Mt. Rainier National Park, located in west-central Washington, was established in 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States. The park contains 378 square miles including all of Mount Rainier, a 14,411-foot volcano. As the highest point in the Cascade Range, the mountain rises abruptly from the surrounding land with elevations in the park ranging from 1,600 feet, up to its namesake summit. Surrounding Mt. Rainier are verdant valleys, numerous waterfalls, subalpine wildflower meadows, old growth forests and more than two dozen glaciers. The volcano is often shrouded in clouds that dump enormous amounts of rain and snow on the peak every year, often hiding it from visitors who flock to catch an exposed glimpse.
Ninety-seven percent of the park is preserved as wilderness, including the Clearwater Wilderness and Mt. Rainier Wilderness, designated in 1988. Immediately adjacent to the park lie the Tatoosh Wilderness, Norse Peak Wilderness, and William O. Douglas Wilderness areas. Mt. Rainier National Park is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it truly a destination holding a myriad of wild treasures!
Our service project is lending much needed volunteerism to the Park Service to restore wilderness conditions near a popular area in the Park. We will be assisting the restoration crew by transplanting native plant seedlings in subalpine meadows near Sunrise, one of five sites in the park that provide day use visitor services, on the northeast flanks of Mt. Rainier. We're currently focused on the area adjacent to Sunrise, restoring an old, poorly located camping area that seriously degraded meadow ecosystems. The worksite is located at around 6400', near the toe of Emmons Glacier, so the growing season is short and the environmental conditions strongly influenced by the mountain!
A tremendous amount of work in the area has been accomplished so far over the years, and we’ll see and learn from the successes and failures of past restoration efforts. Volunteers will be car and tent camping down the road at White River Campground for the week, a developed site with amenities, and at 4400', less exposed to the elements than our worksite. As the least wooded and highest elevation campsite in the park, White River is described as having “breathtaking scenery” on many websites. From our base at White River, we'll make daily forays to Sunrise and into the backcountry. This is an active service trip appropriate for newcomers to backcountry volunteering and does not involve backpacking.
Check out more photos from last year's Mt. Rainier project in our gallery.