The highest and most prominent mountain in the Cascades, Mount Rainier is also considered to be amongst the most dangerous in the world.
Mount Rainier is a massive stratovolcano making up the largest peak in the Cascades, rising 4,392 metres above sea level.
Although it has not erupted since the 19th century, volcanologists believe it to be one of the 16 most potentially devastating volcanoes in the world today, earning it a place on the “Decade Volcano List” that denotes peaks of particular interest and need for monitoring.
With 26 major glaciers and 93 square kilometres of permanent ice fields across its summit, in the event of an eruption Mount Rainer could potentially produce massive lahars (volcanic mud flows) which would threaten the whole Puyallup River valley.
According to USGS estimates, 150,000 people live on top of ancient lahar deposits across the Puyallup Valley, with estimates suggesting that damage from lahars today would reach as far as downtown Seattle.
Therefore, although it has not shown any recent signs known to be a pre-cursor to an eruption, volcanologists keep a close watch on the mountain and plans for large-scale evacuation have been developed should an eruption and accompanying lahars take place.
The beauty and danger of Mount Rainier and the other Cascade mountains has been understood for generations, and the range has a number of ancient myths and legends associated with it.
Indigenous people such as the Lushootseed speaking tribes describe the mountains as angry god-like chiefs who fight by throwing fire and stones at each other (during eruptions).
The Lushootseed name for Mount Rainier is Tahoma, and their rich history of fables tell tales of huge hidden grottoes of sleeping giants and various spiritual apparitions across the mountain.
Modern legends also believe that the mountains are home to the Sasquatch or “Big Boot” - although many sightings have been claimed, verifiable scientific evidence has yet to be produced that this large, ape-like creature exists.