]

This situation disclosed how the provision for mining in the national park could work against the public interest, and it provoked Major John Millis of the Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, to urge special legislation that would exempt the park from the mining law. [14] Acting Superintendent Allen immediately detailed Ranger J.M. Schmitz to report on the validity of the claims. Schmitz found a showing of minerals on each claim. On the Discovery claim, Frank Hendricks had sunk two shafts, one 12 feet deep and the other 42 feet deep, and had dug a tunnel 10 feet deep. He had also built a 12 x 24-foot cabin and an 8 x 10-foot blacksmith shop. [15] Allen forwarded the reports to the Commissioner of the General Land Office with the comment that the claims appeared to be made in good faith but that if they ever went to patent they would probably be used for a hotel site—just like the Longmire family's placer claim nearby. [16]

As long as the claims remained valid, the possibility existed that the land would be patented and alienated from the park. The Hendricks family continued to work these claims for many years. In 1913-14, Superintendent Ethan Allen identified their mining concern as the Short Canyon Mining Company. The Hendricks sold their interest in the company to a group of Seattle investors in 1915 and apparently assessment work on these claims all but ended after that. In 1923, the abandoned claims were annulled. [17]

Eagle Peak Copper Mining Company, Longmire

Mary A. Long filed a location notice for the Aldula claim on July 10, 1904, and her husband Baker Long and son Robert Wheelock filed notice for the adjoining Paradise No.1 claim on August 10, 1906. The family formed the Eagle Peak Copper Mining Company, with a capital stock of $150,000, on May 21, 1908. These claims were situated at the base of Eagle Peak, below the confluence of the Nisqually and Paradise rivers, and a short distance above Longmire Springs. [18]

The park administration's quandaries began when the company filed a location notice for a mill site claim in 1910, two years after the Mount Rainier Park Act had been amended. Superintendent Hall requested instructions, advising his superiors that the company had previously built some cabins on this site in connection with the development of the Aldula and Paradise No. 1 claims. Without actually challenging the mill site claim, the Interior Department took the position that the company could use the land only as the department saw fit to permit, and that it did not object to the continued use of the land for "camping purposes." Three years later, in March 1913, Superintendent Hall informed the secretary that the company had maintained a permanent "camp" on this mill site since June 1, 1911. He found the camp unobjectionable except insofar as it might give the company "some claim to the land." [19] There was no reply from the department. In 1918, the company announced plans to develop the mill site with machinery and ore bins so that it could transport ore across the Nisqually River and then out of the park. The Interior Department recognized that the mill site claim was of doubtful validity, yet it permitted the company to invest the site anyway.

Paradise Mining and Milling Company, Longmire

Two brothers, Ike and Sherman Evans, located the Iva Henry No.1 and Iva Henry No.2 claims some time prior to the 1908 amendment of the Mount Rainier Park Act. The claims were situated at the base of Eagle Peak nearly adjacent to the Aldula and Paradise No. 1 claims. In September 1909, a mineral expert with the General Land Office reported "certain irregularities" in the way the claims had been located, but apparently no further action was taken to invalidate the claims at this time. In the spring of 1911, the Evans brothers applied for a permit to build a wagon road across 400 feet of park land and to construct an 800-foot cableway across the Nisqually River to a point approximately 750 feet from the park road. On June 2, 1911, the Department of the Interior advised Superintendent Hall not to permit this construction until further advised. [20] Apart from some limited assessment work on the claims, this mining operation lay virtually dormant until the First World War. As in the case of the Eagle Peak Copper Mining Company, the park administration evidently hoped that these claims would be abandoned. It was probably indicative of the park administration's low level of concern that the correspondence on both of these mining operations had to be reconstructed in 1917-18, and that none of this material survived in the park's administrative files.

Carbon River Valley Mining Operations

Two short-lived mining operations in the Carbon River Valley caused the park administration some concern in 1907-10, mainly because their location just inside the park boundary coincided suspiciously with a stand of the largest cedar found anywhere in the park and perhaps in the region. Some of the trees measured ten to twelve feet in diameter. [21]

The Hephizibah Mining Company had six adjoining claims starting at an elevation of about 1,800 feet and going up the side of Sweet Peak to about 4,000 feet elevation. Late in the year 1908, the company filed notice for a five-acre mill site claim at the foot of Sweet Peak, and in April 1909, the company cut and slashed a line in the heavy timber around this claim. During that same winter, a logging railroad was constructed from Fairfax, located five miles from the park boundary on the Northern Pacific line, up the Carbon River to a point in the Rainier National Forest within three miles of this claim. To Ranger O'Farrell, the mill site claim did not appear to be made in good faith but rather appeared to be an attempt to acquire the large trees. In answer to a report from Acting Superintendent Allen on the mill site claim, the department ruled that the claim was invalid and that any further cutting of timber on the mill site would constitute trespass. Park officials were advised to inform both the local land office and the company accordingly. [22]

But the matter did not end there. In 1910, the Hephizibah Mining Company filed papers with the General Land Office seeking to perfect three mining claim locations and the mill site in exchange for relinquishment of the other three mining claims. A General Land Office mineral expert, sent to inspect, reported that the lands were "mineral in character" and the claims were valid. Secretary Ballinger replied that the General Land Office's report was glib and inadequate; if the company wished to apply for patents, further examination was necessary. [23] At this point the Hephizibah Mining Company practically vanishes from the historical record; apparently the company was discouraged from trying to take the claims to patent. In 1923, a mineral examiner found that the officers of the company had died or moved away, and the General Land Office annulled the claims. [24]

The second mining operation in the Carbon River area was that of the Washington Mining and Milling Company, which had located some thirty claims about one mile inside the park boundary on the south side of the Carbon. [25] In 1907, the company's manager, William Colgrove, applied for a permit to construct a wagon road across park land. Colgrove indicated that the road would be twelve feet wide and would continue beyond the park boundary some five miles down the Carbon River Valley to Montezuma, about one-half mile east of Fairfax, where it would connect with an existing county road. The department approved a permit with the understanding that the road would be government property. O'Farrell reported his disappointment with the results in the fall; the road was barely passable and extended only from the company's workings to the park boundary. Moreover, he found twenty-eight large cedar, spruce, and hemlock stumps—indicating the removal of far more board feet of timber than the company could account for in the bridge construction and corduroying that occurred here and there along the road. [26]

For about a twelve-month period in 1908-09, the Washington Mining and Milling Company took a keen interest in the claims, employing from seven to fifteen laborers. One tunnel reportedly reached a depth of 250 feet. By the spring of 1911, however, Superintendent Hall was able to report that the company had relinquished twenty-one of its claims. At this time the company still claimed fourteen locations, and Hall thought these, too, should be cancelled as they were probably being held for the merchantable timber on them. [27] The record is incomplete, but the remaining claims appear to have been forfeited a few years later.

Mount Rainier Mining Company, Glacier Basin

The most significant mining operation in Mount Rainier National Park was that of the Mount Rainier Mining Company. Though this mining concern was finally no more successful than any other mining concern in the park, it involved more road-building, logging, building construction, and subsurface workings than all the others combined, and was the only one to take its claims to patent.

During the summers of 1897 and 1898, prospectors discovered signs of copper ore deposits on the east flank of Mount Rainier, between the Emmons and Inter glaciers, in a place called Glacier Basin.[28] In the summer of 1902, Peter Storbo of Enumclaw and B.P. Korssjoen returned to the basin and staked forty-one claims, and in 1905 they formed the Mount Rainier Mining Company. The first recognition of this mining operation by park officials apparently occurred in 1906, when the Interior Department granted permission to Storbo and Korssjoen to improve the trail from the park boundary up the White River and the Inter Fork to their camp in Glacier Basin.[29]

The earliest indication that this mining operation's remoteness would pose special administrative problems came in the acting superintendent's annual report for 1908, in which Allen stated that he had reason to believe that in the summer of 1907 the prospectors in Glacier Basin had killed a number of mountain goats in the area. [30] The following year Allen reported that Ranger O'Farrell had confiscated rifles from the miners' cabins; now he was more certain that the miners had wiped out the goat population in the basin. Allen described the expanding operation as follows:

The mining claims are all contiguous and are located in the basin and on the ridges that surround it. The mining is done on the claims in the upper end of the basin and the tunnels run in the direction opposite to that by which the other claims would be reached. The lower claims in the group are in the timber. A sawmill with an estimated daily capacity of 10,000 board feet is operated by water power to produce timbers and lumber for the mine. The development work includes one tunnel 700 feet long, one tunnel 73 feet long, and a prospect hole 13 feet deep. Two cabins, 14 by 22 feet and 15 by 30 feet, a barn, 18 by 25 feet, and a blacksmith shop, 16 by 18 feet, have been built. [31]

In 1913, the Mount Rainier Mining Company relinquished its claim to thirty-two of the forty-one locations, retaining nine mining claims (for which it would eventually obtain patents). In exchange for these relinquishments, the department granted the company a permit, renewable each year, for two campsites, two existing tunnels, an existing sawmill and waterpower site, and the privilege to build a road up the White River into the basin. The permit stipulated that no timber was to be cut without separate authorization from the Secretary of the Interior. The company would pay an annual fee for the permit, the amount to be adjusted as the Secretary of the Interior deemed appropriate. [32] On paper, the department seemed to retain a lot of control through this agreement, but as things worked out over the next three years, the mining company was allowed considerable license.

The main reason for this was that the company's road construction promised to open up the east side of the park to tourists, a development which park officials regarded as positive even if the road would be an inferior one. At the time of this agreement, State Road No. 1 (today's Highway 410) terminated at the confluence of the White and Greenwater rivers, several miles north of the park boundary. Between 1914 and 1916, the Mount Rainier Mining Company constructed a wagon road from that point all the way up the White River to Glacier Basin, a distance of more than twenty miles. At the beginning of 1915, the company had already expended $25,000 on this project, and was employing a donkey engine, seven horses, and a crew of thirty to forty men, whose camp was situated just outside the park at the mouth of Silver Creek. [33]

Horse party in Glacier Basin where the Mount Rainier Mining Company had mining works. (Photo courtesy of Mount Rainier National Park.)

In 1915, the company also received permits from the Department of the Interior to cut green timber in Glacier Basin with which to construct two more buildings and a flume. The timber sales were small (the first was for 25,000 board feet and the second for 50,000 board feet, at $2.00 per thousand) but not insignificant considering the relatively sparse forest in Glacier Basin. Again, the department appeared to be motivated partly by the thought of opening up the east side for tourists that much sooner. One of the two buildings which the mining company proposed to build was a tourist hotel for the anticipated throng of automobilists once State Road No. 1 was completed. [34]

When all was said and done, the privileges which the department granted to the Mount Rainier Mining Company seemed unreasonably generous. The "improvements" did not yield much benefit in the way of public use. The road was so steep beyond the mouth of the Inter Fork (with grades of up to thirteen percent) as to be nearly impassable to motor vehicles, while the rest of the road required extensive regrading by the Park Service before it was opened to automobile traffic. The "hotel" remained incomplete and never saw any guest use. [35] Afterwards, however, the company was able to make an adequate case that it had made sufficient investment in the mining claims to have them patented. Once patented, the mining property in Glacier Basin would stand as the only alienated land in the park for many years.


In the early 1900s, various water development schemes threatened the integrity of Mount Rainier National Park. To two of the nation's pioneer hydroelectric developers, Charles Stone and Edwin Webster of Boston, Mount Rainier's immense volume of snow and ice, the precipitous descent of rivers and streams down its flanks, and the proximity of the mountain to Seattle and Tacoma, combined to make Mount Rainier an attractive field for hydroelectric development. [36] To a pair of Tacoma speculators, John W. Browne and William Colgrove, Mount Rainier appeared to be a favorable site for the development of storage reservoirs to supply the city of Tacoma with water for domestic use. To another Tacoman, W.F. Lamson, the glacial run-off on the east side of Mount Rainier could feasibly be diverted through the Cascade Mountains to irrigate the Yakima Valley. And for still another entrepreneur, the opening of the road to the Nisqually Glacier prompted an application for a lease for the business of quarrying ice to be hauled to Seattle and Tacoma. [37] Although none of these proposals for tapping water sources inside the national park got very far, they are significant because they were the first test of the Secretary of the Interior's resolve to preserve the resources in a natural condition even in the face of specific demands for their use. The secretary's response to these schemes takes on additional significance when it is compared with the secretary's concurrent decision-making in the notorious case of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, where water development interests prevailed.

In 1903, the Boston firm of Stone & Webster organized the Puget Sound Power Company and constructed the West Coast's first major hydroelectric plant on the Puyallup River. The development consisted of a dam and reservoir situated about ten miles west of the park boundary, below the confluence of the Puyallup and Mowich rivers, from which a flume conducted the water about ten miles farther west to the penstocks, turbines and powerhouse site. With a generating capacity of 20,000 kilowatts, the plant distributed electrical current to the street and interurban railway systems, industries, and illumination in Tacoma, Seattle, and other Puget Sound communities with a total population of some 200,000 people. This rivalled the hydroelectric development at Niagara Falls, completed four years earlier, as one of the first impressive demonstrations of large-scale electric power generation. [38]

On June 5, 1903, the Puget Sound Power Company applied to the Secretary of the Interior for permission to investigate the potential of damming the outlets of Mowich and Eunice lakes as well as Meadow Creek—all located within the national park—in order to form upstream reservoirs for the company's new hydroelectric plant on the Puyallup River. [39] This application reached the Secretary of the Interior on the heels of another application—perhaps fortuitously, for it demonstrated that one concession would doubtless lead to another.

On November 3, 1902, John W. Browne of Tacoma and William Colgrove of Orting formed the Mt. Tacoma Water Supply Company and filed a claim to a water right for the use of 10,000 cubic feet of water per second flowing from Crater (Mowich) Lake. On April 23, 1903, Browne and Colgrove applied to Secretary of the Interior Hitchcock for permission to build flumes and pipelines from Mowich Lake to the edge of the national park and across the strip of forest reserve which lay to the west of the park. While awaiting the secretary's reply, they filed additional claims to the waters of Meadow, Voight, and Crater creeks and for the right to use the bed of Eunice Lake as a reservoir. At this time Browne and Colgrove also located the Crater and Crater No.2 mining claims. Their location notices, recorded in the office of the auditor of Pierce County, stated that the water rights were for mining and manufacturing purposes and for the purpose of supplying the city of Tacoma and other cities of Pierce and King counties with fresh water. [40]

Acting Secretary Thomas Ryan turned down both applications on July 8, stating that the Mount Rainier Park Act made no provision for the granting of rights of way over the park lands for flumes and pipelines nor for the creation of reservoirs. This ended the matter as far as the Puget Sound Power Company was concerned, but Browne and Colgrove proved to be particularly tenacious. By virtue of their two mining claims, the Crater and Crater No.2, they insisted that they had a prior water right and a legitimate reason to be making "improvements" in the area. Clearly they were speculating on the possibility of attracting interest in the site by the city of Tacoma, to whom they would then sell their alleged water right. The Department of the Interior's inability to remove these two speculators summarily demonstrated how vulnerable the national park was to exploitative schemes.

That summer of 1903, Secretary Hitchcock directed Forest Supervisor Grenville F. Allen to assume responsibility for the national park and to assign two forest rangers to the area. On August 24, Hitchcock instructed Allen to prevent any party from making a preliminary survey with a view to constructing reservoirs or diverting water from streams in the park. [41] Allen detailed Ranger Alfred B. Conrad to the Carbon River area and requested that he determine the validity of the Crater and Crater No.2 mining claims. Conrad found one log cabin "bunkhouse" on the claim together with a single, shallow prospect hole. The cabin was occupied by the claimants' hired man, John R. Lahzis. When Conrad asked what their supposed gold and copper ore had assayed for, Colgrove told the ranger that none had been assayed, while Browne said it had assayed for $5 to $12 per ton. The ranger concluded: "I do not believe that this is a valid mining claim, in my opinion this claim is taken on a supposed water right on Crater Lake." [42] Allen forwarded this report to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, noting that "the intrusion of these people seems to be a wilfull [sic] trespass," and requested further instructions. [43]

Browne and Colgrove reacted aggressively to the negative finding in Ranger Conrad's validity determination. First they put up notices near Mowich Lake (in violation of the park regulation that prohibited posting of private notices or advertisements) announcing their various water right claims and plans for diversions. For good measure, they posted notices underneath these stating that they would prosecute to the full extent of the law anyone who removed their notices. [44] Second, Browne wrote to Secretary Hitchcock suggesting that Conrad was unqualified to determine the validity of their mining claim. [45] Finally, Browne renewed his and Colgrove's request for a permit, on the grounds that Congress might soon pass a law that would grant the secretary this authority. With unintended irony, he added that the company might "pay a reasonable rental for the use of the water...the funds so derived to be used for the further preservation and improvement of the Forest Reserves and National Parks." [46] Browne enclosed a letter from the mayor of Tacoma to Secretary Hitchcock that outlined the city's population growth and existing water supply and stated that it would be only a short time before the city required additional water sources. [47]

There was a grave precedent involved here. Only months before, Secretary Hitchcock had rejected a request by the city of San Francisco for a permit to turn the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park into a reservoir and city water supply. (Hitchcock's successor, James R. Garfield, would reverse that decision, setting the stage for one of the most bitter conservation battles in American history. In 1913, Congress would pass a law authorizing the infamous Hetch Hetchy reservoir project to go forward.) [48] The parallel with Hetch Hetchy did not escape Washington's Senator Foster, who requested an outline of all of Hitchcock's rulings on water development proposals in national parks, particularly with respect to Yosemite National Park. [49] Interior Department officials thereupon analyzed the various statutes involved, including the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, Washington State water rights law, and federal and state mining laws, and determined that the department did not recognize water rights "of the character of those Messrs. Browne and connection with mining claims." [50]

This laid the matter to rest—almost. Three years later, the Mt. Tacoma Water Supply Company requested a permit to take water from Chenuis Creek for the purposes, once again, of providing a water supply for the city of Tacoma. Chenuis Creek is a tributary of the Carbon River on the extreme north edge of Mount Rainier National Park. It drops into the Carbon at Chenuis Falls. To divert the water from Chenuis Creek would result in the reduction or elimination of the scenic waterfalls. On May 8, 1907, Secretary of the Interior Garfield requested a report on this situation from Acting Superintendent Allen. Allen reported that the Chenuis Creek proposal was another speculative venture like the company's earlier Mowich Lake scheme, and recommended against granting the permit. But he added the following caveat:

However, if it could be shown that the proposed flume line would be a work of great public utility, that it was desired by the city of Tacoma, and that its use would be a benefit to them, I should recommend that the water be taken from Chenuis Creek, notwithstanding the circumstance that to do so would destroy the waterfalls. [51]

Here was the precise thinking that would lead Secretary Garfield, one year later, to sacrifice Hetch Hetchy to the needs of San Francisco water users. Fortunately for Mount Rainier National Park, the city of Tacoma looked elsewhere for additions to its water supply. It would seem that Mount Rainier's escape from any large water development project in this era was more an accident of geography than it was a result of the Interior Department's natural resource policy.

Mount Rainier and Tipsoo Lakes
Mount Rainier and Tipsoo Lakes. Some regarded the snow-capped mountain as a potential resource for water development schemes. (Asahel Curtis photo courtesy of University of Washington, Negative No. Curtis 58797.)

One more water development proposal in this era is worth noting. In 1915, W.F. Lamson of Tacoma quietly laid before Washington's Senator Miles Poindexter an ambitious scheme by which the meltwaters of the Emmons and Fryingpan glaciers would be diverted to the east side of the Cascade Range. Lamson's idea was to build an earthen dam across the main fork of the White River, creating a reservoir in the upper White River Valley. The water would be conveyed by tunnel, about two miles in length, through the crest of the Cascade Mountains, and then down either Morse Creek or Rainier Fork to the American River. From that point the water would descend through a series of hydroelectric dams and storage reservoirs, and ultimately feed into irrigation projects in the dry Yakima Valley. Lamson reasoned that the diversion of water to the east side would not only generate power and benefit Benton and Yakima county agricultural interests, but would solve the problem of flood control on the White River and reduce the need for dredging of the Puyallup Waterway in the Tacoma Harbor as well. [52]

It is not known whether Senator Poindexter ever publicized Lamson's scheme. Evidently he at least gave it a sympathetic hearing. What is interesting about Lamson's scheme is that he touted it at the same time that he pursued the position of national park supervisor (superintendent). Apparently he saw no conflict of interest between the two objectives. Less than a month after detailing his water diversion scheme for Senator Poindexter, he asked for the senator's help in gaining the government post being vacated by Supervisor John J. Sheehan. While Poindexter delicately refused this request, Lamson did obtain an endorsement from the Pierce County Women's Democratic League. The League informed Secretary of the Interior Lane, perhaps naively, that Lamson was "in hearty and intelligent accord with your National Park policy, and altogether a gentleman of such high character and ability that we not only feel sure that his appointment would result in great good in the Park in service, but a credit to your administration." [53] How Lamson planned to proceed with his water development scheme had he become supervisor of the national park remains unclear, but the mere fact of his candidacy shows how frail was the preservation ethic in this era.


Natural resource policy in Mount Rainier National Park originally laid stress on the preservation of objects (timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities) rather than biological communities. Forest policy focused on the care and management of healthy trees, because the underlying conception of a forest was that it consisted of so many individual, preferably green, trees (hence the term "timber" in the Mount Rainier National Park Act). Early park superintendents only dimly acknowledged the ecological relationships between dead and living, old and young, or diseased and healthy trees, or between trees and undergrowth. A good forest, in their view, was a forest unblemished by bums, insect infestations, blowdowns, and the like. "While there are considerable tracts on which the trees were killed by fire many years before the creation of the park," wrote Grenville F. Allen in one of his annual reports, "the timber is on the whole in a thrifty condition." [54] Allen assumed that market values and aesthetics neatly coincided, that park visitors admired big, harvestable trees. Commenting on the fire danger caused by the presence of many dead cedars along the Nisqually and Carbon rivers, Allen wrote, "The removal of these unsightly snags should add to the attractiveness of the park." [55]

Most of the early park superintendents were themselves involved with the Forest Service or the lumbering industry. Grenville F. Allen served in a dual capacity as acting superintendent of the park and supervisor of the surrounding national forest. Edward S. Hall, who had a homestead claim nearly adjacent to Allen's in Ashford, owned and operated the Rainier Mill on his own property before assuming the job of superintendent in 1910. Ethan Allen, manager of a Tacoma printing company prior to his appointment as superintendent in 1913, was certainly no stranger to the timber industry, either. All of these men viewed the forests of Mount Rainier National Park with a timberman's eye. Ethan Allen noted in his two annual reports of 1913 and 1914:

The timbered areas have never been cruised with a view to determining quantities and values, but such a cruise would furnish valuable information, particularly on which to base a reasonable annual expenditure for protection against fire. It would also serve to show the extent and value of mature, dead, and down timber which could be disposed of commercially without injury to the natural beauty of the forest and which is now a serious menace to that timber which is most desirable to have preserved. [56]

In these years, forest policy in the national park bore strong similarities to forest policy in the adjoining national forest. The early park superintendents concerned themselves primarily with suppression of all forest fires and elimination of trespass and vandalism. When time permitted, they thought about ways that the forest could be "improved," by fighting insect infestations or clearing out dead or "overmature" trees so that new growth could come in. Though they were certainly cognizant of the forest's scenic and scientific values, their background sometimes led them to manage the forest as if it were so much timber on the stump.

Forest Fire Suppression

Acting Superintendent Grenville F. Allen characterized the fire danger in Mount Rainier National Park as low throughout most of the summer, but "very great" during the month of August. According to Allen, rangers and local settlers were aware of the high fire hazard in August and were generally conscientious about putting out their campfires, but tourists often did not know better. Unattended or abandoned campfires were a serious problem. Park regulations permitted campers to use dead or fallen timber for fuel, and stipulated that fires would be lit only when necessary and completely extinguished when no longer required. But many campers either did not know the regulations or chose to disobey them. [57]

The most important element of fire protection in the park was ranger patrols. Rangers tried to educate campers about the need to extinguish their campfires, and in many cases they put out unattended campfires themselves. Rangers also organized ad hoc crews of firefighters when necessary. The following report by Ranger William Sethe provides a clear picture of how this would occur:

Ashford, Wash., Sept. 21, 1909

Acting Superintendent,
     Mt. Rainier Natl. Park
     Orting, Wash.

Dear Sir:

On Saturday September 18th about 4.30 P.M. it was reported to me at Longmire Springs that there was a fire burning in the old burn along the Paradise river a little below Carter Falls.

I at once took three men and started notifying [miners] Baker Long and Frank Hendericks [sic] on our way towards the fire.

When we reached the fire I seen at once that we would need more men to control the fire. Leaving what men I had to do the best they could I went up to the Gov. camp at Narada Falls and imployed [sic] ten men to help fight the fire.

After a lot of hard work we managed to get it under control at midnight after that until 7 o'clock A.M. the men were all kept busy watching and putting out small fires.

One man was imployed besides three miners and myself held it in check through the day.

Heavy rain set in about six o'clock P.M. the fire was left is now about out.

As to how the fire started is not known at present.

A list of names of the men employed is inclosed.

Yours truly
[Signed] William Sethe
Park Ranger. [58]

Next to patrol, the most important part of fire protection was trail development, which improved the rangers' prospects of reaching a fire before it got too big to suppress. Of course, trail development also tended to disperse campers and thereby spread the fire danger over a wider area. For this reason, Acting Superintendent Allen was of two minds about trail development. Initially he considered the absence of trails to be a "natural protection to the park" and urged that no more trails be built until the park had an adequate ranger force to patrol them. [59] By 1907, however, he was recommending an extension of the trail system into the northern and eastern sections of the park. In part his change of mind was a concession to public use; in part it was an acknowledgement of the fact that a growing number of prospectors were dispersing all over the park with or without a good trail system anyway, and the slash they produced when felling timber for their small cabins created fire hazards all over the park. [60]

At one point Allen thought he might make use of these prospectors. Many of them applied for permission to carry firearms in the park, and Allen thought the department should issue each gun permit in the form of an agreement specifying that the applicant would assist in fighting forest fires and inform the district ranger of any park violations that he observed. Allen also suggested that the park be supplied with fire boxes, so that shovels and axes could be stowed at various points along the road and trails. Neither suggestion was acted upon, however. [61]

As logging operations moved up the Nisqually Valley and indeed right into the national park in the period 1910-13, a new fire danger arose. This was the danger from "slash." The woody debris left behind by logging made uncommonly good fuel for forest fires. Some of the slash was piled alongside the road in the park, some of it was on the Rainier National Forest under Forest Service supervision, and some of it was on Northern Pacific land under no one's supervision. Ethan Allen described the situation shortly before taking over the job of park superintendent in June 1913:

As far as I have been able to see, there are no [logging] operations in progress by private parties within the Rainier National Park, and none within a reasonable distance of the Park line at this time, but the unclean condition of patented lands adjoining, and others near, constitute a serious menace to Park timber. This is a condition which has existed for several years past.

The control or influence the Interior Department may be able to exert, however, is a serious question. Perhaps the owners may be proceeded against in the Washington State Courts for permitting a nuisance to exist, which constitutes a danger and a menace to Government property. Undoubtedly these old cuttings are dangerous, and, indeed, may at any time conduct a fire into the Park timber and inflict great loss. [62]

As luck would have it, no such large-scale fire eventuated. Forest fires in this period were generally small, burning no more than a few acres. The largest on record occurred on August 26-27, 1906 in Paradise Park, burning about twenty-five acres and destroying about ten acres of green trees. It started when a party of campers left their campfire unextinguished. [63] Despite the growing number of campers from year to year, the incidence of fire did not increase, suggesting that park rangers were more or less successful in educating the public about the need to put out their campfires.

Disposal of Dead and Down Timber

In the fall of 1908, there came a request from one Beall Foster of Tacoma to remove a quantity of dead and down cedar that lay about fifty feet of the park road and about two miles inside the park entrance. Acting Superintendent Grenville F. Allen forwarded Foster's application to the Secretary of the Interior, stating that he did not know the policy of the Interior Department with regard to the sale of dead timber on national park lands, but in this case thought the sale would be "desirable." [64] Two weeks later, Assistant Secretary Frank Pierce authorized the timber sale, informing Allen simply that it was "the desire of the Department to dispose of all such dead timber within the limits of the park." [65] The decision appears to have been without precedent. Subsequently, two national parks (Glacier and Lassen Volcanic) would be established with provision made in the law for the sale of dead and down timber under rules and regulations devised by the Secretary of the Interior, but no such provision obtained in the Mount Rainier National Park Act. Critics would soon charge that the timber sale violated the law.

Unfortunately, the department's thinking on this issue is impossible to trace. Was the timber sale authorized to raise revenue? Reduce the fire hazard? Improve the appearance of the forest? It should be pointed out that logging was not a new activity in Mount Rainier National Park; a considerable amount of merchantable timber had already been removed incidental to the clearing and widening of the roadway in 1905-08. But the timber removed during road construction was not sold directly by the government for revenue; rather, its commercial value was factored into the contractors' bids for clearing the ground. Thus, it represented an offset to the War Department's expenditures in the park and did not affect the Interior Department's park budget. [66]

The timber sale soon acquired a momentum of its own. Beall Foster's offer to purchase 200 cords of dead cedar for shingle bolts at $.85 per cord was superseded by Edward S. Hall's application to purchase 1,000 cords at $1.10 per cord. Hall then lost out to the Big Creek Shingle Company, which topped his offer with $1.30 per cord. The department approved a contract with the Big Creek Shingle Company on June 7, 1909. That summer, while the company installed a mill near Ashford and cleared the trees along the Nisqually River to make a suitable landing, Acting Superintendent Allen assigned Ranger William Sethe to scale and mark the timber inside the park. Sethe's estimate came to 5,235 cords, for a total stumpage value of $6,805.50. As of the end of 1909, the Big Creek Shingle Company had paid the Interior Department $3,600 for this sale. [67] Thus, before the logging operation in the park was even underway, its projected scope had already increased by more than twenty-five fold. And it would grow larger still. No wonder that two members of The Mountaineers who were appointed to investigate the sale declared that the contract was "only an entering wedge, and if the work is not stopped at once, may lead to the cutting of all the timber in the park." [68]

In spite of some objections to the sale by the Seattle and Tacoma chambers of commerce, Acting Superintendent Allen remained enthusiastic. In his annual report for 1909, he suggested that the logging should be extended to dead, standing timber as well as dead and down material.

Along the Carbon and Nisqually rivers there is a considerable amount of dead cedar. The removal of this material, if conducted in a proper manner, will be a decided advantage to the park. It will to some extent reduce the fire danger. The greatest difficulty in extinguishing small fires arises from the presence of dead standing timber. The fire burns to the top of the dead trees and the sparks are blown to a great distance. The stumps should be cut very low, so that they will be concealed by the growth of vegetation. The debris should be carefully cleaned up. The removal of these unsightly snags should add to the attractiveness of the park, and the clearing up of the fallen timber and building of the wood roads will make many pleasant camping grounds along the bank of the river. The work should be constantly supervised by one of the park officers, in order to prevent damage to undergrowth and standing timber. [69]

In the spring of 1910, the new park superintendent, Edward S. Hall, also expressed support for the sale, in spite of mounting criticism of it. Responding to complaints that the Big Creek Shingle Company was cutting down green timber, and that much underbrush was being killed in the process of taking out the dead timber, Hall conceded that a number of trees with "one or two green branches" had been taken, but these were so far gone that they were "of no more material beauty to the Park than the other dead standing timber which the Department decided it was advisable to have removed." Noting the additional revenue derived from these trees, he thought it was a "good plan to remove them as they increase the fire risk very much." [70]

Both The Mountaineers and Assistant Engineer Eugene Ricksecker sharply attacked the timber sale in May 1910. A report by two Mountaineers charged the superintendent with collusion in stretching the definition of "dead trees" to include all cedars with dry tops. "If a dry top is counted a dead tree, ninety-nine per cent of the cedar in Mount Rainier National Park can be cut." The Mountaineers' report alleged that the cutting was in violation of the contract, and the contract was in violation of the Mount Rainier National Park Act. [71] Ricksecker, for his part, described the damage in poignant terms:

Where the road was well shaded and the surface protected, as for instance across the sandy river bottom just east of Tahoma Fork, the sun now penetrates, drying the sand, and making travel heavy. Where the forest growth was so thick it was impossible for the eye to penetrate a distance of one hundred feet beyond the limits of the road the country is now opened for distances of eight hundred to a thousand feet... .This portion of the road passes thru the largest body of uniformly large cedars that exist in this part of the country. It was said to have few equals; no superiors. Its natural wildness, undisturbed by man, was its beauty and constituted a feature of this Park retention of which should have been jealously guarded. [72]

Following his receipt of these letters, Secretary Ballinger dispatched a special inspector to Mount Rainier to investigate the logging operation and Superintendent Hall's role in it. Special Inspector Edward W. Dixon confirmed that Hall had ordered the ranger in charge to mark all cedars with dry or "spiked" tops, even though this would classify as dead "practically all the standing cedar in the National Park." But he defended the superintendent, saying that Hall had admitted "poor judgment" in the matter and that he was an intelligent man and would make an acceptable officer in charge. As for the general policy of removing dead timber from the park, Dixon advised that the small amount of revenue from the sale of dead cedar did not compensate the government for the destruction of young growth and damage to live trees that inevitably resulted, nor for the increased fire risk from the accumulation of slash. [73]

The problem remained of how to terminate the logging operation. The department's chief clerk, Clement S. Ucker, investigated the legal precedents and found that the law was clear about what constituted dead timber; therefore, the company could be held liable for damages for violating its contract. [74] After making a personal inspection late in the summer, Secretary Ballinger decided to charge the company for double stumpage on the green timber it had cut, plus the cost of the timber cruiser, plus the cost to the government of piling the slash so that it could be burned. He wanted the company to pay a cash settlement and get out of the park immediately. If the department wanted to remove dead and down timber from the park in the future, Ballinger told Ucker, it should be done by government employees under the direct supervision of the superintendent. [75]

Sketch map of timber sale area, 1909
Sketch map of the timber sale area in 1909

This timber sale probably stands as one of the most egregious mistakes in the administrative history of Mount Rainier National Park. If the contract did not technically violate the Mount Rainier National Park Act (the secretary's regulations of June 10, 1908 prohibited the cutting or injury of any timber growing on the park lands), it was certainly illegal in its execution. What was most remarkable about the incident was the fact that all the hard criticism came from outside the Interior Department—from the Seattle and Tacoma chambers of commerce, The Mountaineers, and the Army Corps of Engineers. One wonders if Interior officials would have eventually called a halt to the logging in the absence of such a public outcry, or whether Ricksecker was correct when he announced grimly that spring, "It is with keen regret that I report that the blight of commercial greed has fastened itself upon the southwestern corner of the Park with no uncertain grip." [76]

Forest Infestations

Early park superintendents regarded tree disease as injurious to the forest resource, but they acknowledged that there was little they could do except monitor it. Acting Superintendent Grenville F. Allen reported in 1906 that there were some instances of tree disease in the park. He noted that alpine fir and mountain hemlock were frequently attacked by a fungus or injured by some other cause which affected the leaves, but he did not think the problem was serious. He reported that western white pine was attacked by an insect borer which could be quite destructive. He thought the insect was increasing, but he did not know of any way to check the spread of this infestation. [77]

Prevention of Trespass and Vandalism

The Mount Rainier Park Act provided that the "timber" in the park would be protected from "injury or spoliation." [78] The Secretary of the Interior's regulations for the park further defined this provision by declaring that "no person shall cut, break, remove, impair, or interfere with any trees, shrubs, plants, growing timber, curiosities, wonders, or other objects of interest on the Government lands in the park." [79] This language was born of a desire to protect the natural resources from acts of "vandalism" and "trespass." These were the terms contemporaries used to describe a range of willful acts on the public lands. Trespass meant any use of the national park that was unauthorized by the land laws such as logging, grazing, hunting, trapping, and, after 1908, prospecting. Vandalism referred to the defacement or destruction of natural objects, principally trees, underbrush, wildflowers, and wildlife. There was a significant overlap between vandalism and trespass, but generally speaking, acts of vandalism were associated with people who were in the park purely for pleasure and who harmed the natural resources out of sheer malice or ignorance. As indicated by the repeated calls for troops to patrol the park, preservationists generally regarded the prevention of trespass and vandalism as the most important task of park administration. [80]

The park administration's concerns about vandalism naturally focused on the popular highcountry areas on the south side of the mountain. Wherever there were concentrations of campers, there was apt to be some vandalism. Moreover, damage to the resources in these high mountain meadows was especially conspicuous and the vegetation was slow to regenerate. Acting Superintendent Grenville F. Allen remarked in 1908, "In Paradise Valley and in the other mountain parks trees require from one hundred to one hundred and fifty years to attain a diameter of 12 inches. Since their destruction would be a permanent injury to the park, the utmost care should be taken to prevent them from being cut or killed by fire." [81]

It is interesting to note that even in these early years, park officials appreciated the fact that crowds of campers in the alpine sections of the park tended to degrade the environment. The chief difference between their outlook and that of modem natural resource managers was the way they laid stress on gross violations of the park rules, or so-called acts of vandalism, rather than on the cumulative effects of so many people overloading a fragile environment. Considering the low level of environmental consciousness among the camping public in that era, the early park officials' emphasis on vandalism was probably not misplaced. One ignorant person with an axe could do a lot of damage; one abandoned campfire could set a forest on fire. When a camper was arrested in Paradise Park for cutting down a tree with which he wanted to make an overnight shelter, park officials hoped that such a negative example would serve to teach other campers that the park rules were not to be violated. [82] Rangers were dealing with a camping public that, judging by the standards of a later era, often lacked the most basic environmental ethics.

So undeveloped were the ethics of highcountry camping in this era that park administrators were sometimes one step ahead of the mountain clubs in their efforts at consciousness-raising. When the Sierra Club's secretary, William E. Colby, wrote to Secretary of the Interior Hitchcock for permission for his large party to cut a few green trees for fuel wood at Paradise Park in 1905, he received this enlightened response from Acting Superintendent Allen:

I am not authorized to permit the cutting of green timber. While the falling of a few small trees by your party might be no great injury to the natural attractions of the Park, the precedent established would be likely to result in indiscriminate cutting by others and to seriously embarrass the rangers in enforcing the regulations. [83]

Such sound logic did not always prevail, however. In 1914, no less venerable a Mount Rainier preservationist than Edward S. Ingraham requested permission for a party of 200 Campfire Girls and their guardians to pick wildflowers at Indian Henry's Hunting Ground for a floral display at the San Francisco Exposition. Ingraham thought the rule against cutting plants should not apply to wildflowers. "From what knowledge I have of floriculture," Ingraham wrote to the superintendent, "I understand that the plucking, prunning [sic] and thinning out of flowers, adds to their vigor of growth and beauty. It is only by such cultivation that species can be made to reach their highest perfection." [84] Whether or not the department accepted Ingraham's dubious floricultural theory, Assistant Secretary Lewis G. Laylin consented in this instance to waive the park regulation. [85]

Park officials had relatively little trouble with "timber trespass" in the narrow sense of the term, meaning the unlawful use of natural resources for private gain. The probable cutting of trees for sale to lumber interests by mining companies in the Carbon River area has already been mentioned. There was one unlawful squatter in the northwest corner of the park who was noteworthy mainly because he was the only one of his kind. [86] Park officials perceived the greatest danger of timber trespass to be from stockmen who might attempt to graze their sheep or cattle in the mountain meadows in late summer. Some grazing had occurred in the high meadows on the east side of Mount Rainier prior to 1899, causing the Seattle Times to comment that the creation of the park "will effectively keep the sheep herders with their countless flocks out of these wonderful alpine meadows." [87] But the threat of trespass by stockmen soon receded as better range management and a shift from sheep to cattle raising in the Yakima Valley lessened the attractiveness of Mount Rainier National Park's distant and mostly snowbound meadows to stockmen. [88]

Meanwhile, park officials had to determine whether or not to permit grazing by saddle and pack horses in the park. Here, economic considerations were allowed to take precedence over environmental concerns; the horses kept on hand at Longmire Springs for hire by tourists had to be fed hay brought from outside the park, but the hotel camps at Paradise Park and Indian Henry's were each permitted to graze four milch cows and an indefinite number of horses because of the difficulty of shipping hay bales to these remote locations. [89] As a result, the alpine meadows around these two camps were heavily grazed.


The Mount Rainier National Park Act stated that the Secretary of the Interior would provide against the "wanton destruction" of game in the park, and against their "capture or destruction for the purposes of merchandise or profit." Significantly, this rather cumbersome wording spelled out something less than a prohibition against all hunting. The idea that national parks were the nation's most inviolate game sanctuaries, where no hunting whatsoever was allowed, would evolve later. As with the park's deep forests and marvelous displays of alpine wildflowers, the Department of the Interior regarded the park's wild animals as objects which increased the park's appeal to the public. The idea that the totality of plants and animals in a given area, together with soil, water, sunlight, and climate, formed a complete ecosystem, and that this was what the national park should aim to preserve—that idea still lay more than thirty years in the future. The protection of wildlife in Mount Rainier National Park in the period 1899-1916 was based on a different set of assumptions.

The department's policies were attributable to three distinct ideas about Mount Rainier National Park's wild animals. First, it was commonly observed that many species of Mount Rainier's fauna were unusual and interesting animals because of their adaptation to an alpine habitat. These included the mountain goat, ptarmigan, marmot, and pika. The park's founders had noted this (and stretched the point a little) when they described the mountain as "an arctic island in a temperate zone." They assumed that various animal species found on the higher slopes of Mount Rainier constituted remnant populations which had retreated upward rather than northward at the end of the last ice age. As Forest Inspector Edward T. Allen wrote in 1903:

The extent of this truly high mountain territory has preserved conditions such as were widespread immediately after the ice age more perfectly than has any other region in the United States and there still exist many species of Arctic fauna and flora extinct elsewhere except in the inaccessible North. The importance of preventing the wanton destruction of such objects which has hitherto been unrestricted is obvious. [90]

This conceptual model not only gave the mountain special significance, but it also suggested that the island populations of wildlife were vulnerable to extermination. Mountain goats, in particular, needed protection.

The second idea was that virtually all species of wildlife in the park were in a depleted condition when the park was created in 1899. This was no doubt an accurate view. A second major goal of wildlife protection, then, was to restore the wildlife to its former abundance. The possibility that some populations might eventually become overabundant did not seem to concern park officials in this era. Recognizing that the park only took in the summer range for some animals like deer and elk, officials focused on the problem of protecting the animals in their winter range outside the park and remained oblivious to the potential problem of overgrazing of summer range inside the park. The operational idea, here, was that the park could be "stocked" with game, while any surplus population would take care of itself by overflowing into the surrounding country where it would be trimmed down to size by sport hunters. [91]

The third idea which underpinned the department's national park wildlife policy in this era was that the value of wild animals could be based solely on aesthetics. Park visitors generally liked large and majestic animals such as deer, elk, and mountain goats, or small and cute ones like raccoons and chipmunks. They were not inclined to admire, much less have an opportunity to observe, predators like the cougar, wolverine, or fisher. Therefore, it seemed like good policy to eliminate predators and thereby increase the number of desirable animals in the park. The gradual reversal of popular attitudes and public policy toward predators stands as one of the most intriguing and contentious episodes in the history of wildlife management, but it is important to understand that this, too, lay in the future during the era now under discussion.

The Department of the Interior managed Mount Rainier National Park's wildlife resources with the overall goal of satisfying the park visitors' desire to see wild animals. As with its management of the park's forest resources, the department made little attempt to differentiate national park from national forest wildlife policy. In an era when "game management" in the United States owed less to an understanding of animal ecology than it did to the experience of European gamekeepers on their hunting estates, park officials sought to employ three standard tools in order to increase the park's "game." These tools consisted of the elimination of poaching, the elimination of predators, and restocking the park with game animals brought from elsewhere.

Elimination of Poaching

Illegal hunting and trapping was so prevalent in the park's early years that it posed a real menace to the wildlife populations. Beaver and otter were thought to have been entirely trapped out by 1905. The mountain goat had long been a prized quarry of sport hunters; the population fell off considerably in the 1890s, and probably continued to decline in the early 1900s. [92] Deer and bear were also relatively scarce. Unfortunately, estimating game population trends in the park was at best difficult. Official estimates were based on an impressionistic summation of many people's reports, which were in turn highly impressionistic. Park rangers patrolling on foot, for example, gained a different impression of wildlife abundance or scarcity than officials who spent most of their time on the park road. Eugene Ricksecker's description of wildlife conditions in the park to Secretary of the Interior James R. Garfield gives a good idea of the quality of data which officials had to work with. "The noticeable scarcity of game in the Rainier Park is a subject of comment," Ricksecker wrote.

I have made some forty trips into this Park during the last five years and have seen but one lynx, one deer, and two or three ptarmigan. A small herd of elk are said to frequent some portions of the Park; deer and bear signs are visible here and there and several bands of mountain goat, fast disappearing, have been seen. Quite recently a goat weighing 300 lbs. was killed by a person in the Park who is said to have shot it just outside the boundary. [93]

It was unclear to the park staff whether deer and mountain goat were becoming scarce throughout the whole park or whether they were moving into the backcountry; and they debated whether the scarcity was due to poaching, predation by cougars, or the frequent blasting involved in road construction which might be chasing the animals into the highcountry. Sightings of deer by automobilists on the park road were very rare, yet deer were thought to be abundant on the west side between the Puyallup and Mowich rivers. Poaching seemed to take the heaviest toll in the Carbon River area, where local residents in the town of Fairfax were not in sympathy with either the state or federal game laws. Some residents kept hounds for running deer and would hire themselves out as guides "to the more disreputable sportsmen of Tacoma and Seattle" as soon as the ranger patrols ended for the season. [94]

The amount of poaching diminished sharply after about 1910. A park ranger arrested one poacher for killing a deer in 1909 and the park secured a conviction and a fine of $100. [95] More important than this single negative example to the public, however, was the public's growing acceptance of the hunting ban on principle. Acting Superintendent Allen noted the willingness of most park visitors to comply with the prohibition against taking firearms into the park. [96]The growing size of the park ranger staff and increasing effectiveness of patrol no doubt helped to suppress poaching, too, although the determined poacher could evade the entire force of park rangers without difficulty if he took precautions. [97]

Bearing in mind that estimates of wildlife populations were very rough, there seems to have been a general upward trend for most big-game species after about 1910. Park superintendents attributed the increase to several factors: the virtual elimination of poaching, the elimination of several cougars from the park, and the two mild winters of 1913-14 and 1914-15. By the end of the era, deer were considered to be abundant and mountain goats were making a very encouraging comeback. The reappearance of a band of goats in Van Trump Park, a few miles above Christine Falls on the road to Paradise, in 1914, suggested that the goats had in fact been driven out of the area by the noise of dynamite explosions some six years earlier. [98] Probably the mountain goats were acclimating to the increased human presence in the area.

Elimination of Predators

Cougars were thought to be an important factor in the depleted condition of deer and mountain goat populations in Mount Rainier National Park. Wolves, coyotes, wolverines, and fishers were also regarded as a menace to the park's wildlife. According to popular thinking, these predatory animals could all be classified as "varmints," or noxious pests, to be destroyed whenever possible, so that more desirable species like deer and mountain goat could flourish in their absence. [99] Even though the popular attitude toward predators was shaped mainly by material considerations—a desire by western stockmen to reduce their losses of cattle and sheep, a desire by sportsmen's clubs to increase the supply of game for sport hunting—federal officials saw no reason to buck the popular sentiment toward predators in the context of national parks. Later generations of Americans would assume, almost reflexively, that the commitment to preserve wildlife in national parks in a "natural condition" meant the preservation of natural predator-prey relationships, but officials in the early twentieth century construed this commitment to mean simply that the public would be able to view wild animals in a natural setting, or against a scenic backdrop. They saw nothing intrinsic in the national park legislation that required the preservation of predators.

Rangers hunted cougars and other predators in the park during the winter when they had little else to occupy their time. They were permitted to sell the furs and skins for additional income. The park administration sometimes employed local men to hunt and trap predatory animals, too. [100]No complete record of their kills survives, but occasional references in the annual reports of the superintendent indicate that park staff thought the predator control work was effective. Park staff killed two cougars, two "wild cats" (bobcat or lynx), and twenty-five marten in the winter of 1913-14, in what was presumably a good year. [101]

In December 1914, Ranger Rudolph Rosso caught two men trespassing in the park with steel traps and a 25-20 caliber Winchester rifle. He seized the traps and rifle, but because the men insisted that they had "no intention of trapping any game in the park except varmint which infest it," he recommended that these articles be returned and the matter be dropped. The park supervisor referred the matter to Stephen Mather, then assistant to the Secretary of the Interior, who approved the recommendation. The incident was revealing of the distinction which park officials made between "good" and "bad" animals. [102]

Mather also stipulated in his reply, "Whenever it is necessary to do any trapping for carnivorous animals or varmint this work will be performed by park rangers under the direction of the Supervisor of the park." This ended the practice of hiring local men to kill predators in the park. It was also a minor but timely indication of the professionalization that Mather would soon bring to the National Park Service. Although predator control would continue in the park into the 192Os, it would be conducted solely by park rangers or an agent of the Bureau of the Biological Survey. This was an important change, because it insulated the subsequent debate over predator control from local economic interests.

Restocking the Park

One of the favorite tools of game management in this era of reduced game populations was to take surplus game from one area and release it in another area where the game had been wiped out. Yellowstone National Park was a favorite source of game for many such transplants. In Washington state, sportsmen clubs were particularly interested in restocking the Cascade Mountains and eastern Washington with Yellowstone elk. Due to the elk's habits of gathering in open areas and bugling during the rutting season, hunters had practically wiped out the elk in the state by the end of the nineteenth century. The only significant population remaining was the herd in the Olympic Mountains. In 1905, the Washington state legislature passed a law that prohibited the hunting of these elk or any other remnant populations in the state for twenty years. Washington state sportsmen's clubs generally supported the moratorium on elk hunting, and wanted to use this period to make numerous transplants of elk from Yellowstone National Park.

In 1911, Superintendent Hall recommended that some Yellowstone elk be released in Mount Rainier National Park, because "it is believed that elk would thrive in the park." [103] The Washington Game Protective and Propagation Association supported the proposal and Washington's Senator Stanton Warburton soon raised the issue with the Department of the Interior. Governor Ernest Lister and the Elks Club of Tacoma endorsed the proposal, too, expressing the opinion that it would be "eminently proper" for the Department of the Interior "to transfer its surplus herds from one National Park to another." [104]

Some wildlife conservationists urged caution in making transplants of game, claiming that many species were being introduced into areas outside of their original range. They objected that sportsmen's clubs were sponsoring transplants without doing the necessary historical research into whether the transplanted animals had formerly existed in the area. They insisted that regional variations in a game animal like the elk constituted separate speciation, and that bringing closely related species together through haphazard restocking programs would lead to hybridization, or even degeneracy.

One such controversy revolved around the Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk. The Roosevelt elk, named after Theodore Roosevelt by the noted taxonomist C. Hart Merriam, was larger and stockier than the Rocky Mountain variety, and it had narrower antlers. [105] When Superintendent Hall proposed that Yellowstone elk be used to restock Mount Rainier National Park, he probably had no idea whether this variety of elk was actually native to the park and did not himself think it was important. At the time, scientific understanding of the Roosevelt elk was sketchy. Asked by the Secretary of the Interior for an opinion on the speciation of elk in Washington state, the Bureau of the Biological Survey averred that the Roosevelt elk was a separate species from the Rocky Mountain elk and that the Roosevelt elk's former range extended along the coastal mountain ranges from British Columbia to northern California. Therefore, it advised the Secretary of the Interior that no transplants of Rocky Mountain elk from Yellowstone National Park should be made west of the Cascade Mountains. [106]

Ironically, by the time the Bureau of the Biological Survey rendered this opinion, the first shipment of Yellowstone elk to Washington state had already been completed; some elk were released in the national forest near the town of Sultan, in Snohomish County, north of Mount Rainier. Moreover, two additional shipments of Yellowstone elk arrived at North Bend and Enumclaw, in King County on January 1, 1913, after the Biological Survey had gone on record against any more transplants of Rocky Mountain elk in the area. By the time the Department of the Interior's chief clerk, Clement S. Ucker, conveyed the Biological Survey's opinion to the Secretary of Agriculture, however, these animals had already been released in the national forest. The elk in the latter shipment were released on Grass Mountain, north of Mount Rainier National Park. [107] Still more transplants were made on the east side of the Cascade Range in 1914 and 1915. These elk were released on Bethel Ridge, west of Yakima. [108] In 1914, park officials observed a small elk herd in the east central portion of the park. The sighting was "unusual," according to Superintendent Ethan Allen, but he did not comment on whether the elk were thought to be native or reintroduced animals. [109]

The Biological Survey's opinion did come in time to kill the proposal to transplant a herd of about forty Yellowstone elk directly inside Mount Rainier National Park. Both the American Game Protective and Propagation Association and the Biological Survey recommended that the plan should be modified such that the restocking of former elk range in Mount Rainier National Park should be done with Roosevelt elk captured in the Olympic Mountains. [110] Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson concurred. [111] Unfortunately, the Olympic elk were much less accessible and subject to capture than the Yellowstone elk. For the time being, the plan was abandoned.

Nevertheless, the attempt by officials in the Biological Survey and the Department of the Interior to preserve the genetic purity of western Washington's elk held some definite implications for national park wildlife policy. It implied first of all, that if biological and historical data were to have a bearing on wildlife preservation efforts anywhere, it should influence wildlife policy in national parks. National parks were not to serve simply as game farms; rather, they would preserve wildlife in a condition that had occurred in the past. Thus, the controversy over the elk transplant represented an early movement toward a new definition of what was entailed in preserving national parks in a "natural condition." Secondly, the controversy highlighted the fact that when natural resource policy in national parks and forests diverged, political boundaries would not always succeed in protecting the park from environmental changes occurring around it.

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2000