Conservation Currents | Back on the Map: A town's road to recovery

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine we discuss the mudslide of Oso, and how the community has come together to rebuild.
Katherine Hollis Katherine Hollis
Director of Conservation and Advocacy
July 01, 2014
Conservation Currents | Back on the Map: A town's road to recovery

The mudslide that destroyed the small community of Steelhead Haven in Oso also blocked access to the town of Darrington. Before this disaster brought the area national attention, Darrington was known for two things: logging and access to amazing outdoor recreation opportunities. From climbing at places like Three O’Clock Rock, rafting on the Sauk River, setting out on an adventure to Glacier Peak or enjoying an afternoon with the family on the Old Sauk Trail, Darrington has been a gateway for Mountaineers as long as we have been getting folks outdoors.

I drove on the bypass around the slide area just a week before the slide-affected highway reopened and was floored by the scale of the slide. Reading and watching the news simply could not prepare me for size of the area and the amount of destruction. How do tiny communities recover from such an event? While much of that question must be answered by those who live there, the conservation and recreation community has come together to lend our support.

At a recent meeting with the Darrington community and Senator Patty Murray, The Mountaineers shared the importance of the area to our members. Many lookout towers in nearby forest lands are maintained by the Everett Branch’s Lookout and Trail Maintenance crew. Longtime Mountaineer and Washington Climbers Coalition board member Matt Perkins has been climbing in the area for decades. “Rock climbers have been finding exciting challenges there, with granite domes in Clear Creek and Squire Creek and other opportunities throughout the Darrington area.”

With traffic now flowing in both directions, Darrington is just a 90-minute drive from Seattle. It is surrounded by stunning public lands, with two scenic rivers: the Sauk and the Suiattle, and three wilderness areas: Henry M. Jackson, Boulder River, and Glacier Peak. The Mountaineers recognize that wilderness is both about protection of wild lands, as well as connecting people to these places and providing opportunities for the public to learn about natural history and cultural history. Supporting a recreational economy in Darrington both helps a community impacted by tragedy and lays the framework for future conservationists. 

"The recreational economy — and the people who come visit that community in the summer — is incredibly important,” Mountaineers Advisory Council member Tom O’Keefe said. “And we want to encourage people to remember there are great recreational opportunities there, and the community really depends on that summer traffic." Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin added, “We are truly grateful for the assistance from the conservation and recreation community and hope to see lots of visitors this summer — our welcome mat is out for everyone.”

Two Breweries and a Coffee Shop

The Mountaineers are thrilled to continue to collaborate with eight other conservation and recreation organizations, as well as Outdoor Research and REI to put Darrington ‘on the map’ as the gateway to the North Cascades. We are involved in longerterm planning ideas from continuing to improve hiking trails to establishing mountain biking opportunities; we all believe in the long term potential of the Darrington area. With two breweries recently opened, and a lovely coffee shop, the town offers some of the basics that many outdoor recreationists enjoy. With the support of local businesses, our coalition has produced a colorful brochure map spotlighting recreational opportunities around Darrington. It includes places for fishing and camping to climbing, biking and rafting.

To download the Destination Darrington map, visit or pick one up at the cash register on your next visit to REI, Outdoor Research, or The Mountaineers Bookstore.

Want to learn how to advocate for the places where we play? Take the Outdoor Advocates Network eLearning course Protecting Public Lands 101 and start engaging in advocacy efforts today! Mountaineers members can access the course here and earn their Public Lands Conservation 101 badge. Non-members can access all of the same information here


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