Mount Rainier, Olympic national parks reopen

Staff writerOctober 17, 2013 

Ranger Kevin Ross reopens the Nisqually entrance gate to Mount Rainier National Park Thursday morning, reopening the main road into the park after the government shutdown ended Wednesday night. (Mount Rainier National Park)

Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, along with other federal lands reopened Thursday as the federal government went back to work.

The gates at Mount Rainier’s Nisqually entrance opened around 9 a.m., said superintendent Randy King. While there was just one car at the gate when it opened, there were nearly two doze vehicles at Paradise by mid afternoon, drawn by sunny skies and clear views of the mountain.

Melinda Simpson, operations manager for Mount Rainier Guest Services that runs concessions at the park, was busy Thursday calling staffers to return to work. The Longmire Gift Shop opened Thursday and the motel and restaurant will open Friday.

“I can’t tell you how much joy there is in reopening operations, seeing guests return and having staff come back,” Simpson said.

She said staffing levels went from 170 before the shutdown to 12 earlier this week.

At Olympic, superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said all park roads, trails and facilities normally open at this time of year would be reopened by the afternoon.

Crews worked during the morning to clear snow from the Hurricane Ridge Road, where sizable drifts built up at some of the higher elevations.  The road will reopen as soon as safely possible.

At the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge near Lacey, there was a steady stream of visitors hiking the trails and bird watching.

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