Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Elevation:||14,411 ft (4,392 m)|
|Latitude:||46° 51′ 11.88″ N|
|Longitude:||121° 45′ 35.64″ W|
|Location:||Washington State, USA|
|Topo map:||USGS Mount Rainier West|
|Age of rock:||< 500000 yr|
|First ascent:||1870 by Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump|
|Easiest route:||rock/ice climb via Disappointment Cleaver|
Mount Rainier is a stratovolcano (and national park) located 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Seattle, Washington in Pierce County. One of the monarchs of the Cascade Range, it was originally known as Tahoma or Tacoma, from the Puyallup word tacobet, or "mother of waters." Due to its prominence on the southern horizon, Seattle-area residents refer to it as The Mountain.
Climbing Mt. Rainier is not an easy endeavour. It is a technical glacier climb and most climbers require two to three days to reach the summit, with weather and conditioning being the most common reasons for failure. Climbing teams require experience in glacier travel, self rescue, and wilderness travel. In most years, dangerous route conditions and/or storms take the lives of several climbers.
Hiking, photography, and nature watching are very popular in the park. There are numerous hiking trails including the Wonderland Trail, a 93 mile circumnavigation of the peak.
Mount Rainier is a good place for winter sports, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Above 6000 feet (1800m) elevation, Rainier is mostly covered by snow and glaciers, but heat from the volcano keeps areas of the crater rim on its summit cone mostly ice-free.
Mount Rainier's earliest lavas are about 500,000 years old (Sisson and others, 2001). The most recent recorded eruption was between 1820 and 1854, but many eyewitnesses reported eruptive activity in the late 1800s (Harris, 1988). As of 2002, there is no imminent risk of eruption, but geologists expect that the volcano will erupt again. Lahars (large volcanic debris flows) from Rainier pose the most risk to life and property. However, Rainier is also capable of producing pyroclastic flows as well as hot lava.
The White, Carbon , Puyallup, Nisqually, and Cowlitz Rivers arise on the slopes of Mount Rainier. The first three combine as the Puyallup and empty into Commencement Bay at Tacoma; the Nisqually empties into Puget Sound east of Lacey; and the Cowlitz empties into the Columbia River between Kelso and Longview.
Mount Rainier was first discovered by the Native Americans. At the time Europeans reached the area, it was inhabited by the Nisqually, Cowlitz, Yakama, Puyallup, and Muckleshoot tribes. Residents of the mountain's river valleys, they hunted and gathered berries in the forests and mountain meadows.
In 1833, Dr. William Tolmie explored the area looking for medicinal plants. He was followed by other explorers seeking challenge. Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump received a hero's welcome in the streets of Olympia after their successful summit climb in 1870. 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/economic resources: timber and watersheds.
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; 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."
In 1998, the United States Geological Survey began putting together the Mount Rainier Volcano Lahar Warning System to assist in the 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 miles west of Rainier, and moderately sized towns such as Puyallup and Orting are only 27 and 20 miles away, respectively.
- National Parks Service (also used as a reference)
- USGS: Mount Rainier -- Learning to Live with Volcanic Risk
- Mount Rainier Volcano Lahar Warning System
- Mount Rainier stream drainage
- Mount Rainier Trail Descriptions
- Mount Rainier on Peakbagger.com
- Mount Rainier on Bivouac.com
- Photos of Mount Rainier National Park - Terra Galleria
- Mount Rainier Pictures - NationalParksGallery.com
- Time-lapse animation of Mt. Rainier Web Cam
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