Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park, whose WDPA Code is: 372151, is a national park in the State of Washington, in the United States of America.
The park takes its name from Mount Rainier, a stratovolcano belonging to the Cascade Range and has an area of ​​956.6 square kilometers.
This park was established on March 2, 1899 and was created to preserve Mount Rainier, a 4,392 meter high dormant volcano, and the surrounding area.
The summit of Mount Rainier has been carved out of ice, and around two dozen glaciers remain around the summit area with a series of smaller patches of permanent ice and snow. The largest of these is the Emmons Glacier along the north-east face. The park has a cool mountain climate, with hot summers and cold winters; elevation greatly affects temperatures. The park region receives large amounts of rainfall each year, especially on the western slope of Mount Rainier. Much of this falls as snow in winter and at higher altitudes; snow can occur at any time of the year in the summit area. The total snowfalls are quite remarkable so much so that the ranger station in the paradise area, on the southern side, has recorded some of the highest annual totals in the world, occasionally exceeding 24 meters.
The park, with its proximity to the nearby urban area of ​​Puget Sound, is a popular destination for visitors. It is one of the main areas of the country for hiking and mountaineering. In addition to an extensive hiking trail system within the park, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail skirts parts of the park’s eastern boundary. There are several paved access points on the eastern and southern sides of the park. Three visitor centers, east on Sunrise Ridge, southeast on the Ohanapecosh River and in the Paradise area, are open during the warmer months, as is the Paradise Inn (built in 1916), one of the park’s most renowned lodges national United States. The park’s headquarters are located in Ashford, just southwest of the park.

Flora –
Almost three-fifths of the park is wooded, with a prevalence of conifers. The lower elevations have dense forests of giant Douglas fir, western red cedar (giant arborvitae) and mountain hemlock. Other western firs and white pines are among the species at higher elevations up to around 1,830 meters. Subalpine meadows appear at about 1,370 meters and become more extensive with increasing altitude as the trees thin out, giving way to alpine meadows above the treeline at about 2,130 meters. During the warm months the subalpine and alpine meadows are covered with wildflowers that bloom progressively higher on the slopes as the summer passes.
Although the park is world famous for its elaborate wildflowers, the vegetation of Mount Rainier National Park is remarkably diverse. The climate and altitude vary greatly in the park, creating a wide range of habitats that support a large number of plant species. There are over 890 vascular species and more than 260 non-vascular plant and fungal species in the park. There are more than 100 species of exotic plants, especially along the transport corridors, near the paths and in the riparian areas. The main areas of the plant community in the park include:
– Forest area;
– Subalpine area;
– Alpine area.
Forest area:
– About 58% of the park is covered with forests. The low-lying forests are spread across the park boundary from about 500 to 800 meters above sea level and are dominated by western hemlock, Douglas fir and western red cedar. The mid-elevation forests span about 1200 to 1800 meters in elevation depending on appearance and contain Pacific silver fir, Alaskan yellow cedar, western white pine, and noble fir. Above 1,400 meters, the high altitude forests are characterized by subalpine spruce, mountain hemlock, and Alaskan yellow cedar. White pine and Englemann spruce are found in the driest sites on the east side of the park. The ages of the forests range from young woods (less than 100 years old) to old ones of 1,000 years or more. Young populations can be found in areas of disturbance, such as areas cleared of fires or debris flows, or reclamation of moraines and other exposed land left by retreating glaciers.
Subalpine area:
– At the higher elevations of high-altitude forests, trees become less dense as the forest transforms into a subalpine park. The subalpine park covers about 23 percent of the park; The vegetation in this area is a mosaic of tufts of trees and herbaceous meadows that extend from the edge of the wood to the edge of the wood, or from about 1500 to 2100 meters above sea level. Tree cover and the location of plant communities in this area are limited by the depth and duration of the snowpack.
– In this area we also find the subalpine meadows. These are lush meadows and part of the subalpine park, they surround Mount Rainier at altitudes from about 1500 to 2100 meters. The lawns are a favorite sight for park visitors, who flock to the mountain to see the elaborate displays of wildflowers blooming in the lawns. Subalpine meadows can be covered in snow until June if not later, prompting wildflowers to bloom aggressively to take advantage of the short growing season. The short season also affects the type of plant communities present in the meadows. The vegetation of subalpine meadows is classified into five broad types of vegetation (Henderson 1974):

– 1. Community of Heather / Bell-heather / Huckleberry (Phyllodoce / Cassiope / Vaccinium): areas of low and dense shrubs dominated by heather and blueberries on the south and west sides of the park, such as Paradise and Indian Henrys Hunting Ground. Huckleberry is the same species as the blueberry and produces those familiar, edible berries in the fall.
– 2. Valerian Sitka / Community of showy sedges (Valeriana sitchensis / Carex spectabilis): tall and dense populations of perennial wildflowers found all around the mountain, particularly in areas where avalanche disturbance prevents shrub growth . In addition to Sitka valerian, numerous species of wildflowers fall under this type of vegetation including lupine, American bistort, pasqueflower, brush, mountain daisy, gray lovage, glacier lily, and avalanche lily.
– 3. Community of Alpine black sedges (Carex nigricans): dense carpets of black sedge, usually found in areas with persistent late-season snow and a very short growing season. It may also contain showy sedge and mountain hair grass, interspersed with wild flower species such as alpine aster, alpine willow and partridge.
– 4. Low herbaceous communities: dominated by moss, in disturbed areas or unstable ground. The vegetation grows in clumps, possibly with visible patches of bare soil. Species found in this plant community include saxifrage, black sedge, duckweed, partridge, alpine buckwheat, and crow’s feet.
– 5. Community of green fescue (Festuca viridula): grassy meadows of green fescue, also known as mountain grass, bloom on the drier east side of the park, which receives less snow and rain due to the rain shadow of Mount Rainier . Other species that characterize green fescue communities are the lupine, the fan-shaped cinquefoil and the cascading aster.
Alpine area:
– The alpine area extends from the edge of the wood to the top of the mountain. Permanent snow and ice cover about 50 percent of the area. Alpine vegetation covers the rest, divided into four broad vegetation types (Edwards 1980): cultivated fields, talus slopes, snow beds, and heather communities. The slopes of the talus and snowy beds have small, well-spaced clusters of plants that are often overlooked by park visitors and casual observers. The type and location of vegetation in the Alpine area are controlled by the length of the growing season, the slope and the appearance (sun exposure). The slopes of Talus and the peaks of the ridges are among the earliest snow-free areas and therefore have the longest growing season. Snow-covered beds have the shortest growing season and may not be snow-free every year. Cultivated fields and heather communities have an intermediate growing season. Fallen fields are areas with gentle slopes covered with small rocks and small scattered groups of plants such as sedges, penstemons, and asters. Heather types are the oldest known communities in the park. Some heather communities persist in the park for up to 10,000 years.
Large-scale disturbances (wildfires, cyclonic winds, insects, avalanches, etc.) can remove established forest over hundreds of square miles, creating opportunities for the prosperity of other plant communities. The size and frequency of these disturbances varies greatly between ecosystems. Fire, while relatively infrequent in the park, is a large-scale disturbance that reshapes the park’s plant communities. Avalanches and lahars (mudslides) are small and medium-scale disturbances. The disturbance can also act on a small scale, with damage from wind, disease and insects causing small gaps and affecting local dynamics over time. People can also influence the vegetation, especially in the delicate subalpine meadows. It is very important to stay on the trails to minimize unnecessary disturbance. Fortunately, people can also volunteer to help restore this damage by partnering with the park’s ecological restoration program.

Fauna –
The park’s wildlife is abundant and varied. The black-tailed deer, the Roosevelt elk, black bears and mountain goats are the largest animals; raccoons, squirrels and marmots are among the most common small mammals. More than 220 bird species have been observed in the park, but many of them are migrants or rare visitors. Among the most common birds are gray and Steller’s jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, hairy woodpeckers, and a variety of warblers.
The fauna includes 63 species of mammals, 16 of amphibians and 5 of reptiles.
Coyotes can be seen along Stevens Canyon Road and Box Canyon, as well as near the “Goat Lookout” below Longmire. Red foxes are seen in the picnic areas around Paradise and Longmire. Although they are called “reds”, they often appear gray or black.
Deer are often spotted year round throughout the park. The deer seen on the west side of Mt. The wettest are Colombian black-tailed deer and those found on the east side are mule deer. Much larger moose tend to be more elusive. Look for them on the east side of the mountain in September. Mountain goats prefer high ridges and cliffs, and the best chance of spotting them is hiking to Summerland, Panhandle Gap, or Indian Bar.
In summer, ground squirrels, marmots, chipmunks, chicks, and pikas are commonly spotted in the Paradise and Sunrise areas. The age-old marmots, in particular, are resident in the meadows often seen from the nature trails near Paradise.
Cougars, also known as cougars or mountain lions, are also resident in the park. While potentially dangerous, no human injuries have occurred in the park from a cougar. They are solitary and nocturnal animals. If you encounter a cougar in the park, stop immediately and pick up the small children. Don’t run or squat. Maintain eye contact with the cat, keep calm and slowly back away. If the cougar becomes aggressive, he becomes more assertive by shouting loudly, waving his arms and throwing objects. Report any cougar sightings to the park ranger as soon as possible. Click here for more information on pumas in the park.
While unlikely, you may encounter a black bear on Mt. Rainier. Most people who see a bear in the wild consider it the highlight of their trip. Bears tend to avoid people. In most cases, if you give a bear the opportunity to do the right thing, it will. If you encounter a bear in the desert, avoid it if you can and give the bear every opportunity to avoid you. If you encounter a bear at close range, keep calm. Chances are you are not in danger. If you hold your position and talk to make sure he knows you are a person, the bear will soon be gone. Please report any bear sightings to a park ranger. Click here for more information on the bears in the park.

Guido Bissanti

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