Nature Notes

Vol. II September-November 1986 No. 10


The recent glacial outburst flood on the South Tahoma Glacier was right on target if you take a quick look back at some recorded jokulhlaups that have occurred this century on the south side of Mount Rainier:

October , 1926NisquallyHeavy rains
October 14, 1932NisquallyHeavy rains
October 24, 1934NisquallyHeavy rains
October 2, 1947KautzHeavy rains
October 2, 1947NisquallyHeavy rains
October 25, 1955NisquallyHeavy rains
August 23, 1961KautzHigh temperature
August 31, 1967South TahomaHigh temperature
August 21, 1970South TahomaHigh temperature
July 25, 1985KautzHigh temperature
June 15, 1986NisquallyHigh temperature, no flood
October 25, 1986South TahomaHeavy rains

Numerous other floods probably have taken place but were not detected due to their smaller scale. According to Carolyn Driedger, USGS geologist, this year's outburst floods have given support to a proposal for USGS to study when, where, how, and why they happen. Carolyn thinks that there may be a cycle due to periods of stagnant ice during glacial retreats.

If you know of other outburst floods at Mount Rainier, please contact the Division of Interpretation. The recent examples of living geology will be featured in the next issue of Nature Notes.

Lynn Arthur


Convincing most visitors that there is more to Mount Rainier than the spectacular glacial views and vivid floral displays of the Paradise sub-alpine meadows is often difficult to do. Yet, there are always people up for a different experience. They are ready to "get down" into the low elevation old-growth forest which provides the essential frame, or context, for the monumentally spectacular peak. These are the "tree people" for whom a two hundred fifty foot Douglas fir is just as spectacular as an avalanche lily.

When, now and then, you run across such visitors, it is traditional to direct them to Ohanapecosh's Grove of the Patriarchs. In summer this is easy, but in winter, the roads are blocked by snow. In any season there is a little known alternative in the Longmire area -- the Twin Firs Trail. Enormous firs, up to eight feet in diameter, tower over their fallen competitors. Small streams cascade down fern draped drainages. And everywhere the characteristic shade tolerant understory -- dominated by foamflower (Tiarella unifolita) -- is nothing short of lush.

The Twin Firs trail is located 1.8 miles below Longmire on the right hand side of the road as one heads downhill towards the Nisqually Entrance. It is unmarked except for a vehicle pull-out that is capable of accommodating several vehicles at a time. Watch for the two very large Twin firs by the pull-out from which the trail gains its name. The trail is not maintained, yet it is very easy to follow this half-mile loop.

Twin Firs is a seldom visited, but very special part of the park. Yet, for the unique, "forest minded" visitors, a walk through this grove of giants can be a sublime experience which will surely enhance their Mount Rainier tour.

Chris Maun

from Origin of Geographic Names of Tacoma/Pierce County Washington By Gary Fuller Reese

NARADA FALLS -- These falls are on the south central slope of Mount Rainier on the lower Paradise River where the river leaves Paradise Valley. Narada was a spiritual being worshipped by the Brahman people in India for his service to the first race of man. The word Narada is of Theosophical origin meaning "uncontaminated." The beauty of the scene, in its pure and original form, suggested the name to an early visiting group of Theosophists. There was a movement in 1909 soon after the death of Congressman Francis Cushman to change the name of these falls to Cushman Falls in his honor.

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