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Geologic Publications for Mount Rainier

Recent activity of glaciers of Mount Rainier, Washington

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Author(s): Robert S. Sigafoos, E L. Hendricks

Document Type: Professional Paper 387-B
Publisher: United States Geological Survey
Published Year: 1972
DOI Identifier:
ISBN Identifier:

Knowing the ages of trees growing on recent moraines at Mount Rainier, Wash., permits the moraines to be dated. Moraines, which are ridges of boulders, gravel, sand, and dust deposited at the margins of a glacier, mark former limits of a receding glacier. Knowing past glacial activity aids our understanding of past climatic variations.

The report documents the ages of moraines deposited by eight glaciers. Aerial photographs and planimetric maps show areas where detailed field studies were made below seven glaciers. Moraines, past ice positions, and sample areas are plotted on the photographs and maps, along with trails, roads, streams, and landforms, to permit critical areas to be identified in the future. Ground photographs are included so that sample sites and easily accessible moraines can be found along trails. Tables present data about trees sampled in areas near the glaciers of Mount Rainier, Wash.

The data in the tables show there are modern moraines of different age around the mountain; some valleys contain only one modern moraine; others contain as many as nine. The evidence indicates a sequence of modern glacial advances terminating at about the following A.D. dates: 1525, 1550, 1625-60, 1715, 1730-65, 1820-60, 1875, and 1910. Nisqually River valley near Nisqually Glacier contains one moraine formed before A.D. 1842; Tahoma Creek valley near South Tahoma Glacier contains three moraines formed before A.D. 1528; 1843, and 1864; South Puyallup River valley near Tahoma Glacier, six moraines, A.D. 1544, 1761, 1841, 1851, 1863, 1898; Puyallup Glacier, one moraine, A.D. 1846; Carbon Glacier, four moraines, 1519, 1763, 1847, 1876; Winthrop Glacier, four moraines, 1655, 1716, 1760, and 1822; Emmons Glacier, nine moraines, 1596, 1613, 1661, 1738, 1825, 1850, 1865, 1870, 1901; and Ohanapecosh Glacier, three moraines, 1741, 1846, and 1878.

Abandoned melt-water and flood channels were identified within moraine complexes below three glaciers, and their time of abandonment was dated. Outwash in three areas was deposited by melt-water of Tahoma Glacier before A.D. 1862, 1873, and 1910, respectively. Flood channels or melt-water channels on either side of Carbon River near Carbon Glacier dated from about 1901 to 1907. Melt-water channels of three different ages cut through Emmons Glacier moraines were dated as being abandoned before 1865, 1871, and 1917, respectively.

Although the evidence at Mount Rainier indicates a sequence of glacial advance and retreat and of melt-water flow through different channels at different times, their climatic and hydrologic significance is not yet known.

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Sigafoos and Hendricks (1972) or (Sigafoos and Hendricks, 1972)

References Citation:
Sigafoos, R.S. and E.L. Hendricks, 1972, Recent activity of glaciers of Mount Rainier, Washington: Professional Paper 387-B, United States Geological Survey,