Hunter’s Mecca: Rainbow Falls State Park

By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle
Whether you hunt with a gun, a camera or forage basket in your hands, Rainbow Falls State Park is one of the gems of Lewis County that has a little something for everyone.
“This is the slow time of year,” said Phil Medford, park manager, “but we usually get a lot of hunters that stay here. Modern deer just ended, modern elk season is starting soon. We have lots of room here, but I think people may have forgotten about us.”
Medford said that it was the December 2007 flood that may have taken the park off the radar for the fall elk and deer hunters that had filled the park before the flood.
“We took a lot of damage,” said Medford.
The kitchen shelter in the day use park had filled with chest-high water, the bridge at Rainbow Falls spanning the Chehalis River was washed out and the damage to the groomed lawns, display garden and trails devastated the fairy-like beauty of the park.
“We’re still in the process of picking up the pieces from the flood, still waiting for the FEMA funding to come through,” Medford said. “But we’ve done a lot of work, but there’s a lot more to do.”
When the floods destroyed the bridge entrance to the park, they had to build a new one.
“It’s actually kind of interesting,” said Medford. “The new entrance was built in the same place as the original 1935 park entrance built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.”
“When we get the FEMA money we’ll be able to work on widening the park entrance so people will be able to get in and out easier,” said Medford. “We are also going to put in a larger greeting center. We won’t be able to replace the old bridge, however.”
The Chronicle visited the park Saturday morning for a mushroom identification workshop organized by Debbie Burris of the WSU Lewis County Extension office.
“I just can’t believe how beautiful the park is,” said Burris. “They’ve really done a great job with the recovery after the flood.”
The day use park’s open expanse of carefully maintained lawns surrounded by trails winding through native plants in the old growth forest included a large assortment of interesting fungi, and a huge variety of wildlife on two legs, four legs and no legs.
The kitchen shelter at the edge of the day use park is fully restored and functional; a wood stove/fireplace provides warm comfort to chilled customers. Restrooms are clean and conveniently located. A children’s play area, easy walking trails, picnic tables and barbecues are scattered across the lawn area.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work,” said Medford, “and we’ve got a lot more to do.”
Rainbow Falls State Park is once again the nearly perfect park — built to excite to fall leaf lovers, mushroom pickers, trail walkers, birders with thrilling views and finds, and also to comfort weary big game hunters after a long walk through the hunting grounds of western Lewis County woodlands.
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Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer based in Cinebar. She can be contacted at kz@tds.net.
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Rainbow Falls State Park
Driving Directions: From I-5, Exit 77 head west (Pe Ell/Raymond) for 17.4 miles to Chandler Road. Turn right on Chandler Road and go 0.2 miles to Leudinghaus Road. Turn right on Leudinghaus Road and go 0.8 miles to the entrance to Rainbow Falls State Park.
Rainbow Falls State Park is a 139-acre camping park with 3,400 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Chehalis River. Situated in stands of old-growth forest, the park features a waterfall and a small fuchsia garden.
Park hours for fall and winter use is 8 a.m. to dusk. The park is open year round for camping and day use.
Winter camping rates are $21 per night for a basic campsite, $27 for hook-up sites with power and water access.
The park does not accept reservations; campers are served on a first come, first served basis.
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Discover Pass
Motor vehicles are required to display a Discover Pass to access the day use park at Rainbow Falls State Park.
You may purchase an annual Discover Pass for $30, or pay $10 for a single day use pass (available for purchase at the park).
Your purchase of the Discover Pass supports recreation on state lands.
A Discover Pass is required for motor-vehicle access to state parks and recreation lands managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
However, the Discover Pass is not required at Rainbow Falls State Park, if you are camping at the park, for the duration of your stay. For additional exemptions and more information, visit the Discover Pass website, http://www.discoverpass.wa.gov/.