Moonlight and the Milky Way over Mount Rainier in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
© Brad Goldpaint/Cava
Moonlight over Mount Rainier. Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier is the crown jewel of its namesake national park, designated March 2, 1899, by American President William McKinley. It was just the fifth national park in the United States. Beyond the mountain, the 956-square-kilometre park also includes valleys, waterfalls, old-growth forest, and pristine alpine meadows famous for summer wildflowers.
Rainier is considered the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S. Native Americans named it Tahoma, which translates to mother of waters. Indeed, the mountain spawns five major rivers, and to this day, its snowmelt provides much of the water for the region.
Although beautiful, Rainier is also one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Scientists consider an eruption in the near future to be highly probable. In addition to spewing ash and triggering landslides, a major eruption would likely trigger massive mudflows, called lahars, that would send a tsunami of mud, boulders, and debris toward the cities of Tacoma and Seattle, only 160 kilometres away. For now, we'll just admire the majesty of this sleeping giant and be thankful that the national park protects so much pristine northwest wilderness.