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Stream stage, stream temperature and air temperature for the Nisqually River at Longmire: Water year 2013

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Author(s): Scott R. Beason

Document Type: Water-Data Report NPS/MORA/WDR-2017/004
Publisher: Mount Rainier National Park
Published Year: 2017
Pages: 20
DOI Identifier:
ISBN Identifier:
Keywords: air temperature Mount Rainier National Park Nisqually River stage water data water temperature

Mount Rainier is a 4,392 m (14,410 ft) volcano in southwestern Washington State. Braided rivers radiate away from the volcano and are generally glacially-sourced. Approximately 4.17 km3 (1.0 mi3) of ice and perennial snows cover Mount Rainier (Driedger and Kennard, 1986). The mountain receives an average of 16.3 m (53.4 ft) of snow at Paradise and melting snow causes high flows in spring and summer months (NPS, 2011). Fall and winter storms lead to periodic flooding and higher flows. Generally, the lowest river flows occur late in the summer prior to the onset of fall storms and in the middle of winter. Most streams in the park exhibit a braiding or anastomosing character due to their glacial source, however, several of the lower order streams that have non-glacial sources exhibit pool-riffle morphology with very coarse median grain sizes. Average stream gradient ranges from 1 to 4%.

The Nisqually River is one of six major stream networks that drain a significant portion of the volcano (the others being the Puyallup, Carbon, West Fork White, White, and Ohanapecosh). The Nisqually River watershed (Figure 1) begins at the Nisqually Glacier and ends at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, emptying into the Puget Sound. The Nisqually River at Longmire has a watershed size of 48.7 km2 (18.8 mi2), a mean basin elevation of 1,814 m (5,950 ft) and drains from the summit of Mount Rainier down to 853 m (2,800 ft) at Longmire (Table 1). The drainage basin includes three glaciers (Nisqually, Wilson and Van Trump Glaciers) and the permanent Muir Snowfield. Mean basin slope is 48.2% and has 39.0% canopy cover. Mean annual precipitation in the watershed is approximately 262 cm (103 in) (USGS Stream Stats, 2011). The Nisqually River’s headwaters start at the terminus of the Nisqually Glacier, at approximately 1,585 m (5,200 ft). From there, the river cascades down a steep braided stream with very coarse sediment. The river character is a classic braided system with multiple debris flow inputs from Van Trump Creek and other small streams.

Stream gage data from the Nisqually River at Longmire within Mount Rainier National Park are presented for water year 2013 (October 1, 2012 – September 30, 2013). The Longmire location is currently the only year-round stream gaging station in the park. Stream statistics are obtained via pressure transducers that are mounted within a stilling well at Longmire. Data were obtained at 15 minute intervals for most of the water year with the exception of an outage period between approximately October 29, 2012 and November, 27, 2012. Different sensors had a different outage period during this time. The stream gage recorded the passage of a glacial outburst flood, the first recorded passage of an event like this on the stream gaging equipment at Longmire since WY2010 and the first recorded outburst flood event from the Nisqually Glacier since June 22, 1987.

Stream gage data is useful for determining critical in-stream flows for aquatic habitats as well as showing the range of temperatures exhibited in park streams during the year.

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Beason (2017) or (Beason, 2017)

References Citation:
Beason, S.R., 2017, Stream stage, stream temperature and air temperature for the Nisqually River at Longmire: Water year 2013: Water-Data Report NPS/MORA/WDR-2017/004, Mount Rainier National Park, 20 p..