Saturday, May 05, 2007

Battered Mt. Rainier National Park to Reopen

Visitors are likely to be shocked by what they see.

ASHFORD, WA -- The longest weather-related closure in the history of Mount Rainier National Park ends Saturday when the Nisqually entrance gate swings open to what is bound to be an eager yet shocked public.

For the first time since a November flood ravaged the bridges, roads, trails, electrical and sewer lines, and historic buildings in the 108-year-old park, visitors will have a chance to see what rivers can do when they are fed by 18 inches of rain in two days.

While one of the park's main roads, the Nisqually Road to Longmire, the national park headquarters of Mount Rainier, was rebuilt in places and repaired in others, damage from the flood-swollen Nisqually River and Kautz Creek still is evident less than one mile from the gate.

"I'm just amazed. Shocked, really. It's like a big, powerful hand wiped it right out," said Dorothy Walsh of Olympia, who has visited the park and Sunshine Point Campground for 30 years.

A volunteer, she gazed Friday at the campsite's remnant -- a forlorn island beneath fallen trees, framed by a now-slender Nisqually and immense boulders.

"The rivers, the logs, the trees -- it's reminiscent of what happened at St. Helens," she said.
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