Mount Rainier is an icon of Washington because it is, in fact, the highest-standing volcano in the US. Consequently, this National Park holds a massive significance for the country.
People have been making their best effort to study the mountain itself and its surrounding nature. They also put serious effort into preserving nature around it. Despite being visited by so many people annually, they are trying their best to protect its most natural condition as if it is untouched by human beings.
On the other hand, Mount Rainier is still a volcano, specifically considered a stratovolcano. It is a conical volcano with layers to it. Stratovolcanoes are known for their violent and explosive volcanic bombs. However, the violent explosion produces the most ethereal view of nature. A soothing view after the chaotic blast.
So, let’s find out more facts about the unique Mount Rainier!
1. Not The Real Name
Mount Rainier was not originally named Mount Rainier. The native American tribe there used to call it Mountain Talol, Tahoma, or Tacoma. The word Talol means “mother of waters” and Tacoma means “place where the water begins”. On the other hand, Tahoma means “snowy peak”.
These words all described the mountain perfectly. Known for its glacier top and many rivers, this original name really suits the mountain well. Not until 1792 when the British Royal Navy, Captain George Vancouver, decided to name it Mount Rainier after his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier.
2. Largest Glacier
Mount Rainier is naturally clothed in glaciers. It has about 25 well-known glaciers. The largest one is Emmons Glacier which covers 4.3 square miles. This one is the biggest glacier you can find in the whole of America. Most of the glaciers you can find in Mount Rainier are the valley glacier type, meaning they are confined into a valley.
There are some glaciers which are continental glaciers that are larger. These ones cover a bigger space. These glaciers are definitely what makes the view of Mount Rainier marvelous. During Thanksgiving, the mountain would look stunningly snowy.
3. World’s Most Deadly Volcano
Even though it last erupted a hundred years ago in 1894, it is still one of the world’s most deadly volcanoes. Why? It is because its explosion is going to be very violent and destructive. The government has been paying close attention to the mountain’s activity. However, they predict during the next eruption, we will get little to no signs at all. This is why Mount Rainier is among the most dangerous and deadly volcanoes out there.
Also, with the presence of glaciers, we need to prepare for hot lahar that will go down the mountains. It will be a rather chaotic and dreadful scene to see. We can’t actually predict when the eruption will take place.
However, we can see the mountain keeps on growing and showing hydrothermal activity which means we need to be prepared at any time too. Also, the debris that is exerted from the mountain even when they are not erupting is already dangerous. Could you imagine how much debris it will exert when it actually erupted?
4. Snowiest Place on Earth
We can safely say Mount Rainier is the snowiest place on earth or at the very least it is the closest runner up to it. On average, the annual snowfall at Rainiers is nearly 640 inches annually. The average temperature on the mountain all year round does not go below 16 F and above 89 F. The weather in the mountain is pretty much affected by the Pacific Ocean, elevation, and latitude.
It is relatively cold and rainy on most days. Summer usually happens from late July to August when the weather will be the hottest, but the weather could get cool and wet too. Bottom line, Mount Rainier is more on the colder and wet side, but the weather is just unpredictable every day.
5. Indicator of Climate Change
Recently, there has been an alarming sight in the mountains. There has been less snow and the glaciers are getting smaller. Only the ones in the higher altitude could actually survive from melting. The melt of ice also causes some floods and a big amount of water flowing at once causing debris flow.
The increase in the global temperature has caused an imbalance of conditions in the mountain. Whether a super cold winter, a sudden heat wave in the summer, an increasing number of melting glaciers, or higher rainfall, it all serves as an indicator of how alarming the world’s condition is today. In fact, Mount Rainier plays as an obvious indicator of how dangerously real climate change is.
6. Most Challenging Place To Climb
Annually, there are around 10,000 people who try to climb Mount Rainier. Out of the those people, only half of it managed to reach the summit. There are several main reasons why Mount Rainier is hard to climb. First of all, its height is the first challenge. Even though its peak is quite big, the vertical distance you need to go through is no joke.
Another challenge is the condition of the mountain which is covered with snow and ice. It takes extra skill and equipment to climb up in this condition. Things are also challenging when you go down the mountain with this kind of condition.
It takes both physical strength and mentality to be able to conquer Mount Rainier. The cold weather makes camping harder because of how cold it gets especially at night and you need to melt water to drink. It is definitely labor-intensive.
7. Annual Deadly Occurrence
Throughout history, Mount Rainier has caused a significant amount of deaths. Its last eruption killed around 23,000 people and has been considered one of the deadliest eruptions ever happened in history. Since an eruption does not happen frequently, there are two deaths that happen annually due to snow avalanches, rock or ice falls, and hypothermia.
There were around 425 deaths between 1897 to 2017. If a plane crashes near the summit of the mountain, it will be hard to evacuate. We could say that Mount Rainiers is not accessible which makes evacuations really hard to do. The good news is over time people have developed skills and systems to deal with the harsh condition of Mount Rainier.
8. 280 Species of Animals
Enough with all the devastating facts about Mount Rainier, we need to start discussing the beautiful sides of Mount Rainier. There are around 280 species of animals making their home on Mount Rainier.
Based on its altitude, every zone of the mountain has different types of animals living there. Starting with 65 different species of mammals with the black bear and elk being the famous characters in the summer.
Mountain goats also make their appearance mostly in the alpine and subalpine zone. There are 14 different amphibian species which consist mostly of toads and salamanders. Five species of reptiles consisting of four snakes and one lizard roam around the mountain. There are 182 different species of birds ranging from eagles to falcons. The huge range of bird species leads to tons of research regarding it.
Furthermore, 14 different fish species also call Mount Rainier their homes and the list goes on. While the vertebrates are the ones we remember seeing in the mountains, 85% of the animal biomass is actually invertebrates.
9. Safe Or Destroy
If you are wondering if there is a part of Mount Rainier that is not covered with ice, the answer would be on its two craters. Each at a size of 0.4 km across, you can see steam emanating from it and not covered by the glaciers. This indicates its youth which further indicates that the last eruption happened not so long ago.
It also indicates that Mount Rainier is an active volcano and it may erupt anytime soon. In the past, some climbers decided to stay a night near these craters so that they could have enough heat and won’t be frozen to death at night. The craters could both save you or destroy you.
10. First Conqueror of Mount Rainier
Even though climbing Mount Rainier is a challenging course, Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump are two people who succeeded in reaching the summit. On August 17, 1870, these two courageous men were the first two people who reached the summit of the mountain. Their journey to the top is not an easy one: trying to survive in the cold weather and staying the night in the crater. On the journey down Van Trump slipped and hurt his feet.
Despite how hard the journey was for them, it did not stop Van Trump to climb back up four more times. Van Trump also took some groups up to the summit. His biggest contribution is advocating for a national park to be built in 1893 and the national park was completed by 1899.
Ever since then, Van Trump has had a special bond with the mountain. He worked in the park occasionally until he fell sick, moved, and died in 1961 at age 77. His contributions grant him some places in the mountain to be named after him: Van Trump Park, Van Trump glacier, and Van Trump Creek.
11. Mountain of Rivers
Mount Rainier has some of the most incredible bodies of water you can see. From rivers to lakes, you name it. There are 400 mapped lakes, 470 mapped streams, unique thermal and mineral springs, and huge wetlands marshland. No wonder Mount Rainier has diverse aquatic flora and fauna. The glaciers on the mountain top are the main source of water for these rivers and lakes.
Since 1988, the staff has been monitoring the aquatic ecosystem closely. Since some species available there are endangered or sensitive, they want to make sure that they preserve the aquatic ecosystem as naturally as it can be. They monitor the physical, biological, and chemical conditions closely. They also pay close attention to the effects caused by recreational activities and other human activities on the aquatic ecosystem.
12. Native American Tribes
Going back to the history of the mountain for a little while. Not only that the animals and plants gain benefit from the natural condition of the mountain, human beings too. During its early days, there were at least six different Native American tribes who occupied the land surrounding the mountains.
The Mowlitz, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Yakama, and Coast Salish people are the tribes who have been keeping the land from generation to generation.
They considered Mount Rainier their sacred land, thus they followed their elders’ guide and instructions to take care of the land. With dedication, they have taken the responsibility to take good care of the land. Today, there are still around 150,000 people living in the land created by the mountain’s eruption.
13. Nature Journaling
The mountain also contributes to advancing our studies of fossils and other geological items. They say Mount Rainier, in fact, holds 6000 years’ worth of history. You can observe it from the fossils, rocks, and other geological marks across the mountain area. You can also predict when the eruptions took place before.
It also shows the changes happening to the forest ecosystem there. For example, the presence of charcoal indicates that there has been a forest fire in the past. It is fascinating to see how nature journals its own experiences, leaving marks here and there so that we can all see and remember.
14. Wildflowers Blooms
Another thing to look out for when visiting Mount Rainier is the picturesque wildflowers. You can hike with the view of a never-ending colorful wildflower path. The best time for these flowers to bloom is from mid-July to early August. These flowers come in every color you can possibly think of: purple, pink, yellow, you name it.
In fact, this phenomenon has always been one of the main attractions in Mount Rainier during summertime. Every year slightly different types of flowers will grow, so you can check them out first before you actually pay a visit. Can you believe there are at least 100 different kinds of wildflowers growing in the mountain?
15. Visits From Famous People
The beauty of Mount Rainier has attracted many people to come. They don’t necessarily come to climb the mountain, some just come to enjoy the beauty of the flowers and the serenity that comes from the sound of the water flowing. Famous people like Walt Disney and his wife Lilian came to Mount Rainier for a one-day honeymoon trip.
Despite his short trip, the experience speaks to him and we can see how many of his works are inspired by the Pacific Northwest. He was here around three years before he created the famous Mickey Mouse. At that time, he was not famous yet.
It is an undeniable fact that Mount Rainier is indeed a charming mountain. From the outside, you can see the gentle water, flowers, and nature which hide the nasty and destructive power it has on the inside.