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Crews dig out roads after winter storms

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Park crews have begun plowing the winter snow off of park roads and progress continues on repairing damage from November flooding. Park officials are looking ahead to summer and have announced projected opening dates for roads and facilities. All dates are tentative and could change depending on weather and other factors affecting plowing and repair work.

State Route 410 will open as usual in mid-May. The road to the White River Campground will open May 25 with the campground itself opening at the end of June. The Sunrise road and visitor center will open in late June.

The Carbon River Road will not open to vehicle traffic this summer. Ipsut Creek Campground will be open for walk-in campers. Mowich Lake Road should open as usual on June 29.

The repair work ahead is substantial and will affect how people visit the park this summer.

“Visitors will be able to access all of the popular destinations in the park, but it may not be possible to travel between them,” explained Superintendent Dave Uberuaga. “But it's certainly still worth coming.”

Since torrents of rain water swept through the park in early November, park officials have been busy tallying up the damage and making repairs. Roads, utilities, campgrounds and buildings all suffered in the storm. But one of the big unknowns remaining in flood recovery is the status of backcountry trails. The full extent of damage to trails, bridges, and campsites is only now beginning to become clear.

The November flood took out many backcountry bridges and damaged trails along river valleys.

Two sections of the Wonderland Trail, a famous 93-mile loop of the mountain, will be unusable this year. On the Carbon Glacier Trail just upstream from the Lake James junction, the Carbon River scoured away the trail and the base of the hill, leaving nearly vertical scree and bedrock. Repair will require a 1,500-foot reroute 50-100 feet above the original trail. During construction hikers will be rerouted across the Carbon River at the Lake James crossing then south along the Northern Loop Trail to the Carbon Glacier.

Repairs on the road from the Nisqually Entrance to Paradise are nearing completion. Park crews have rebuilt the washout at Sunshine Point and reconstructed road embankments undermined by the Nisqually River in two locations. They are completing installation of two massive 12-foot culverts to accommodate the flow of Kautz Creek, which changed course during the flood. The target date for reopening the road to Paradise is May 5.

“Bad weather or construction delays could push this date back, but if all goes well we'll open the gates to visitors May 5,” Uberuaga said.

The Longmire Museum and Jackson Visitor Center will reopen at that time, with the Longmire Wilderness Information Center following on May 25. Cougar Rock Campground will open May 18, one week earlier than last year to offset the loss of camping at Sunshine Point Campground, which was heavily damaged by November flooding. Sunshine Point Campground will not reopen this summer.

Landslides covered the Stevens Canyon Road connecting Paradise to the east side of the park in two locations. In addition, the edge of the road slipped away and started a mudslide that descended thousands of feet into the Ohanapecosh Campground. The status of the Stevens Canyon Road remains in question pending further assessment by the Federal Highways Administration.

On the east side of the park State Route 123 will open to the Stevens Canyon Entrance on May 18. Repair of several major washouts will keep State Route 123 from Stevens Canyon to Cayuse Pass closed all summer. This closure applies to not only vehicles, but also hikers and bicyclists due to construction traffic. The Ohanapecosh Visitor Center and Campground will open May 25.

The National Park Inn at Longmire will be open for regular business once the Nisqually Road to Paradise opens to the public. The Inn offers overnight accommodations, dining, and a gift shop. For reservations call 360-569-2275. The Paradise Inn is undergoing a major rehabilitation and will reopen in the summer of 2008.

Trail crews recently discovered that a crucial trail to access the Emmons Glacier climbing route is also in bad shape. The Glacier Basin Trail was washed away by the flood and may be unusable this summer. “This is just the first of what will probably be many areas of damage we discover as the snow melts,” said Taylor.

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