Rockfall at Westside Road, photo by NPS

Being a geologist isn’t always about mining rocks & minerals or unearthing fossils. It can involve mitigating hazardous situations and damage to infrastructure.

The dangers of rockfalls and landslides are commonplace at any mountain range. Such issues are tackled by the Imminent Threats Program at Mount Rainier. The effects are evidenced in the featured image where car access has since been restricted to the first three miles of Westside Road.

Remnants of a landslide at Westside Road, photo by self

Remnants of a landslide at Westside Road, photo by self

Boulder remnant from a rockfall at Westside Road, photo by self

Boulder remnant from a rockfall at Westside Road, photo by self

Also of concern for Westside Road is road washout from the adjoining Tahoma Creek. I have learned a great method the park is using to combat the forces of nature. Fallen trees from inside of the park have been upcycled and implemented into the stream banks. “Root wad” is a natural method to protect and stabilize stream banks by deflecting the river’s energy. The engineered log jams catch sediment and tree branches in the roots, allowing for the accumulation and build-up of organic and inorganic materials.

Root wad used to stabilize Westside Road along Tahoma Creek, photo by self

Root wad used to stabilize Westside Road along Tahoma Creek, photo by self

Tahoma Creek from Westside Road, photo by self

Tahoma Creek from Westside Road, photo by self

Riprap, the predecessor to root wad using boulders, photo by self

Riprap, the predecessor to root wad using boulders, photo by self

Bioengineering to appease nature and to provide access for the public is an ongoing project at Mount Rainier National Park because Mother Nature is always last to bat. Are there any innovative, bioengineered methods your local area is using to solve issues?

Finding some peace at Westside Road, photo by self

Finding some peace at Westside Road, photo by self

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