Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

Preserving the Park

Old-growth forest is defined as having stands of trees more than 200 years old, but they may be much older. In Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks, many trees are 500 to 1,000 years old!

Diversity is another hallmark of Pacific Northwest old-growth forests, where hundreds of species of flora and fauna occupy niches within the old-growth ecosystem. 

Old-growth forest is defined as having stands of trees more than 200 years old, but they may be much older. In Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks, many trees are 500 to 1,000 years old!

Diversity is another hallmark of Pacific Northwest old-growth forests, where hundreds of species of flora and fauna occupy niches within the old-growth ecosystem. 

After more than 150 years of logging, about 15 percent of old-growth forest remains in the Pacific Northwest, about half of which is protected within Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks. In a region where timber is a prime industry, these two parks are among the last preserves for old-growth Douglas fir forest.

The U.S. Forest Service, which administers much of the remaining old-growth forest outside of national parks, including Olympic National Forest, has halted cutting in large tracts of forest. This controversial decision has many timber industry-dependent residents of the Northwest concerned about job losses and changes to their lives. 

Mount Rainier's old-growth forests were the subject of a seven-year study by the University of Washington. The Hoh Rain Forest watershed in Olympic is the focus of a host of projects, one of which is research on old-growth forest plant and animal species by the park's Natural Resources Branch and the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. Learn more about old-growth forest ecology, and Mount Rainier's and Olympic's preservation and research programs, through park interpretive programs.

Something in the Air

Acid rain and fog generated in the Puget Sound area, carried by northwest and southwest winds, have caused high ozone levels at Mount Rainier. Researchers, assisted by park employees, are monitoring the pollution and trying to pinpoint its sources. Several sites at Mount Rainier and Olympic's Hoh Rain Forest watershed are the focus of studies, which include the monitoring of visibility, precipitation and fog, and analysis of the effects of acid rain. 

Human Impact on Mount Rainier

In 2000, human waste, from the more than 40,000 backpackers and 10,000 climbers, affected Mount Rainier. The resulting overall decline in water quality is causing serious problems in the wilderness. To help solve this dilemma, the National Park Service provides toilet facilities at major climbing camps and a blue bag system for climbers going higher than 10,000 feet. Backpackers are asked to use pit toilets at trailside camps. 

Delicate subalpine habitat, including beautiful meadows, are being destroyed by careless hikers who crush plants and overturn rocks. Ongoing public education in both parks encourages hikers to stay on trails, tread lightly, avoid picking flowers and help the parks preserve the delicate ecosystems. 

In recognition of the NPS's early master planning to preserve the park, Mount Rainier National Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in March 1997. 


Over 1.2 million visitors to Mount Rainier throw away about 350 tons of solid waste each year. To reduce the amount of trash going to landfills, the NPS instituted a recycling program at Mount Rainier. Specially marked bins are located at park facilities, lodges, campgrounds and roadways. GSI, the park concessioner, and the NPS also have employee recycling programs. In addition, GSI gives priority to purchasing recycled and recyclable products from purveyors of products with recyclable packaging. 

Olympic National Park provides recycling bins to collect glass and aluminum in the campgrounds, and the Lake Quinault and Kalaloch lodges recycle aluminum, cardboard, paper and glass. All park concessioners do some level of recycling.

Restoring the Elwha Ecosystem

The Elwha River is the largest watershed in Olympic National Park. Two dams on the river, located within the boundaries of the park, obstruct the passage of salmon from all but five of 75 miles of habitat available to these fish. Constructed in the early 1900s without fish passage facilities, the dams now supply power to a Port Angeles paper mill.

The Elwha is one of the few rivers outside Alaska and Canada that once supported the migration of all five species of Pacific salmon. The loss of this food source may affect many species of birds and mammals in the Elwha ecosystem. 

In October 1992, President George H.W. Bush signed the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act. This act requires the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's office to develop alternatives, including dam removal, to fully restore the Elwha River ecosystem and native salmon. 

Controlling Nonnative Species

The National Park Service is concerned about exotic (nonnative) species introduced by humans into natural ecosystems because the exotic species interfere with the health of the parks' native plants and animals. At Olympic National Park, nearly 25 percent of its 1,200 species of plants are nonnative. The NPS at Olympic is working to control outbreaks of some of these exotic species, including Canadian thistle, Scot's broom and holly.


Poaching, the illegal shooting of wildlife and collecting of plants and other resources, is a growing problem within Olympic National Park. As logging roads are built into areas bordering the park, access into once-remote parts improves, making it easier for poachers to enter and exit the park undetected. Poachers not only steal valuable resources that belong to everyone, but also damage and destroy the plants and animals of a fragile ecosystem. You can help by reporting incidents of poaching. Contact a park ranger immediately at (360) 565-3000. You can also contact the nationwide Wildlife Poaching Hotline by calling (800) 448-6722.

Park Regulations & Safety

The National Park Service, as a custodian of Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades national parks, has set regulations and guidelines to help protect the natural and cultural beauty of the parks, as well as to ensure your safety when visiting. Please do your part by following the rules and suggestions outlined in the park newspapers and elsewhere. Working together, we can preserve the parks for generations to come. 

Mount Rainier Flood Recovery

The November 2006 flood caused more than $36 million in damage and repairs and could take years to complete.

Many individuals and groups have contacted Mount Rainier National Park to ask how they can help restore the park's roads, trails, campgrounds, fire lookouts and other facilities damaged by the winter storms.

The park already has an active volunteer program, which makes use of almost a thousand people every year to help build, maintain and patrol trails; staff visitor centers; complete maintenance and revegetation projects; and accomplish many other tasks that would not be possible otherwise. We protect the natural and cultural resources of Mount Rainier more effectively, and serve its visitors better, with the help of volunteers. To learn more, visit the park's Volunteer in Parks web page at supportyourpark/volunteer.htm.

Many more volunteers will be needed to help the park recover from storm damage. Mount Rainier National Park has named the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a nationwide volunteer conservation organization, to direct its volunteer flood recovery efforts. SCA will work with park officials to assess backcountry damage, devise a restoration strategy, and organize a multi-year volunteer work plan to engage trail coalitions, friends groups, and individual volunteers.

"SCA will direct all aspects of volunteer efforts including site logistics, crew coordination and workload planning and scheduling," Superintendent, Dave Uberuaga explains. "The recovery effort will stretch over at least two years, and the resources and insights of SCA will prove invaluable."

To learn more about‑how you can participate‑in flood recovery efforts, or to put your name on a mailing list to receive further information, visit the Student Conservation Association's Mount Rainier flood recovery website at Mt_Rainier_Recovery/.

In addition to coordinating volunteers, the SCA will also assist Mount Rainier National Park with fundraising efforts directed toward flood recovery, in partnership with Washington's National Park Fund (WNPF). For more information about how to contribute financially, visit WNPF's web site at


I am trying to reorder the booklet entitled "Mount Rainer, Olympic, & North Cascades" . We have this booklet in our visiter center and I would like to order another 2 boxes if these are available. I am with the Woodland WA chamber of commerce, visitor information center. Can you tell me how I can order this or if it is still available

Thank you,

Julie Patterson

Hi Julie,

Thank you for reaching out to us! We would be happy to give you more information on our Oh, Ranger! guides and how to acquire them for your visitors center. At your convenience, please feel free to contact us at our main office by calling (212) 581 - 3380.


American Park Network