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Mount Rainier

Mt Rainer, as seen from Gig Harbor in Puget Sound,
about 70 km (45 mi) away
larger version

Mount Rainier is a stratovolcano (and National Park) located south and east of Seattle, Washington. One of the monarchs of the Cascade Range, it was originally known as Tahoma. It is mostly covered by glaciers, but heat from the volcano keeps areas of the crater rim on its summit cone ice-free.

While it is possible to climb to the summit, it is not an easy hike; in most years, unpredictable snow and storms trap and kill hikers. Mount Rainier is a good place for winter sports, including snowshoeing[?] and skiing.

Mount Rainier's earliest lavas were erupted about 500,000 years ago (Sisson and others, 2001). The most recent recorded eruption was between 1820 and 1854, but many eye witnesses 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. Risks from an eruption of Rainier include pyroclastic flows and lahars (large volcanic debris flows)[?] as well as hot lava.


Mount Rainer was first discovered by the Nisqually[?], Cowlitz[?], Yakama[?], Puyallup[?], and Muckleshoot tribes of Native Americans. As residents of the mountain's river valleys, they hunted and gathered berries in the forests and mountain meadows. For them, the mountain was an entity of power and presence, quite apart from the resources it offered.

Captain George Vancouver sailed into Puget Sound in 1792, and became the first European to discover the mountain. He named it in honor of his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier.

In 1833, Dr. Wm. Fraser 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 enjoymen, 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 as America's 5th 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."

Portions from National Parks Service (http://www.nps.gov/mora/RDPayne4/tahoma7.htm)

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