Mount Rainier is the highest and third most voluminous volcano of the Cascade Range. The main cone of this stratovolcano has formed since 730,000 years ago. Photograph of Mount Rainier from STS-64 (STS064-51-27).Image Source: The Earth Observation Images at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

For the last 100,000 years the rate of erosion, by debris avalanche and glaciers, has been greater than that of the rate of volcano growth.

Mount Rainier is potentially the most dangerous volcano in the Cascades because it is very steep, covered in large amounts of ice and snow, and near a large population that lives in lowland drainages. Numerous debris avalanches start on the volcano. The largest debris avalanche traveled more than 60 miles (100 km) to Puget Sound. The most recent eruption was about 2,200 years ago and covered the eastern half of the park with up to one foot (30 cm) of lapilli, blocks, and bombs. Photograph by D.R. Crandell, U.S. Geological Survey.

Mt. St. Helens with Mt. Rainier in the background. (March 31, 1980) Photo by U.S. Geological Society.


Additional Images of Mount Rainier

The Cascade Volcano Observatory has additional information about the history and hazards of Mt. Rainier.

Sources of Information:

Crandell, D.R., 1971, Postglacial lahars from Mount Rainier volcano, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 677, p. 1-75.

Crandell, D.R., 1969, The geologic story of Mount Rainier: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1292, 43 p.

Driedger, C.L., 1995, Increasing public awareness of Mount Rainier volcanic hazards: Eos Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, p. F644.

Fiske, R.S., Hopson, C.A., and Waters, A.C., Geology of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 444, p. 1-93.

Hopson, C.A., Waters, C.A., Bender, V.R., and Rubin, M., 1962, The latest eruptions from Mount Rainier volcano: Journal of Geology

Majors, H.M., and McCollum, R.C., 1981, Mount Rainier: the tephra eruption of 1894: Northwest Discoveries, v. 2, p. 334-381.

Mullineaux, D.R., 1974, Pumice and other pyroclastic deposits in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1326, p. 1-83.

Mullineaux, D.R., Sigafoos, R.S., and Hendricks, E.L., 1969, A historic eruption of Mt. Rainier, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 650-B, p. 1-83.

National Research Council, 1994, Mount Rainier Active Cascade Volcano: Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, 114 p.

Pringle, P.T., Driedger, C.L., Frank, D., McKenna, J., Murphy, M.T., Scott, K.M., Sisson, T.W., Vallance, J.W., Venezky, D.Y., Walder, J.S., and Zimbelman, D.R., 1994, 2G Mount Rainier, a Decade Volcano GSA field trip, in Swanson, D.A., and Haugerud, R.A. , eds., Geologic field trips in the Pacific Northwest, Volume 2, p. 2G 1-23.

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the World: Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona, 349 p.

Sisson, T.W., 1995, An overview of the geology of Mount Rainier's volcanic edifice: Eos Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, p. F643.

Venezky, D.Y., 1995, Magma mixing: A trigger for pyroclastic eruptions at Mt. Rainier: Eos Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, p. F644.

Wood, C.A., and Kienle, J., 1993, Volcanoes of North America: Cambridge University Press, New York, 354 p.

Wright, T.L., and Pierson, T.C., 1992, Living with volcanoes: U.S. Geological Circular 1073, 57 p.

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United States