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October 17, 2013 at 10:28 AM

Washington’s national parks happy to reopen (with sparkling fall colors)

This photo of Mount Rainier was posted Thursday on the national park's Twtiter feed with the note, "What a beautiful morning to welcome us back to Mount Rainier!" (photo courtesy of @MountRainierNPS)

This photo of Mount Rainier was posted Thursday on the national park’s Twitter feed with the note, “What a beautiful morning to welcome us back to Mount Rainier!” (photo courtesy of @MountRainierNPS)

“When I put the flag up today it felt so good,” said Ranger Maureen McLean at Mount Rainier National Park, as Rainier and Washington’s other national parks reopened Thursday.

They were among hundreds of parks,  monuments and historic sites across the nation reopening after the 16-day government shutdown.

Park gates and some visitor centers are open, but it might be a couple days before all is again running smoothly. At Rainier:

  • Gates were open Thursday morning, with the normal $15 per vehicle admission fee. Paradise and Stevens Canyon roads are open; roads to Sunrise and Mowich Lake have closed for the season.
  • Longmire Information Center is open, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily.
  • The Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise has switched to its winter schedule, meaning it will be open weekends only, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
  • All campgrounds are closed for the season, as well as Paradise Inn. The National Park Inn, at Longmire, expects to be open again for dinner and lodging by Friday evening.

Inn operators “have to get food in and get the rooms ready,” explained Patti Wold, the park’s information officer.

Some employees sounded pretty happy to be back at their posts, though it was a hectic morning getting organized. Some main phone lines still carried closure notices, but Ranger McLean answered at the Longmire center (360-569-6650). The park’s website is back online, though with limited updates Thursday morning.

There has been snow at higher elevations, but “there’s beautiful fall foliage in the park right now,” Wold said. “It’s a good time to just take a beautiful drive through the park.”

Olympic National Park:

  • Staff were working to reopen facilities Thursday, including the popular visitor destinations of Hurricane Ridge and the Hoh rainforest.  The park visitor center in Port Angeles reopened Thursday morning, with its normal 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily hours. Updates can be obtained on the park website, or phone 360-565-3130.
  • The historic Lake Crescent Lodge, which lies within Olympic National Park near Port Angeles, was forced to close because  of the federal shutdown of park access roads. Check the website for information on reopening. The lodge, which usually closes for the season in late October, will remain open through Jan. 1 for the first time in decades, responding to requests from guests who want to visit during winter holidays.
  • The popular oceanfront Kalaloch Lodge, on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, had received  special permission from the National Park Service to reopen last weekend since it adjoins a highway, U.S. 101, that had remained opened.  Guests were not allowed to walk on the park  beach in front of the lodge, however, while the park was closed. Now guests can once again walk the wild beach.

North Cascades National Park Service Complex:

The complex includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.

  • All visitor centers are open again, normal hours, including the North Cascades Visitor Center in Newhalem (9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily), the Wilderness Information Center at Marblemount, the Sedro-Woolley headquarters and the Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin. More information at 360-854-7200 or the park website.
  • Goodell Creek and Colonial Creek campgrounds, along Highway 20, are open.
  • All facilities at the remote community of Stehekin are open again, for limited seasonal hours, which means the restaurant and store are open 12:30-1:30 p.m. on “boat days,” when the Lady of the Lake boat arrives from Chelan, daily except Tuesdays and Thursdays (through October). The North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin, which had been closed because of its location on federal park land, is also reopened, on its winter schedule with seven rooms open, or the Lake House for larger groups (509-682-4494). Area campgrounds are also open, weather permitting.
  • North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake has reopened. Its mountain school program will start up again on Monday. More information: 206-526-2599.

Elsewhere:

  • In Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, the southern branch of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, a storefront museum, reopened at 10 a.m. Thursday.
  • Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, in Eastern Washington, has reopened visitor facilities normally open during this time of year, including campgrounds, boat launches and the Kettle Falls Information Center.

Kristin Jackson contributed to this report

0 Comments | Topics: mount rainier national park, national parks, olympic national park

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