Mount Rainier National Park’s creation in 1899 as America’s fifth national park represented a watershed in the national parks movement of the day, differentiating the idealistic purposes of the parks — with scenery worth saving — from the more utilitarian role of national forests.
Once the park was created, boosters in Tacoma and Seattle exploited it as a major tourist attraction. The delicate subalpine meadows of Paradise in their turn saw heavy use by car campers, as a site for hundreds of rental cabins, and — in the 1930s — as a golf course.
Today, the park is managed under much stricter protective practices. Mountaineers have always been core supporters of the park (Sierra Club founder John Muir, for whom Camp Muir is named, summited Rainier in 1888) and more than 10,000 people are expected to attempt to climb Rainier this year. Typically about half will make it to the top.
Since 1897, the park has recorded 120 mountain-climbing deaths, including the six who fell on a climb of Liberty Ridge at the end of May.