Rainier

Photo of this volcano
  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 46.853°N
  • 121.76°W

  • 4392 m
    14406 ft

  • 321030
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

Most Recent Bulletin Report: June 1969 (CSLP 53-69)


Increased seismicity since September 1968

Card 0619 (27 June 1969) Increased seismicity since September 1968

"Local activity has been increasing each month for the last three months. We have been averaging about 1-3 'Mt. Ranier Events' per 5-day period with an increase to about five per 5-day period last September 1968. This April, the events increased to approximately five per 5-day period. In May, it increased to about six per 5-day period and as of 15 June the increase is to approximately 12 per 5-day period."

Information Contacts: N. Rasmussen, Seismology Station, University of Washington.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Rainier.

Bulletin Reports - Index


Reports are organized chronologically and indexed below by Month/Year (Publication Volume:Number), and include a one-line summary. Click on the index link or scroll down to read the reports.

06/1969 (CSLP 53-69) Increased seismicity since September 1968




Information is preliminary and subject to change. All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


June 1969 (CSLP 53-69)


Increased seismicity since September 1968

Card 0619 (27 June 1969) Increased seismicity since September 1968

"Local activity has been increasing each month for the last three months. We have been averaging about 1-3 'Mt. Ranier Events' per 5-day period with an increase to about five per 5-day period last September 1968. This April, the events increased to approximately five per 5-day period. In May, it increased to about six per 5-day period and as of 15 June the increase is to approximately 12 per 5-day period."

Information Contacts: N. Rasmussen, Seismology Station, University of Washington.

Eruptive History


Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).


Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1894 Nov 21 1894 Dec 24 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
[ 1882 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1879 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1870 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1858 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1854 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1843 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1825 (?) ] [ Unknown ] Discredited    
1450 ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
0910 ± 500 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
0440 ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layers TC1 and TC2
0150 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology Tephra layer SL8
0250 BCE ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer C
0400 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology
0500 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology Tephra layer SL5
0610 BCE ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layers SL3 and SL4
0650 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology Tephra layer SL2
0700 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology Tephra layer SL1
2550 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Tephra layer B
2750 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 2 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Tephra layer H
3650 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layers S, F
3850 BCE ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
4850 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 2 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer N
5050 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer D
5350 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer L
5550 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 2 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer A
7800 BCE ± 300 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
8050 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer R

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.

Photo Gallery


Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Range, towers above the city of Tacoma and forms a prominent landmark that dominates much of central Washington. Periodic collapse of the volcano during the past ten thousand years has produced debris avalanches and mudflows that have reached the Puget Sound at the present locations of the cities of Tacoma and Seattle.

Photo by Lyn Topinka (U.S. Geological Survey).
See title for photo information.
A volcanologist from the U.S. Geological Survey observes the glacier-clad NW flank of Mount Rainier during a field survey to conduct monitoring measurements on Ptarmigan Ridge. The North Mowich Glacier in the center of the photo descends to about 1500 m elevation.

Photo by Lyn Topinka, 1983 (U.S. Geological Survey).
See title for photo information.
Stratovolcanoes, also referred to as composite volcanoes, are constructed of sequential layers of resistant lava flows and fragmental material produced by pyroclastic eruptions. An aerial view of the glacially dissected SW flank of Mount Rainier shows the layered interior of a stratovolcano. Snow cover, which preferentially clings to less-steep layers of fragmental material, accentuates the stratified character of this composite volcano.

Photo by Dan Dzurisin, 1982 (U.S. Geological Survey).
See title for photo information.
Mount Rainier towers above the town of Orting, 40 km NW of the volcano. The plain underlying the town is composed of the Electron Mudflow, which formed the flat valley floor about 500 years ago. The mudflow, which originated from collapse of part of the western flank of Mount Rainier, was about 60 m deep when it exited valleys at the mountain front and flowed onto the Puget Lowland.

Photo by Dave Wieprecht, 1995 (U.S. Geological Survey).
See title for photo information.
The rims of two partially overlapping cinder cones, viewed here from the NE, mark the summit of Mount Rainier volcano. The twin craters represent the latest activity of a volcano that was constructed within the large horseshoe-shaped depression formed by collapse of Mount Rainier 5700 years ago. Thermal activity continues today, forming a series of fumaroles and ice caves within the icecap filling the summit craters.

Photo by Dave Wieprecht, 1995 (U.S. Geological Survey).
See title for photo information.
An aerial view from near the eastern margin of Mount Rainier National Park shows the volcano rising above glacially carved terrain of the Ohanapecosh formation, composed of volcanic rocks of Tertiary age. The smooth, ice-covered upper NE flank is the location of the post-collapse cone constructed within the failure scarp left by the Osceola debris avalanche and lahar about 5700 years ago.

Photo by Dave Wieprecht, 1992 (U.S. Geological Survey).
See title for photo information.
Hikers on the trail to Pinnacle Peak in the Tatoosh Range enjoy a spectacular vista of the south side of Mount Rainier. Sunlight catches the lower part of the Nisqually Glacier at the lower right-center; the glacier descends in a series of icefalls more than 3000 vertical meters from the summit icecap. Meadows and forests of the Paradise area lie immediately below and to the right of the glacier. Camp Muir, used as base for climbs of Rainier, is at the top of the snowfield below and to the right of the massive cliffs of Gibralter Rock on the right skyline.

Photo by Lee Siebert (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Mount Rainier rises above Yakima Park on the north side of the volcano. Emmons Glacier descends to the left from the summit within a broad valley between Little Tahoma Peak at the extreme left and the low ridge descending diagonally to the left at the center of the photo. This 2.5-km-wide valley was created when Mount Rainier collapsed about 5700 years ago, forming the Osceola mudflow, which traveled all the way to the Puget Sound. The collapse was associated with an explosive eruption.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1972 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Flat-topped Burroughs Mountain on the NE flank of Mount Rainier is underlain by a massive andesitic lava flow. The 3.4 cu km flow is up to 350 m thick and extends 11 km from about 2350 m to 1300 m elevation. The flow was erupted about 500,000 years ago at the onset of a period initial growth of modern Mount Rainier volcano and overlies block-and-ashflow deposits. The flow is perched on a ridge top and has ice-contact features, indicative of its emplacement against the margins of a thick Pleistocene glacier.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1982 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
The trees in the foreground along Kautz Creek were killed by a mudflow from the SW flank of Mount Rainier in 1947, which cut the west-side access road to the park. Relatively small debris flows such as these occur relatively frequently; deposits of a half dozen or more debris flows are exposed in the valley walls of Kautz Creek.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1980 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
New housing is under construction on a mudflow deposit that originated from Mount Rainier, partially obscured by clouds in the center background. The tree stump in the foreground, left for landscaping purposes at the entrance to the housing development, was buried by the Electron mudflow about 500 years ago.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Two overlapping cinder cones form the summit of Mount Rainier. Continued high heat flux has produced steam jets and fumaroles that have created a 2.5-km-long labyrinth of ice tunnels in the 100-m-deep icecap filling the eastern summit crater. Ice caves are also present in the smaller western crater, which contains a small crater lake beneath the ice.

Photo by Richard Fiske, 1958 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Mount Rainier is reflected in the waters of Tipsoo Lake, near Chinook Pass at the eastern end of Mount Rainier National Park. The snow-free peaks of the Cowlitz Chimneys below Mount Rainier are composed of volcanic rocks of the Ohanapecosh Formation of Tertiary age, which underlies Mount Rainier.

Photo by Richard Fiske, 1959 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
The Tahoma Glacier spills from the summit icecap of Mount Rainier between Liberty Cap (left) and Point Success (right) in this aerial view from the SW. Two young cinder cones, constructed within a scarp left by massive collapse of the summit of Mount Rainier about 5700 years ago, form the present-day summit of the volcano. Slope failure of the summit or upper flanks of the hydrothermally altered volcano has occurred several times during the Holocene, producing massive debris avalanches and mudflows that swept into the Puget lowlands.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1969 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Stratovolcanoes, also known as composite volcanoes, are built up by accumulated layers of lava flows and fragmental material from explosive eruptions. Glacier-clad Mount Rainier, seen here from the NW, is the most prominent stratovolcano in the Cascade Range. Most eruptions originate from a central conduit, which produces the common conical profile of stratovolcanoes, but flank eruptions also occur. Both isolated stratovolcanoes like Mount Rainier and compound volcanoes formed by overlapping cones are common.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1983 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Mount Rainier, seen here across a cloud-filled valley from High Knob SW of the volcano, forms a dramatic backdrop to the Puget Sound region. Large Holocene mudflows from this massive, heavily glaciated volcano have reached as far as the Puget Sound lowlands. Several postglacial tephras have been erupted from Mount Rainier; tree-ring dating places the last recognizable tephra deposit during the 19th century. Extensive hydrothermal alteration of the upper portion of the volcano has contributed to its structural weakness.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1981 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
The massive 4392-m-high glacier-mantled cone of Mount Rainier forms the highest peak of the Cascade Range. This aerial view from the NW also shows neighboring Mount Adams on the right horizon. The steep cirque forming the sheer Willis Wall, named after the 19th-century geologist Bailey Willis, lies in the shadow at the left, below the Winthrop Glacier, which forms the left-hand ridge of Mount Rainier. Two young overlapping cinder cones, their rims kept free of snow by high heat flow, form the flat summit of the volcano.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1985 (Smithsonian Institution)
See title for photo information.

Smithsonian Sample Collections Database


The following 41 samples associated with this volcano can be found in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections. Catalog number links will open a window with more information.

Catalog Number Sample Description
NMNH 87859-1 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-10 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-11 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-12 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-13 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-14 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-15 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-16 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-17 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-18 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-19 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-2 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-20 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-21 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-22 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-23 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-24 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-25 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-26 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-27 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-28 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-29 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-3 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-30 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-31 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-32 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-33 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-34 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-35 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-36 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-37 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-38 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-39 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-4 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-40 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-41 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-5 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-6 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-7 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-8 Volcanic
NMNH 87859-9 Volcanic

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