• View from Sourdough Mountain Overlook  A view looking down onto Diablo Lake. Photo Credit: NPS/Michael Silverman, 2010.

    North Cascades

    National Park Washington

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  • Diablo Lake To Be Drawn Down Three Feet in Early Oct., Trailer-Launched Boats Affected

    Diablo Lake will be drawn down 3 vertical feet for facility repairs from October 1-15. During the drawdown, boats with trailers will not be able to launch or take boats off the water. Hand-launched vessels will still be able to launch. More »

  • Cascade River Road will be open as normal through fall/winter 2014

    Cascade River Rd. will be open in 2014 until snow conditions make it impassable to vehicles, as normal. The road closure that was planned to begin September 8 has been postponed beyond 2014 due to unforeseen circumstances. More »

  • Lone Mountain Fire - National Park Service Trail Closures

    The Lone Mountain Fire in North Cascades National Park is approximately 5 mi NW of Stehekin in the Boulder Creek drainage. Boulder Creek Trail is closed. More »

Geologic Activity

Rapid and Gradual Change Volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods and earthquakes remind us that this landscape is dynamic and ever-changing. These dramatic events can change habitat and ecosystems instantly.

  • Landslides triggered by heavy rains or earthquakes deliver sediment and large wood to streams. Landslides can also block valleys and form new lakes.

  • The Cascade volcanoes Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and Glacier Peak are active, and geologically speaking, very young features. Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker had significant cone-building eruptions 12,000 years ago. Evidence of earlier foundational calderas including the Hannegan Caldera were recently discovered in the northwest corner of the park.

  • Colossal ice sheets covered all but the highest peaks in the North Cascades as recently as 16,000 years ago.

  • More gradual changes occur over decades or centuries. Changes in air quality, growing season, temperature, precipitation and solar radiation can also be influential in altering ecosystems.

  • Pollution is carried by prevailing into the Cascades from Puget Sound. Winter storms and cold temperatures in the mountains scrub some of this pollution from the air and deposit it in lakes, streams and glaciers.

  • Changes in air and water temperatures are lengthening the growing season, melting glaciers, and shrinking the subalpine and alpine zones.

Critical knowledge of these rapid and slow processes is needed to manage the parks and understand results from plant and animal monitoring programs. Our ability to protect and preserve ecosystems hinges on an understanding of soils, air quality, geologic processes, climate change floodplains and other abiotic factors. The Geology program at North Cascades NP consists of three levels:

  • Inventories of important resources including soils, landslides, and glaciers.

  • Monitoring of key variables such as air and water quality, glaciers, climate, and streamflow.

  • Research linking inventory and monitoring observations with events and processes that are constantly changing.

Did You Know?

Cascading stream

The North Cascades are well known for the abundant waterfalls that lace the mountains. Two of the best known waterfalls are Gorge Falls between Newhalem and Diablo along State Route 20 and Rainbow Falls in the Stehekin Valley.