Nature & Science
Mount Rainier National Park encompasses 235,625 acres on the west-side of the Cascade Range, and is located about 100 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. Mount Rainier National Park is approximately 97 percent wilderness and 3 percent National Historic Landmark District and receives approximately 2 million visitors per year.
At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the most prominent peak in the Cascade Range. It dominates the landscape of a large part of western Washington State. The mountain stands nearly three miles higher than the lowlands to the west and one and one-half miles higher than the adjacent mountains. It is an active volcano that last erupted approximately 150 years ago. The park contains 26 named glaciers across 9 major watersheds, with 382 lakes and 470 rivers and streams and over 3,000 acres of other wetland types.
The park is part of a complex ecosystem. Vegetation is diverse, reflecting the varied climatic and environmental conditions encountered across the park's 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. Forest ages range from less than 100 years old on burned areas and moraines left by receding glaciers to old-growth stands 1,000 or more years. Some alpine heather communities have persisted in the park for up to 10,000 years.
Species known or thought to occur in the park include more than 964 vascular plants, 182 birds, 65 mammals, 11 amphibians, 4 reptiles, and 12 native fishes. Of these vertebrates, 3 species of fish are federally listed as threatened, while 2 bird, 3 bat, 3 amphibian, and 1 insect species are federally listed species of concern. Several species are listed as imperiled or species of concern by the state of Washington. Species that have historically occurred in the park but are no longer believed to be present include the gray wolf, grizzly bear, and Canada lynx.
North Coast and Cascades Science Learning Network
Provides additional information on the environment of Mount Rainier and the Northwest Region.
Did You Know?
About 5,600 years ago the summit and northeast face of Mount Rainier fell away in a massive landslide accompanied by volcanic explosions. The Osceola Mudflow, a towering wall of mud and rock, thundered down the White River Valley where it deposited 600' of debris eventually reaching the Puget Sound.