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Mount Rainier National Park is a United States National Park located in west-central Washington state.
It was established on March 2, 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States.
Mount Rainier National Park covers an area of 956 square kilometers (369 square miles) or 95,600 hectares (236,381 acres acres).
Mount Rainier National Park is approximately 97 percent wilderness and 3 percent National Historic Landmark Distric.
The park is part of a complex ecosystem. Vegetation is diverse, reflecting the varied climatic and environmental conditions encountered across the park’s 3,900 meters (12,800 feet) elevation gradient. Approximately 58 percent of the park is forested, 23 percent is subalpine parkland, and the remainder is alpine, half of which is vegetated and the other half consists of permanent snow and ice.
Ascending to 4,392 meters (14,411 feet) above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape and is the centerpiece of the national park.
Mount Rainier is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, and the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington. It is often shrouded in clouds that dump enormous amounts of rain and snow on the peak every year.
Mount Rainier is a large active stratovolcano. It is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.
There are 27 major glaciers on Mount Rainier and numerous unnamed snow or ice patches, which cover about 90 square kilometers (35 square miles). Mount Rainier’s glaciers are important indicators of climatic change and essential sources of water, supporting six major river systems.
Emmons Glacier at 11.1 square kilometers (4.3 square miles) has the largest area surface area of any glacier in the contiguous United States.
Carbon Glacier has the greatest length (5.7 miles (9.2 km)), thickness (700 ft (210 m)) and volume (0.2 cubic miles (0.83 km3) of any U.S. glacier outside of Alaska. It also has the lowest terminus altitude (1,100 meters / 3,600 feet) of all glaciers in the contiguous 48 states.
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, with nearly 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) of passages.
A small crater lake about 39.6 by 9.1 meters (130 by 30 feet) in size and 5 meters (16 feet) deep, the highest in North America with a surface elevation of 4,329 meters (14,203 feet), occupies the lowest portion of the west crater below more than 30 meters (100 feet) of ice and is accessible only via the caves.
Paradise is the name of an area at approximately 1,600 meters (5,400 feet) on the south slope of Mount Rainier in the national park. Paradise is the most popular destination for visitors to Mount Rainier National Park. It is famous for its glorious views and wildflower meadows.
Located in the southeast corner of the park, Ohanapecosh, named for a Taidnapam (Upper Cowlitz) Indian habitation site along the river, is thought to mean “standing at the edge.” Situated among Douglas firs, western red cedars, and western hemlocks, visitors to Ohanapecosh can experience the beauty and complexity of an old-growth forest.
The waterfalls of Mount Rainier National Park are beautiful and everywhere.
Narada Falls is said to be the most popular, because the Mount Rainier Highway crosses the falls between its two tiers. The waterfall drops 57 meters (188 feet) in two tiers of 51 meters (168 feet) and 6.1 meters (20 feet). The upper tier is a horsetail that falls in several strands down a nearly sheer cliff, into a canyon that is perpendicular to it. The lower tier is a much smaller plunge.
The drama of the falls, along with its easy access make Comet Falls one of the park’s most popular waterfalls. This waterfall descends from Van Trump Park in a 140-metre (462-foot) plunge from Van Trump Creek, with two smaller drops below the main plunge.
Mowich Lake is a lake located in the northwestern corner of Mount Rainier National Park at an elevation of 1,502 meters (4,929 feet). The lake is set in a glacial basin surrounded by fragile
wildflower meadows, and is the largest and deepest lake in Mount Rainier National Park. The name “Mowich” derives from the Chinook jargon word for deer.
The park has over 420 kilometers (260 miles) of maintained trails and 237 kilometers (147 miles) of roads.
The Wonderland Trail is an approximately 150 kilometers (93 mile) hiking trail that circumnavigates Mount Rainier. The trail was built in 1915. In 1981, it was designated a National Recreation Trail.
The Skyline Trail is a spectacular 8.8 kilometr (5.5-mile) loop. It offers stunning displays of subalpine wildflowers, a close-up look at Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier, and, on a clear day, views of peaks as far south as Oregon’s Mount Hood.
Species recorded in the park include more than 800 vascular plants, 162 birds, 65 mammals, 12 amphibians, 5 reptiles, and 8 native fishes.
Mammals that inhabit this national park are especially the cougar, black bear, raccoon, coyote, bobcat, hare, weasel, mole, beaver, red fox, porcupine, skunk, marmot, deer, marten, shrew, pika, elk, and mountain goat.
The common birds of this park including raptors are the thrush, chickadee, kinglet, northern goshawk, willow flycatcher, spotted owl, steller’s jay, Clark’s nutcracker, bald eagle, ptarmigan, harlequin duck, grouse, peregrine falcon, gray jay, golden eagle, grosbeak and finch.
The earliest evidence of human activity in the area which is now Mount Rainier National Park, a projectile point dated to circa 2,000-3,800 BC.
As European explorers began to ‘discover’ the Pacific Northwest in the latter half of the 18th century, they came to a land that was already inhabited by American Indian tribes. In the area around what is today Mount Rainier National Park, the Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Muckleshoot, Yakama, and Cowlitz tribes all used the natural resources surrounding the mountain they called “Takhoma.”
For millennia, the ancestors of modern tribes came to the mountain seasonally to hunt and gather resources. Today, those tribes continue to maintain a deep connection to the mountain.
About 2 million people visit Mount Rainier National Park each year.
Mount Rainier is a popular peak for mountaineering with some 10,000 attempts per year with approximately 50 percent making it to the summit.