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Established on March 2, 1899, Mount Rainier is America's fifth oldest national park. Much of what we associate with national parks today (rustic architecture, museums, auto touring, and park rangers) has roots at Mount Rainier. The naturalists at Mount Rainier were some of the first in the National Park Service. From 1923 through 1939, they published a series of Nature Notes for park visitors. Topics included plants, wildlife, road and trail conditions, park regulations, safety cautions, historical notes, along with inspirational poems, illustrations and anecdotes. At one time, over 600 copies of the notes were distributed in the park and mailed to other parks as well as to individual subscribers throughout the U.S.

Guide Floyd Schmoe and Wes Langdon
Guide Floyd Schmoe and Wes Langdon, Nisqually, date unknown.
(Mount Rainier National Park Archives)

At least a dozen other national parks published their own editions of Nature Notes in the same era including: Acadia, Bryce/Zion, Crater Lake, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Hot Springs, Lassen, Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Yosemite.

Frequency of publication at Mount Rainier ranged from bi-weekly to quarterly depending on season and staffing. Nature Notes were the responsibility of the park naturalist, assisted in summer by seasonal nature guides. Articles were also written by the Chief Ranger, Ranger-Naturalists and the Superintendent. Floyd W. Schmoe was Park Naturalist at the time Nature Notes were established. He supervised and developed the Nature Guide Department until he resigned in September 1928. C. Frank Brockman served as Park Naturalist from July 1929 to 1941. He later became a professor at the University of Washington and eventually published some of his Nature Notes in book form.

While we have learned much in the decades since the Nature Notes were first published, they remain an excellent source of information about the park's natural and cultural resources and are, in themselves, a cultural resource. This special web collection includes text and images as they were originally published (including typographical errors) in the Nature Notes. It is the result of the enthusiasm and efforts of National Park Service volunteer RD Payne. Additional historical information was contributed by volunteer Bob McIntyre, Jr.

There are several hundred editions of the notes in the park's collection, all of which have been converted to the Web for your reading pleasure.

Naturalist's Program Timeline

Date: 17-Oct-2011