Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier (pronounced: /reɪˈnɪər/), also known as Tahoma or Tacoma, is a large active stratovolcano located 59 miles (95 km) south-southeast of Seattle,[4] in the Mount Rainier National Park. With a summit elevation of 14,411 ft (4,392 m),[5][6] it is the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington, and of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, it is the most[7] topographically prominent mountain in the continental United States and the first in the Cascade Volcanic Arc.

Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list.[8] Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could produce massive lahars that could threaten the entire Puyallup River valley. "About 80,000 people and their homes are at risk in Mount Rainier’s lahar-hazard zones."[9]

Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier from west
Aerial photograph of Mount Rainier's western slope.
Highest point
Elevation14,411 ft (4,392 m) [1] NAVD88
Prominence13,210 ft (4,026 m) [1]
Isolation731 mi (1,176 km) [1]
Coordinates46°51′10″N 121°45′37″W / 46.8528857°N 121.7603744°WCoordinates: 46°51′10″N 121°45′37″W / 46.8528857°N 121.7603744°W[2]
Native nameTahoma, Tacoma  (Southern Puget Sound Salish)
Parent rangeCascade Range
Topo mapUSGS Mount Rainier West
Age of rock500,000 years
Mountain typeStratovolcano
Volcanic arcCascade Volcanic Arc
Last eruptionNovember to December 1894[3]
First ascent1870 by Hazard Stevens and P. B. Van Trump
Easiest routerock/ice climb via Disappointment Cleaver


Mount Rainier was first known by the local Salishan speakers as Talol, or Tacoma or Tahoma. One hypothesis of the word origin is [təˡqʷuʔbəʔ] ("mother of waters"), in the Lushootseed language spoken by the Puyallup people.[10] Another hypothesis is that "Tacoma" means "larger than Mount Baker" in Lushootseed: "Ta", larger, plus "Koma (Kulshan)", Mount Baker.[11] Other names originally used include Tahoma, Tacobeh, and Pooskaus.[12]

The current name was given by George Vancouver, who named it in honor of his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier.[13] The map of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806 refers to it as "Mt. Regniere".

Although "Rainier" had been considered the official name of the mountain, Theodore Winthrop, in his posthumously published 1862 travel book The Canoe and the Saddle, referred to the mountain as "Tacoma" and for a time, both names were used interchangeably, although "Mt. Tacoma" was preferred in the city of Tacoma.[14][15]

In 1890, the United States Board on Geographic Names declared that the mountain would be known as "Rainier".[16] Following this in 1897, the Pacific Forest Reserve became the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve, and the national park was established three years later. Despite this, there was still a movement to change the mountain's name to "Tacoma" and Congress was still considering a resolution to change the name as late as 1924.[17][18]

In the lead-up to Super Bowl XLVIII, the Washington State Senate passed a resolution on Friday, January 31, 2014, temporarily renaming the mountain Mount Seattle Seahawks until the midnight after the Super Bowl, Monday, February 3, 2014,[19] in response to the renaming of 53 mountains in Colorado after the 53 members of the Denver Broncos by Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper.[20]

After the 2015 restoration of the original name "Denali" from Mount McKinley in Alaska, debate over Mount Rainier's name intensified.[21]

Geographical setting

Seattle 4
Mount Rainier, as viewed from Kerry Park in Seattle
Mount Rainier from 30,000 feet
Mount Rainier from 30,000 feet

Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington and the Cascade Range. This peak is located just east of Eatonville and just southeast of Seattle and Tacoma.[22] Mount Rainier is ranked third of the 128 ultra-prominent mountain peaks of the United States. Mount Rainier has a topographic prominence of 13,210 ft (4,026 m), which is greater than that of K2, the world's second-tallest mountain, at 13,189 ft (4,020 m).[23] On clear days it dominates the southeastern horizon in most of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area to such an extent that locals sometimes refer to it simply as "the Mountain."[24] On days of exceptional clarity, it can also be seen from as far away as Corvallis, Oregon, (at Marys Peak) and Victoria, British Columbia.[25]

With 26 major glaciers[26] and 36 sq mi (93 km2) of permanent snowfields and glaciers,[27] Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. The summit is topped by two volcanic craters, each more than 1,000 ft (300 m) in diameter, with the larger east crater overlapping the west crater. Geothermal heat from the volcano keeps areas of both crater rims free of snow and ice, and has formed the world's largest volcanic glacier cave network within the ice-filled craters,[28] with nearly 2 mi (3.2 km) of passages.[29] A small crater lake about 130 by 30 ft (39.6 by 9.1 m) in size and 16 ft (5 m) deep, the highest in North America with a surface elevation of 14,203 ft (4,329 m), occupies the lowest portion of the west crater below more than 100 ft (30 m) of ice and is accessible only via the caves.[30][31]

The Carbon, Puyallup, Mowich, Nisqually, and Cowlitz Rivers begin at eponymous glaciers of Mount Rainier. The sources of the White River are Winthrop, Emmons, and Fryingpan Glaciers. The White, Carbon, and Mowich join the Puyallup River, which discharges into Commencement Bay at Tacoma; the Nisqually empties into Puget Sound east of Lacey; and the Cowlitz joins the Columbia River between Kelso and Longview.

A panorama of the south face of Mount Rainier
A panorama of the south face of Mount Rainier

Subsidiary peaks

The broad top of Mount Rainier contains three named summits. The highest is called the Columbia Crest. The second highest summit is Point Success, 14,158 ft (4,315 m), at the southern edge of the summit plateau, atop the ridge known as Success Cleaver. It has a topographic prominence of about 138 ft (42 m), so it is not considered a separate peak. The lowest of the three summits is Liberty Cap, 14,112 ft (4,301 m), at the northwestern edge, which overlooks Liberty Ridge, the Sunset Amphitheater, and the dramatic Willis Wall. Liberty Cap has a prominence of 492 ft (150 m), and so would qualify as a separate peak under most strictly prominence-based rules. A prominence cutoff of 400 ft (122 m) is commonly used in Washington state.[32]

High on the eastern flank of Mount Rainier is a peak known as Little Tahoma Peak, 11,138 ft (3,395 m), an eroded remnant of the earlier, much higher, Mount Rainier. It has a prominence of 858 ft (262 m), and it is almost never climbed in direct conjunction with Columbia Crest, so it is usually considered a separate peak. If considered separately from Mt. Rainier, Little Tahoma Peak would be the third highest mountain peak in Washington.[33][34]


Mount Rainier Hazard Map-en
Hazard map

Mount Rainier is a stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc that consists of lava flows, debris flows, and pyroclastic ejecta and flows. Its early volcanic deposits are estimated at more than 840,000 years old and are part of the Lily Formation (about 2.9 million to 840,000 years ago). The early deposits formed a "proto-Rainier" or an ancestral cone prior to the present-day cone.[35] The present cone is more than 500,000 years old.[36]

The volcano is highly eroded, with glaciers on its slopes, and appears to be made mostly of andesite. Rainier likely once stood even higher than today at about 16,000 ft (4,900 m) before a major debris avalanche and the resulting Osceola Mudflow approximately 5,000 years ago.[37] In the past, Rainier has had large debris avalanches, and has also produced enormous lahars (volcanic mudflows), due to the large amount of glacial ice present. Its lahars have reached all the way to Puget Sound, a distance of more than 30 mi (48 km). Around 5,000 years ago, a large chunk of the volcano slid away and that debris avalanche helped to produce the massive Osceola Mudflow, which went all the way to the site of present-day Tacoma and south Seattle.[38] This massive avalanche of rock and ice removed the top 1,600 ft (500 m) of Rainier, bringing its height down to around 14,100 ft (4,300 m). About 530 to 550 years ago, the Electron Mudflow occurred, although this was not as large-scale as the Osceola Mudflow.[39]

After the major collapse approximately 5,000 years ago, subsequent eruptions of lava and tephra built up the modern summit cone until about as recently as 1,000 years ago. As many as 11 Holocene tephra layers have been found.[35]

Modern activity and the current threat

The most recent recorded volcanic eruption was between 1820 and 1854, but many eyewitnesses reported eruptive activity in 1858, 1870, 1879, 1882, and 1894 as well.[40]

Seismic monitors have been located in Mount Rainier National Park and on the mountain itself to monitor activity.[41] An eruption could be deadly for all living in areas within the immediate vicinity of the volcano and an eruption would also cause trouble from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to San Francisco[42] because of the massive amounts of ash blasting out of the volcano into the atmosphere.

Mount Rainier is located in an area that itself is part of the eastern rim of the Pacific Ring of Fire. This includes mountains and calderas like Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak in California, Crater Lake, Three Sisters, and Mount Hood in Oregon, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, Glacier Peak, and Mount Baker in Washington, and Mount Cayley, Mount Garibaldi, Silverthrone Caldera, and Mount Meager in British Columbia. All of the above are dormant, but could return to activity, and scientists on both sides of the border gather research of the past eruptions of each in order to predict how mountains in this arc will behave and what they are capable of in the future, including Mount Rainier.[43][44] Of these, only two have erupted since the beginning of the twentieth century: Lassen in 1915 and St. Helens in 1980 and 2004. However, past eruptions in this volcanic arc have multiple examples of sub-plinian eruptions or higher: Crater Lake's last eruption as Mount Mazama was large enough to cause its cone to collapse,[45] and Mt. Rainier's closest neighbor, Mount St. Helens, produced the largest eruption in the continental United States when it erupted in 1980. Statistics place the likelihood of a major eruption in the Cascade Range at 2-3 per century.[46]

Mount Rainier is currently listed as a Decade Volcano, or one of the 16 volcanoes with the greatest likelihood of causing great loss of life and property if eruptive activity resumes.[47] If Mt. Rainier were to erupt as powerfully as Mount St. Helens did in its May 18, 1980 eruption, the effect would be cumulatively greater, because of the far more massive amounts of glacial ice locked on the volcano compared to Mount St. Helens,[39] the vastly more heavily populated areas surrounding Rainier, and the simple fact that Mt Rainier is a much bigger volcano, almost twice the size of St. Helens.[48] Lahars from Rainier pose the most risk to life and property,[49] as many communities lie atop older lahar deposits. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), about 150,000 people live on top of old lahar deposits of Rainier.[9] Not only is there much ice atop the volcano, the volcano is also slowly being weakened by hydrothermal activity. According to Geoff Clayton, a geologist with a Washington State Geology firm, RH2 Engineering, a repeat of the 5000-year-old Osceola Mudflow would destroy Enumclaw, Orting, Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, Sumner and all of Renton.[38] Such a mudflow might also reach down the Duwamish estuary and destroy parts of downtown Seattle, and cause tsunamis in Puget Sound and Lake Washington.[50] Rainier is also capable of producing pyroclastic flows and expelling lava.[50]

Volcano evacuation route sign
One of many emergency evacuation route signs in case of volcanic eruption or lahar around Mt. Rainier

According to K. Scott, a scientist with the USGS:

A home built in any of the probabilistically defined inundation areas on the new maps is more likely to be damaged or destroyed by a lahar than by fire... For example, a home built in an area that would be inundated every 100 years, on the average, is 27 times more likely to be damaged or destroyed by a flow than by fire. People know the danger of fire, so they buy fire insurance and they have smoke alarms, but most people are not aware of the risks of lahars, and few have applicable flood insurance.[51]

The volcanic risk is somewhat mitigated by lahar warning sirens and escape route signs in Pierce County.[52] The more populous King County is also in the lahar area, but currently has no zoning restrictions due to volcanic hazard.[53] More recently (since 2001) funding from the federal government for lahar protection in the area has dried up, leading local authorities in at-risk cities like Orting to fear a disaster similar to the Armero tragedy.[54][55]

Seismic background

Typically, up to five earthquakes are recorded monthly near the summit. Swarms of five to ten shallow earthquakes over two or three days take place from time to time, predominantly in the region of 13,000 feet (4 km) below the summit. These earthquakes are thought to be caused by the circulation of hot fluids beneath Mount Rainier. Presumably, hot springs and steam vents within Mount Rainier National Park are generated by such fluids.[56] Seismic swarms (not initiated with a mainshock) are common features at volcanoes, and are rarely associated with eruptive activity. Rainier has had several such swarms; there were days-long swarms in 2002, 2004, and 2007, two of which (2002 and 2004) included M 3.2 earthquakes. A 2009 swarm produced the largest number of events of any swarm at Rainier since seismic monitoring began over two decades earlier.[57] Yet another swarm was observed in 2011.[58]


Mount Rainier 3D version 1
Three-dimensional representation of Mount Rainier
Nisqually Glacier 0902
Nisqually Glacier is seen clearly from the southeast of the mountain.

Glaciers are among the most conspicuous and dynamic geologic features on Mount Rainier. They erode the volcanic cone and are important sources of streamflow for several rivers, including some that provide water for hydroelectric power and irrigation. Together with perennial snow patches, the 29 named glacial features cover about 30.41 square miles (78.8 km2) of the mountain's surface in 2015 and have an estimated volume of about 0.69 cubic miles (2.9 km3)[59][60][26][27].

Glaciers flow under the influence of gravity by the combined action of sliding over the rock on which they lie and by deformation, the gradual displacement between and within individual ice crystals. Maximum speeds occur near the surface and along the centerline of the glacier. During May 1970, Nisqually Glacier was measured moving as fast as 29 inches (74 cm) per day. Flow rates are generally greater in summer than in winter, probably due to the presence of large quantities of meltwater at the glacier base.[27]

The size of glaciers on Mount Rainier has fluctuated significantly in the past. For example, during the last ice age, from about 25,000 to about 15,000 years ago, glaciers covered most of the area now within the boundaries of Mount Rainier National Park and extended to the perimeter of the present Puget Sound Basin.[27]

Between the 14th century and 1850, many of the glaciers on Mount Rainier advanced to their farthest extent downvalley since the last ice age. Many advances of this sort occurred worldwide during this time period known to geologists as the Little Ice Age. During the Little Ice Age, the Nisqually Glacier advanced to a position 650 to 800 ft (200 to 240 m) downvalley from the site of the Glacier Bridge, Tahoma and South Tahoma Glaciers merged at the base of Glacier Island, and the terminus of Emmons Glacier reached within 1.2 mi (1.9 km) of the White River Campground.[27]

Retreat of the Little Ice Age glaciers was slow until about 1920 when retreat became more rapid. Between the height of the Little Ice Age and 1950, Mount Rainier's glaciers lost about one-quarter of their length. Beginning in 1950 and continuing through the early 1980s, however, many of the major glaciers advanced in response to relatively cooler temperatures of the mid-century. The Carbon, Cowlitz, Emmons, and Nisqually Glaciers advanced during the late 1970s and early 1980s as a result of high snowfalls during the 1960s and 1970s. Since the early-1980s, however, many glaciers have been thinning and retreating and some advances have slowed.[27]

The glaciers on Mount Rainier can generate mudflows, through glacial outburst floods not associated with any eruption. The South Tahoma Glacier generated 30 floods in the 1980s and early 1990s, and again in August, 2015.[61]

Human history

Artist rendering of Mount Tacoma from Commencement Bay, 1888.[62]
Mount Rainier over Tacoma
Viewed from the northwest (Tacoma), Liberty Cap is the apparent summit with Mowich Face below.[63]

At the time of European contact, the river valleys and other areas near the mountain were inhabited by indigenous people who hunted and gathered animals and plants in Mount Rainier's forests and high elevation meadows. Modern descendants of these people are represented by members of modern tribes that surround the mountain; including the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, among others in the area.[64] The archaeological record of human use of the mountain dates to over 8,500 years before present (BP). Sites related to seasonal use of Mount Rainier and its landscapes are reflected in chipped stone tool remains and settings suggesting functionally varied uses; including long-term base camps, shorter term task-specific sites, rockshelters, and travel stops, among others. Their distribution on the mountain suggest primary use of subalpine meadows and low alpine habitats that provided relatively high resource abundance during the short summer season.[65]

Captain George Vancouver reached Puget Sound in early May 1792 and became the first European to see the mountain.[13]

In 1833, Dr. William Fraser Tolmie explored the area looking for medicinal plants. Hazard Stevens and P. B. Van Trump received a hero's welcome in the streets of Olympia after their successful summit climb in 1870.[66][67] The first female ascent was made in 1890 by Fay Fuller, accompanied by Van Trump and three other teammates.[68]

Descending from the summit in 1883, James Longmire discovered a mineral spring; this ultimately led to his establishment of a spa and hotel, drawing other visitors to the area to seek the benefits of the spring.[69] Later, the headquarters of the national park would be established at Longmire, until flooding caused them to be relocated to Ashford.[70] The area also became the site of features like a museum, a post office, and a gas station, with additions like a library and a gift shop soon following; many of these buildings were ultimately nominated to the national historic register of historic places.[70] Longmire remains the second most popular place in the park.[70][71] In 1924, a publication from the park described the area:

Mount Rainier sunset
Mount Rainier sunset

"A feature at Longmire Springs of great interest to everyone is the group of mineral springs in the little flat to the west of National Park Inn. There are some forty distinct springs, a half dozen of which are easily reached from the road. An analysis of the waters show that they all contain about the smae [sic] mineral salts but in slightly differing proportions. All the water is highly carbonated and would be classed as extremely "hard". Certain springs contain larger amounts of soda, iron and sulphur, giving them a distinct taste and color."[72]

John Muir climbed Mount Rainier in 1888, and although he enjoyed the view, he conceded that it was best appreciated from below. Muir was one of many who advocated protecting the mountain. In 1893, the area was set aside as part of the Pacific Forest Reserve in order to protect its physical and economic resources, primarily timber and watersheds.[73]

Citing the need to also protect scenery and provide for public enjoyment, railroads and local businesses urged the creation of a national park in hopes of increased tourism. On March 2, 1899, President William McKinley established Mount Rainier National Park as America's fifth national park. Congress dedicated the new park "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people"[74] and "... for the preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition."[75]

On 24 June 1947, Kenneth Arnold reported seeing a formation of nine unidentified flying objects over Mount Rainier. His description led to the term "flying saucers".[76]

In 1998, the United States Geological Survey began putting together the Mount Rainier Volcano Lahar Warning System to assist in the emergency evacuation of the Puyallup River valley in the event of a catastrophic debris flow. It is now run by the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management. Tacoma, at the mouth of the Puyallup, is only 37 mi (60 km) west of Rainier, and moderately sized towns such as Puyallup and Orting are only 27 and 20 mi (43 and 32 km) away, respectively.[77]

2007 WA Proof
Washington state quarter

Mt. Rainier appears on four distinct United States postage stamp issues. In 1934, it was the 3-cent issue in a series of National Park stamps, and was also shown on a souvenir sheet issued for a philatelic convention. The following year, in 1935, both of these were reprinted by Postmaster General James A. Farley as special issues given to officials and friends. Because of complaints by the public, "Farley's Follies" were reproduced in large numbers. The second stamp issue is easy to tell from the original because it is imperforate. Both stamps and souvenir sheets are widely available.[78]

The Washington state quarter, which was released on April 11, 2007, features Mount Rainier and a salmon.[79][80]


M Rainier
Climbers on Ingraham Glacier, above Little Tahoma

Mountain climbing on Mount Rainier is difficult, involving traversing the largest glaciers in the U.S. south of Alaska. Most climbers require two to three days to reach the summit, with a success rate of approximately 50%, with weather and physical conditioning of the climbers being the most common reasons for failure. About 8,000 to 13,000 people attempt the climb each year,[81] about 90% via routes from Camp Muir on the southeast flank,[82] and most of the rest ascend Emmons Glacier via Camp Schurman on the northeast. Climbing teams require experience in glacier travel, self-rescue, and wilderness travel. All climbers who plan to climb above the high camps, Camp Muir and Camp Schurman, are required by law to purchase a Mount Rainier Climbing Pass and register for their climb.[83] Additionally, solo climbers must fill out a solo climbing request form and receive written permission from the Superintendent before attempting to climb.[84]

Climbing routes

Camp Muir Mt Rainier
Camp Muir is commonly used by those attempting to summit Mount Rainier

All climbing routes on Mount Rainier require climbers to possess some level of technical climbing skill. This includes ascending and descending the mountain with the use of technical climbing equipment such as crampons, ice axes, harnesses, and ropes. Difficulty and technical challenge of climbing Mount Rainier can vary wildly between climbing routes. Routes are graded in NCCS Alpine Climbing format.

The normal route to the summit of Mount Rainier is the Disappointment Cleaver Route, YDS grade II-III. As climbers on this route have access to the permanently established Camp Muir, it sees the significant majority of climbing traffic on the mountain. This route is also the most common commercially guided route. The term "cleaver" is used in the context of a rock ridge that separates two glaciers. The reason for naming this cleaver a "disappointment" is unrecorded, but it is thought to be due to climbers reaching it only to recognize their inability to reach the summit.[85] An alternative route to the Disappointment Cleaver is the Ingraham Glacier Direct Route, grade II, and is often used when the Disappointment Cleaver route cannot be climbed due to poor route conditions.

The Emmons Glacier Route, grade II, is an alternative to the Disappointment Cleaver route and poses a lower technical challenge to climbers. The climbers on the route can make use of Camp Schurman (9,500 ft), a glacial camp site. Camp Schurman is equipped with a solar toilet and a ranger hut.[86]

The Liberty Ridge Route, grade IV, is a considerably more challenging and objectively dangerous route than the normal route to the summit. It runs up the center of the North Face of Mount Rainier and crosses the very active Carbon Glacier. First climbed by Ome Daiber, Arnie Campbell and Jim Burrow in 1935, it is listed as one of the Fifty Classic Climbs of North America by Steve Roper and Allen Steck. This route only accounts for approximately 2% of climbers on the mountain, but approximately 25% of its deaths.[87]

Dangers and accidents

About two mountaineering deaths each year occur because of rock and ice fall, avalanche, falls, and hypothermia associated with severe weather. (58 deaths have been reported since and including the 1981 accident through 2010 per American Alpine Club Accidents in North American Mountaineering and the NPS.)

Willi Unsoeld, who reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1963, was killed in an avalanche on Mount Rainier in 1979. He had climbed the mountain over 200 times.

The worst mountaineering accident on Mount Rainier occurred in 1981, when eleven people lost their lives in an ice fall on the Ingraham Glacier.[88] This was the largest number of fatalities on Mount Rainier in a single incident since 32 people were killed in a 1946 plane crash on the South Tahoma Glacier.[89]

More recently, the mountain received media attention in 2012, as one of the park rangers lost his life when several climbers were caught in a storm while trying to ascend the mountain. While trying to help load the climbers into a rescue helicopter, the ranger lost his footing, and slid 3,700 feet (1,100 m) to his death.[90][91]

In one of the worst disasters on the mountain in over thirty years, six climbers—two guides, and four clients—last heard from on May 28, 2014, were presumed dead on May 31, 2014, when low-flying search helicopters pinged the signals from the avalanche beacons worn by the climbers. Officials concluded that there was no possible chance of survival after the climbers fell 3,300 feet (1,000 m) while attempting or returning from the summit via the Liberty Ridge climbing route. Searchers found tents and clothes along with rock and ice strewn across a debris field on the Carbon Glacier at 9,500 ft (2,900 m), possible evidence for a slide or avalanche in the vicinity where the team went missing, though the exact cause of the accident is unknown.[92] The bodies of three of the guest climbers were spotted on August 7, 2014, during a training flight and subsequently recovered on August 19, 2014. The bodies of the fourth guest climber and two guides have not been located.[93][94]

Outdoor recreation

In addition to climbing, hiking, backcountry skiing, photography, and camping are popular activities in the park. Hiking trails, including the Wonderland Trail—a 93-mile (150 km) circumnavigation of the peak, provide access to the backcountry. Popular for winter sports include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.[95]


The summit of Mount Rainier has an alpine climate.


Mount Rainier 3
Reflection Lake is a popular place to view Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier's protected status as a national park protects its primeval Cascade ecosystem, providing a stable habitat for many species in the region, including endemic flora and fauna that are unique to the area, such as the Cascade red fox and Mount Rainier lousewort.[97][98][99] The ecosystem on the mountain is very diverse, owing to the climate found at different elevations.[100] Scientists track the distinct species found in the forest zone, the subalpine zone, and the alpine zone.[101] They have discovered more than one thousand species of plants and fungi.[101] The mountain is also home to 65 species of mammals, 5 reptile, 182 bird, 14 amphibians, and 14 of native fish, in addition to an innumerable amount of invertebrates.[100]


Wildflower Meadow (6997737191)
Subalpine wildflower meadow in Paradise region of Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier has regularly been described as one the best places in the world to view wildflowers.[102][103] In the subalpine region of the mountain, the snow often stays on the ground until summer begins, limiting plants to a much shorter growing season. This produces dramatic blooms in areas like Paradise.[101][104] In 1924, the flowers were described by naturalist Floyd W. Schmoe:

"Mount Rainier National Park is perhaps better known the world over for these wonderful flowers than for any one feature. The mountains, the glaciers, the cascading streams and the forests may be equalled if one looks far away enough, but no park has been so favored in the way of wild flowers."[105]

Forests on the mountain span from as young as 100 years old to sections of old growth forest that are calculated to be 1000 years or more in age.[101] The lower elevation consists mainly of western red-cedar, Douglas fir, and western hemlock.[101] Pacific silver fir, western white pine, Alaska yellow cedar, and noble fir are found further up the mountain. In the alpine level, Alaskan yellow cedar, subalpine fir, and mountain hemlock grow.[101]


Licking her chops (7030763521)
A Cascade red fox active during Paradise's long winter

The mountain supports a wide variety of animal life, including several species that are protected on the state or federal level, like the Northern Spotted Owl.[100] Efforts are also being made to reintroduce native species that had locally been hunted to extinction, like the Pacific fisher.[100] There are sixty-five types of mammals living on the mountain, including cougars, mountain goats, marmots, and elk. Common reptiles and amphibians include garter snakes, frogs, and salamanders. There are many types of birds found throughout the different elevations on the mountain, but while some live there all year, many are migratory. Salmon and trout species use the rivers formed by the glaciers, and though the lakes stopped being stocked in 1972, thirty lakes still have reproducing populations.[106]

See also


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  4. ^ "GPS Visualizer Map".
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  7. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  14. ^ Catton, Theodore (2006-11-30). National Park, City Playground: Mount Rainier in the Twentieth Century. A Samuel and Althea Stroum Book. Seattle, United States and London, United Kingdom: University of Washington Press. pp. 8–9. ISBN 0-295-98643-3.
  15. ^ Winthrop, Theodore (1866). "VII. Tacoma". The canoe and the saddle : adventures among the northwestern rivers and forests, and Isthmiana (8th ed.). Boston: Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-665-37762-2. Retrieved 2009-03-04.
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Cite error: A list-defined reference named "List_of_the_most_prominent_summits_of_the_United_States" is not used in the content (see the help page).

External links

University of Washington Libraries, Digital Collections

  • Lawrence Denny Lindsley Photographs, Landscape and nature photography of Lawrence Denny Lindsley, including photographs of scenes around Mount Rainier.
  • The Mountaineers Collection, Photographic albums and text documenting the Mountaineers official annual outings undertaken by club members from 1907–1951, includes 3 Mt. Rainier albums (ca. 1912, 1919, 1924).
  • Henry M. Sarvant Photographs, photographs by Henry Mason Sarvant depicting his climbing expeditions to Mt. Rainier and scenes of the vicinity from 1892-1912.
  • Alvin H. Waite Photographs Photographs of Mt. Rainier by Alvin H. Waite, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Amtrak Cascades

The Amtrak Cascades is a higher-speed passenger train corridor in the Pacific Northwest, operated by Amtrak in partnership with the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon. It is named after the Cascade mountain range that the route parallels. The 467-mile (752 km) corridor runs from Vancouver, British Columbia, through Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon to Eugene, Oregon.

In the fiscal year 2017, Cascades was Amtrak's eighth-busiest route with a total annual ridership of over 810,000. In fiscal year 2018, farebox recovery ratio for the train was 63%.As of January 2018, 11 trains operate along the corridor each day–two between Vancouver, BC and Seattle, two between Vancouver, BC and Portland, three between Seattle and Portland; one from Portland to Eugene, and three between Eugene and Seattle. Presently, no train travels directly through the entire length of the corridor. For trains that do not travel directly to Vancouver or Eugene, connections are available on Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach services. Additionally, Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach services offer connections to other destinations in British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington not on the rail corridor.

Camp Muir

Camp Muir, named for the naturalist John Muir, is a high-altitude refuge for climbers in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, accessed through the Paradise Entrance. The shelters comprising the camp are situated at a 10,188 ft (3,105 m) elevation between the Muir Snowfield and the Cowlitz Glacier on Mount Rainier. Camp Muir is the most-used base camp for those attempting to climb to the mountain's summit. Camp Muir is between the Nisqually and Paradise Glaciers.

The larger "public" shelter hut was built in 1921 to plans supervised by Daniel Ray Hull of the National Park Service. The 12-foot (3.7 m) by 25-foot (7.6 m) single-story one-room shelter was initially constructed of dry-laid stone. It replaced a smaller shelter which was used as a shelter for climbing guides. A dedication plaque at the entrance to the large shelter plaque reads "Erected in memory of John Muir, 1921." The guide shelter was built in 1916 by a climbing organization, the Mountaineers. It was designed by Seattle architect Carl F. Gould, a member of the Mountaineers and was approved by Park Service director Stephen T. Mather. The single-story guide shelter measures about 10 feet (3.0 m) by 24 feet (7.3 m), and is the oldest stone structure in the park. Two stone pit toilets were built at Camp Muir in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of which survives and is used for storage.There are 12 approaches to the summit from Paradise. Camp Muir provides 7 of those. Of the 7, 4 are grade II, 2 are grade III, and 1 is grade II-III.Camp Muir was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 13, 1991. It is part of the Mount Rainier National Historic Landmark District, which encompasses the entire park and which recognizes the park's inventory of Park Service-designed rustic architecture.

Cascade Range

The Cascade Range or Cascades is a major mountain range of western North America, extending from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. It includes both non-volcanic mountains, such as the North Cascades, and the notable volcanoes known as the High Cascades. The small part of the range in British Columbia is referred to as the Canadian Cascades or, locally, as the Cascade Mountains. The latter term is also sometimes used by Washington residents to refer to the Washington section of the Cascades in addition to North Cascades, the more usual U.S. term, as in North Cascades National Park. The highest peak in the range is Mount Rainier in Washington at 14,411 feet (4,392 m).

The Cascades are part of the Pacific Ocean's Ring of Fire, the ring of volcanoes and associated mountains around the Pacific Ocean. All of the eruptions in the contiguous United States over the last 200 years have been from Cascade volcanoes. The two most recent were Lassen Peak from 1914 to 1921 and a major eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Minor eruptions of Mount St. Helens have also occurred since, most recently from 2004 to 2008. The Cascade Range is a part of the American Cordillera, a nearly continuous chain of mountain ranges (cordillera) that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America, and South America.

Cascade Volcanoes

This article is for the volcanic arc. For the namesake mountain range see Cascade Range.The Cascade Volcanoes (also known as the Cascade Volcanic Arc or the Cascade Arc) are a number of volcanoes in a volcanic arc in western North America, extending from southwestern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California, a distance of well over 700 miles (1,100 km). The arc formed due to subduction along the Cascadia subduction zone. Although taking its name from the Cascade Range, this term is a geologic grouping rather than a geographic one, and the Cascade Volcanoes extend north into the Coast Mountains, past the Fraser River which is the northward limit of the Cascade Range proper.

Some of the major cities along the length of the arc include Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, and the population in the region exceeds 10 million. All could be potentially affected by volcanic activity and great subduction-zone earthquakes along the arc. Because the population of the Pacific Northwest is rapidly increasing, the Cascade volcanoes are some of the most dangerous, due to their eruptive history and potential for future eruptions, and because they are underlain by weak, hydrothermally altered volcanic rocks that are susceptible to failure. Consequently, Mount Rainier is one of the Decade Volcanoes identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) as being worthy of particular study, due to the danger it poses to Seattle and Tacoma. Many large, long-runout landslides originating on Cascade volcanoes have engulfed valleys tens of kilometers from their sources, and some of the areas affected now support large populations.

The Cascade Volcanoes are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the ring of volcanoes and associated mountains around the Pacific Ocean. The Cascade Volcanoes have erupted several times in recorded history. Two most recent were Lassen Peak in 1914 to 1921 and a major eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. It is also the site of Canada's most recent major eruption about 2,350 years ago at the Mount Meager massif.

Clearwater Wilderness

Clearwater Wilderness, a small 14,300-acre (5,800 ha) wilderness area in the North Cascades mountain range, in northern Washington state, of the Northwestern United States. It is located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and southeast of Tacoma in northeastern Pierce County.

It was created by Congress in 1984, under the 1964 Wilderness Act that established the National Wilderness Preservation System. Its southern border is Mount Rainier National Park, affording many notable views of Mount Rainier from the Clearwater Wilderness area.

Glacier View Wilderness

Glacier View Wilderness is a 3,073-acre (1,244 ha) wilderness adjacent to the west side of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State. It was designated as wilderness in 1984. Glacier View Wilderness has views of the glaciated slopes of Mount Rainier which lies to the east. This includes viewing points from Mt. Belijica (5,476 feet) and Glacier View Point (5,507 feet). Glacier View Point is the former site of a fire lookout built in 1934. The wilderness is administered by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest through the Cowlitz Valley Ranger district with headquarters located in Randle, Washington.

Mount Rainier, Maryland

Mount Rainier is a city in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States, bordering Washington D.C . The population was 8,080 at the 2010 census. Mount Rainier is contained between the Northwest Branch Anacostia River, Cedar Lane Alley, and 34th Street to the north, 37th Street and 37th Place to the northeast, Upshur Street and Queens Chapel Road to the west, the Cargo Train/ the former 82 Streetcar tracks to the east, and Eastern Avenue NE to the south. Mount Rainier got its start as a streetcar suburb. (See Streetcars in Washington, D.C.) According to local tradition, surveyors from the Pacific Northwest named the town, giving the streets names such as "Shasta" and "Cascade". Historic U.S. 1 runs through the center of the town and serves as the main street and central business district.

Mount Rainier (packet writing)

Mount Rainier (MRW) is a format for writable optical discs which provides the packet writing and defect management. Its goal is the replacement of the floppy disk. It is named after Mount Rainier, a volcano near Seattle, Washington, United States.

Mount Rainier can be used only with drives that explicitly support it (a part of SCSI/MMC and can work over ATAPI), but works with standard CD-R, CD-RW, DVD+/-R and DVD+/-RW media.

The physical format of MRW on the disk is managed by the drive's firmware, which remaps physical drive blocks into a virtual, defect-free space. Thus, the host computer does not see the physical format of the disk, only a sequence of data blocks capable of holding any filesystem.

Mount Rainier High School

Mount Rainier High School is a secondary school in Des Moines, Washington, United States; named for Mount Rainier which can be seen quite well from the school on a clear day. Mount Rainier serves approximately 1700 students and has been active since 1957. It was created to handle the overflow from nearby Highline High School, the district's first high school located in Burien, Washington. The original, aging facility was replaced with a new building at the same location; it opened in September 2007.

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is an American national park located in southeast Pierce County and northeast Lewis County in Washington state. The park was established on March 2, 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States, preserving 236,381 acres (369.3 sq mi; 956.6 km2) including all of Mount Rainier, a 14,411-foot (4,392 m) stratovolcano. The mountain rises abruptly from the surrounding land with elevations in the park ranging from 1,600 feet to over 14,000 feet (490 - 4,300 m). The highest point in the Cascade Range, Mount Rainier is surrounded by valleys, waterfalls, subalpine meadows, and 91,000 acres (142.2 sq mi; 368.3 km2) of old-growth forest. More than 25 glaciers descend the flanks of the volcano, which is often shrouded in clouds that dump enormous amounts of rain and snow.

Mount Rainier is circled by the Wonderland Trail and is covered by glaciers and snowfields totaling about 35 square miles (91 km2). Carbon Glacier is the largest glacier by volume in the contiguous United States, while Emmons Glacier is the largest glacier by area. Mount Rainier is a popular peak for mountaineering with some 10,000 attempts per year with approximately 50% making it to the summit.

Mount Rainier Wilderness

Mount Rainier Wilderness is a designated wilderness area located within Mount Rainier National Park in the Cascade Range of western Washington, United States.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Mount Rainier National Park

This is a list of the National Register of Historic Places listings in Mount Rainier National Park.

This is intended to be a complete list of the properties and districts on the National Register of Historic Places in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, United States. The locations of National Register properties and districts for which the latitude and longitude coordinates are included below, may be seen in a Google map.There are 42 properties and districts listed on the National Register in the park, four of which are National Historic Landmarks. The entire park has been designated a National Historic Landmark District.

This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted June 7, 2019.

Nisqually River

The Nisqually River is a river in west central Washington in the United States, approximately 81 miles (130 km) long. It drains part of the Cascade Range southeast of Tacoma, including the southern slope of Mount Rainier, and empties into the southern end of Puget Sound. Its outlet was designated in 1971 as the Nisqually Delta National Natural Landmark.

The Nisqually River forms the Pierce–Lewis county line, as well as the boundary between Pierce and Thurston counties.

Orting, Washington

Orting is a city in Pierce County, Washington, United States. The population as of the 2010 census is 6,746, according to the City of Orting.

Paradise, Washington

Paradise is the name of an area at approximately 5,400 feet (1,600 m) on the south slope of Mount Rainier in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, United States. The area lies on the border of Pierce and Lewis counties and includes the Paradise Valley and the Paradise Glacier which is the source of the Paradise River. Virinda Longmire named Paradise in the summer of 1885 while she viewed the wildflowers in the alpine meadows there. Paradise also offers views of Mount Rainier and the Tatoosh Range.

Paradise Inn (Washington)

Paradise Inn is a historic hotel built in 1916 at 5,400-foot (1,600 m) on the south slope of Mount Rainier in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, United States. The inn is named after Paradise, the area of the mountain in which it is located. The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center and the 1920 Paradise Guide House are also at this location. The inn and guide house are where many climbers start their ascent of the mountain. The inn is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a major component of the Paradise Historic District. Additionally, it is part of the Mount Rainier National Historic Landmark District, which encompasses the entire park and which recognizes the park's inventory of National Park Service rustic architecture.

Puyallup River

The Puyallup River ( pew-AL-əp) is a river in the U.S. state of Washington. About 45 miles (72 km) long, it is formed by glaciers on the west side of Mount Rainier. It flows generally northwest, emptying into Commencement Bay, part of Puget Sound. The river and its tributaries drain an area of about 948 square miles (2,460 km2) in Pierce County and southern King County.The river's watershed is the youngest in the Puget Sound region, having been formed from a series of lahars starting about 5,600 years ago. The valley's 150,000 residents are at risk from future lahars. For this reason, the United States Geological Survey has installed a lahar warning system.

Wilson Glacier (Mount Rainier)

The Wilson Glacier is a medium-sized tributary glacier located on the southeast flank of Mount Rainier in Washington. Named after A.D. Wilson, who was part of an early ascent of Mount Rainier, the body of ice has an area of 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) and has a volume of 1.9 billion feet3 (54 million m3). The glacier is directly feeds ice to the adjacent, but much larger Nisqually Glacier. Starting from the head at 9,700 feet (3,000 m), the glacier flows downhill southward. One part of the glacier meets the Nisqually Glacier at 8,000 feet (2,400 m) and the other part of the glacier ends on a cliff in between the Wilson and Nisqually Glacier at 7,200 ft (2,200 m). Meltwater from the glacier feeds the Nisqually River.

Wonderland Trail Shelters

The Wonderland Trail is an approximately 93 mile (150 km) hiking trail that circumnavigates Mount Rainier in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, United States. The trail goes over many ridges of Mount Rainier for a cumulative 22,000 feet (6,700 m) of elevation gain. The trail was built in 1915.

The shelters are part of the notable rustic architectural theme that is particularly consistent at Mount Rainier in both frontcountry and backcountry, having all been built at the height of the NPS Rustic design trend. Since its founding in 1916, the NPS sought to design and build visitor facilities without visually interrupting the natural or historic surroundings. The shelters are part of the Mount Rainier National Historic Landmark District, which encompasses the entire park and which recognizes the park's inventory of Park Service-designed rustic architecture.

Climate data for Mount Rainier (14,411 feet; 4,392 m)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 7
Average low °F (°C) −3
Source: [96]
Highest natural points of U.S. states and selected additional areas
Additional areas
Glaciers of Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier
See also
British Columbia

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