Founded in 1886 by the Randle Logging Company, and today the mill, with a daily capacity of 35,000 feet, it remained the center of the town’s activity through the 1940s. As land has been cleared, agriculture and dairying became increasingly important occupations of the surrounding country. A cheese plant operating through the 1940s gave employment to some of the town’s inhabitants and affords a market for surplus milk. Today, Randle is notable as the northeastern access point to the Mount St. Helens Windy Ridge viewpoint, by way of forest service roads that cut through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Randle is also the outfitting center for the Randle Recreation Area.
When the sap begins to rise in the early spring, the lone storekeeper in Randle repaints a sign, “We Buy Cascara Bark,” and the cascara gatherers, gunny sacks over their shoulders, plunge into the surrounding hills and valleys, where cascara thickets are plentiful. The bark is ground into a powder and used as an ingredient in over-the-counter medicines. The cascara expert selects only the oldest trees, not only because the bark is thicker, but also to conserve the supply, for he knows that barking kills the tree. With a heavy knife he first girds the trunk from the butt upward at convenient intervals, then makes perpendicular cuts, and finally works the bark off slowly. It is carried home to dry in a loft or in sacks hung behind the kitchen stove. When cured, it is taken to the village store and either sold or applied on personal accounts. In the 1940s, prices range from 3c to 10c a pound, and a modest income can be made by those experienced in the trade, for 40 or 50 pounds can be gathered in an hour from a good stand.
Today the illegal poaching of cascara bark and other specialty forest products is a serious concern in the region for the damage caused to these natural resources and the danger posed to people who stumble upon these illegal activities in progress.