Water, Air, Earth and Fire are continually shaping and reshaping the landscape. The seemingly permanent and immovable mountains of the North Cascades are continuously rising and changing by environmental factors. Perhaps the most potent and abundant factor, water in its many forms, is what makes the North Cascades the this place of wonder. As rain and snow, water falls on the mountaintops where it is compacted into glacial ice that will carve its legacy in every stone. Eventually it melts, cascading down the mountainsides in rivulets that become streams that become rivers carrying the mountains bit by bit to the sea.
Air and Fire do their part as well. Winds whip through the valleys and whirl around the peaks invisibly shaping the land and the life upon it. Lightning strikes down out of the skies setting the forest on fire. Small, weak trees and dead wood are burned to cinders making way for new life to spring forth from the ashes. And all three elements interact with the earth, shaping and molding it, using pieces of it—large chunks of stone dragged by a glacier or tiny pieces of silt adrift in the waterways—like a chisel to carve a new work of art from the land.
Humankind's mark does not go unnoticed either. Everything we do affects the park in ways both great and small; from our pollution to the non-native species we introduce to our efforts at preservation. Park scientists and policy makers work continuously to monitor these impacts and protect the natural wonder of the park.