The CASCADE RANGE or CASCADES is a major mountain range of western
North America , extending from southern
British Columbia through
Oregon to Northern
California . It includes both
non-volcanic mountains, such as the
North Cascades , and the notable
volcanoes known as the HIGH CASCADES. The small part of the range in
British Columbia is referred to as the CANADIAN CASCADES or, locally,
as the CASCADE MOUNTAINS. The latter term is also sometimes used by
Washington residents to refer to the Washington section of the
Cascades in addition to NORTH CASCADES, the more usual U.S. term, as
North Cascades National Park . The highest peak in the range is
Mount Rainier in Washington at 14,411 feet (4,392 m).
The Cascades are part of the
Pacific Ocean 's
Ring of Fire , the ring
of volcanoes and associated mountains around the Pacific Ocean. All of
the eruptions in the contiguous United States over the last 200 years
have been from Cascade volcanoes . The two most recent were Lassen
Peak from 1914 to 1921 and a major eruption of
Mount St. Helens in
1980 . Minor eruptions of
Mount St. Helens have also occurred since,
most recently from 2004 to 2008. The
Cascade Range is a part of the
American Cordillera , a nearly continuous chain of mountain ranges
(cordillera) that form the western "backbone" of
North America ,
Central America , and
South America .
* 1 Geography
* 2 History
* 3 Geology
* 4 Human uses
* 5 Ecology
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 References
* 9 External links
Map of the
Cascade Range showing major volcanic peaks
The Cascades extend northward from
Lassen Peak (also known as Mount
Lassen) in northern
California to the confluence of the Nicola and
Thompson rivers in
British Columbia . The
Fraser River separates the
Cascades from the
Coast Mountains . The highest volcanoes of the
Cascades, known as the High Cascades, dominate their surroundings,
often standing twice the height of the nearby mountains. They often
have a visual height (height above nearby crestlines) of one mile or
more. The highest peaks, such as the 14,411-foot (4,392 m) Mount
Rainier, dominate their surroundings for 50 to 100 miles (80 to 161
The northern part of the range, north of Mount Rainier, is known as
North Cascades in the United States but is formally named the
Cascade Mountains north of the
Canada–United States border
Canada–United States border ,
reaching to the northern extremity of the Cascades at Lytton Mountain
. Overall, the
North Cascades and Canadian Cascades are extremely
rugged; even the lesser peaks are steep and glaciated, and valleys are
quite low relative to peaks and ridges, so there is great local relief
. The southern part of the Canadian Cascades, particularly the Skagit
Range , is geologically and topographically similar to the North
Cascades, while the northern and northeastern parts are less glaciated
and more plateau-like, resembling nearby areas of the Thompson Plateau
Because of the range's proximity to the
Pacific Ocean and the
region's prevailing westerly winds , precipitation is substantial,
especially on the western slopes due to orographic lift , with annual
snow accumulations of up to 1,000 inches (25,000 mm) in some areas.
Mount Baker in Washington recorded a world-record single-season
snowfall in the winter of 1998–99 with 1,140 inches (29,000 mm).
Prior to that year,
Mount Rainier held the world record for snow
accumulation at Paradise in 1978. It is not uncommon for some places
in the Cascades to have over 500 inches (13,000 mm) of annual snow
accumulation, such as at Lake Helen , near Lassen Peak. Most of the
High Cascades are therefore white with snow and ice year-round. The
western slopes are densely covered with
menziesii), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and red alder (Alnus
rubra), while the drier eastern slopes feature mostly ponderosa pine
(Pinus ponderosa), with some western larch (Larix occidentalis),
mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) and subalpine fir (Abies
lasiocarpa) and subalpine larch (Larix lyallii) at higher elevations.
Annual rainfall is as low as 9 inches (230 mm) on the eastern
foothills due to a rain shadow effect. The
Columbia Gorge marks
Columbia River splits the
Cascade Range between the states
of Washington and Oregon.
Beyond the eastern foothills is an arid plateau that was largely
created 17 to 14 million years ago by the many flows of the Columbia
River Basalt Group . Together, these sequences of fluid volcanic rock
form the 200,000-square-mile (520,000 km2)
Columbia Plateau in eastern
Washington, Oregon, and parts of western Idaho.
Columbia River Gorge is the only major break of the range in the
United States. When the Cascades began to rise 7 million years ago in
Pliocene , the
Columbia River drained the relatively low Columbia
Plateau. As the range grew, erosion from the
Columbia River was able
to keep pace, creating the gorge and major pass seen today. The gorge
also exposes uplifted and warped layers of basalt from the plateau.
Indigenous peoples have inhabited the area for thousands of years and
developed their own myths and legends about the Cascades. In these
legends, St. Helens with its pre-1980 graceful appearance, was
regarded as a beautiful maiden for whom Hood and Adams feuded. Native
tribes also developed their own names for the High Cascades and many
of the smaller peaks, including "Tahoma", the
Lushootseed name for
Mount Rainier, , "Koma Kulshan" or simply "Kulshan" for Mount Baker,
and "Louwala-Clough", meaning "smoking mountain" for Mount St. Helens.
In early 1792, British navigator
George Vancouver explored Puget
Sound and gave English names to the high mountains he saw. Mount Baker
was named for Vancouver's third lieutenant, Joseph Baker , although
the first European to see it was
Manuel Quimper , who named it la gran
montaña del Carmelo ("Great
Mount Carmel ") in 1790. Mount Rainier
was named after
Peter Rainier . Later in 1792, Vancouver had
William Robert Broughton explore the lower Columbia
River . He named
Mount Hood after Lord Samuel Hood , an admiral of the
Royal Navy .
Mount St. Helens was sighted by Vancouver in May 1792,
from near the mouth of the Columbia River. It was named for Alleyne
FitzHerbert, 1st Baron St Helens , a British diplomat. Vancouver's
expedition did not, however, name the mountain range which contained
these peaks. He referred to it simply as the "eastern snowy range".
Earlier Spanish explorers called it sierra nevadas, meaning "snowy
mountains". West side view of
Mount Shuksan in summer as seen
from Artist Point in Washington
In 1805, the
Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through the Cascades
on the Columbia River, which for many years was the only practical way
to pass that part of the range. They were the first non-indigenous
people to see Mount Adams , but they thought it was Mount St. Helens.
When they later saw
Mount St. Helens they thought it was Mount
Rainier. On their return trip, Lewis and Clark spotted a high but
distant snowy pinnacle that they named for the sponsor of the
expedition, U.S. President
Thomas Jefferson . Lewis and Clark called
Cascade Range the "Western Mountains".
The Lewis and Clark expedition, and the many settlers and traders
that followed, met their last obstacle to their journey at the
Cascades Rapids in the
Columbia River Gorge, a feature on the river
now submerged beneath the Bonneville Reservoir . Before long, the
great white-capped mountains that loomed above the rapids were called
the "mountains by the cascades" and later simply as the "Cascades".
The earliest attested use of the name "Cascade Range" is in the
writings of botanist David Douglas .
Mount Hood is the tallest
point in the U.S. state of
In 1814, Alexander Ross , a fur trader with the
North West Company
North West Company ,
seeking a viable route across the mountains, explored and crossed the
northern Cascades between
Fort Okanogan and Puget Sound. His report of
the journey is vague about the route taken. He followed the lower
Methow River into the mountains. He might have used
Cascade Pass to
Skagit River . Ross was the first European-American to
Methow River area and likely the first to explore the
Stehekin River and Bridge Creek region. Due to the difficulty of
crossing the northern Cascades and the paucity of beaver, fur-trading
companies made only a few explorations into the mountains north of the
Columbia River after Ross.
Exploration and settlement of the Cascades region by Europeans and
Americans was accelerated by the establishment of a major trading post
of the Hudson\'s Bay Company (HBC) at
Fort Vancouver near today's
Oregon . From this base HBC trapping parties traveled
throughout the Cascades in search of beaver and other fur-bearing
animals. For example, using what became known as the
Siskiyou Trail ,
Hudson's Bay Company trappers were the first non-natives to explore
the southern Cascades in the 1820s and 1830s, establishing trails
which passed near
Crater Lake ,
Mount McLoughlin , Medicine Lake
Mount Shasta , and Lassen Peak. The Coquihalla River
in the Canadian Cascades
The course of political history in the
Pacific Northwest saw the
spine of the
Cascade Range being proposed as a boundary settlement
Oregon Dispute of 1846. The United States rejected the
proposal and insisted on the
49th parallel north , which cuts across
the range just north of Mount Baker. Throughout the period of dispute
and up to the creation of the
Crown Colony of
British Columbia in
1858, the Hudson's Bay Company's
York Factory Express route, as well
the route of fur brigades, followed the Okanogan River along the east
edge of the Cascades and the
Columbia River through the range. Passes
across the range were not well known and little used.
Naches Pass was
used for driving cattle and horses to
Fort Nisqually . Yakima Pass was
also used by the Hudson's Bay Company.
American settlement of the flanks of the Coast Range did not occur
until the early 1840s, at first only marginally. Following the Oregon
Treaty the inward flux of migration from the
Oregon Trail intensified
and the passes and back-valleys of what is now the state of Washington
were explored and populated, and it was not long after that railways
followed. Despite its being traversed by several major freeways and
rail lines, and its lower flanks subjected to major logging in recent
decades, large parts of the range remain intense and forbidding alpine
wilderness. Much of the northern half of the Cascades, from Rainier
north, have been preserved by U.S. national or British Columbia
provincial parks (such as
E.C. Manning Provincial Park ), or other
forms of protected area.
Lassen Peak in the
Southernmost volcano in the
Cascade Range and part of Lassen Volcanic
The Canadian side of the range has a history that includes the Fraser
Canyon Gold Rush of 1858–60 and its famous
Cariboo Road , as well as
Hudson's Bay Company Brigade Trail from the Canyon to the
Interior, the Dewdney Trail, and older routes which connected east to
the Similkameen and Okanagan valleys.
The southern mainline of the
Canadian Pacific Railway
Canadian Pacific Railway penetrated the
range via the passes of the
Coquihalla River , along one of the
steepest and snowiest routes in the entire
Pacific Cordillera . Near
Hope, B.C. , the railway roadbed and the Othello Tunnels , now
decommissioned, are popular tourist recreation destinations for hiking
and bicycling. The pass is used by the Coquihalla Highway , a
government megaproject built as part of the
Expo 86 spending boom of
the 1980s, which is now the main route from the Coast to the British
Columbia interior. Traffic formerly went via the
Fraser Canyon , to
the west, or via
Allison Pass and
Manning Park along Highway 3 to the
south, near the border. The 1980 eruption of
Mount St. Helens
Barlow Road was the first established land path for U.S. settlers
Cascade Range in 1845, and formed the final overland link
Oregon Trail (previously, settlers had to raft down the
treacherous rapids of the Columbia River). The Road left the Columbia
at what is now Hood River and passed along the south side of Mount
Hood at what is now Government Camp , terminating in
There is an interpretive site there now at "The End of The Oregon
Trail." The road was constructed as a toll road — $5 per wagon —
and was very successful.
In addition, the
Applegate Trail was created to allow settlers to
avoid rafting down the Columbia River. The Trail used the path of the
California Trail to north-central
Nevada . From there, the Trail
headed northwest into northern California, and continued northwest
towards today's Ashland,
Oregon . From there, settlers would head
north along the established
Siskiyou Trail into the Willamette Valley
With the exception of the 1915 eruption of remote
Lassen Peak in
Northern California, the range was quiet for more than a century.
Then, on May 18, 1980, the dramatic eruption of little-known Mount St.
Helens shattered the quiet and brought the world's attention to the
range. Geologists were also concerned that the St. Helens eruption was
a sign that long-dormant Cascade volcanoes might become active once
more, as in the period from 1800 to 1857 when a total of eight
erupted. None have erupted since St. Helens, but precautions are being
taken nevertheless, such as the
Pierce County, Washington .
Cascade Volcanic Arc Geology of the Cascade
Range-related plate tectonics.
The Cascade range is made up of a band of thousands of very small,
short-lived volcanoes that have built a platform of lava and volcanic
debris. Rising above this volcanic platform are a few strikingly large
Mount St. Helens , that dominate the landscape.
The Cascade volcanoes define the
Pacific Northwest section of the
Ring of Fire , an array of volcanoes that rim the Pacific Ocean. The
Ring of Fire is also known for its frequent earthquakes. The volcanoes
and earthquakes arise from a common source: subduction , where the
dense Juan de Fuca oceanic plate plunges beneath the North American
Plate . As the oceanic slab sinks deep into the Earth's interior
beneath the continental plate, high temperatures and pressures allow
water molecules locked in the minerals of solid rock to escape. The
water vapor rises into the pliable mantle above the subducting plate,
causing some of the mantle to melt. This newly formed magma rises
toward the Earth's surface to erupt, forming a chain of volcanoes (the
Cascade Volcanic Arc) above the subduction zone.
Soil conditions for farming are generally good, especially downwind
of volcanoes . This is largely because volcanic rocks are often rich
in potassium bearing minerals such as orthoclase and decay easily.
Volcanic debris, especially lahars, also have a leveling effect and
the storage of water in the form of snow and ice is also important.
These snow-capped mountains such as Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor are used
as ski resorts in the late winter. Much of that water eventually flows
into reservoirs, where it is used for recreation before its potential
energy is captured to generate hydroelectric power before being used
to irrigate crops.
Because of the abundance of powerful streams, many of the major
westward rivers off the Cascades have been dammed to provide
hydroelectric power. One of these,
Ross Dam on the
Skagit River ,
created a reservoir which spans the border southeast of Hope, British
Columbia , extending 2 miles (3.2 km) into Canada. At the foot of the
southeast flank of Mount Baker, at
Concrete, Washington , the Baker
River is dammed to form
Lake Shannon and Baker Lake .
In addition, there is a largely untapped amount of geothermal power
that can be generated from the Cascades. The U.S. Geological Survey
Geothermal Research Program has been investigating this potential.
Some of this energy is already being used in places like Klamath
Oregon , where volcanic steam is used to heat public buildings.
The highest recorded temperature found in the range is 510 °F (266
°C) at 3,075 feet (937 m) below Newberry
Volcano 's caldera floor.
Oval-leaf Blueberry on
Mountain Goat on
Wallaby Peak in the
North Cascades Main articles: Cascades
(ecoregion) and Ecology of the
Forests of large, coniferous trees (Western red cedars , Douglas-firs
, Western hemlocks , firs , pines , spruces , and others) dominate
most of the Cascade Range. Cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers
(largely a result of oceanic influence) favor evergreen species,
whereas mild temperatures and rich soils promote fast and prolonged
As a traveler passes through the Cascade Range, the climate first
gets colder, then warmer and drier east of the crest. Most of the
Cascades' lower and middle elevations are covered in coniferous forest
; the higher altitudes have extensive meadows as well as alpine tundra
and glaciers . The southern part of the Cascades are within the
California Floristic Province , an area of high biodiversity .
Black bears , coyotes , bobcats , cougars , beavers , deer , elk ,
moose , mountain goats and a few wolf packs returning from Canada live
in the Cascades. Fewer than 50 grizzly bears reside in the Cascades of
Canada and Washington.
Cascadia (independence movement)
Cascadia subduction zone
* Geology of the
List of Cascade Range topics
List of highest mountain peaks in Washington
List of highest mountain peaks in Washington
* List of mountain peaks of
List of mountain ranges in Washington
* List of mountain ranges of
* ^ "Mount St. Helens: 2004–2008 Renewed Volcanic Activity".
Volcano Observatory. U.S. Geological Survey. February 7,
2013. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
* ^ A B Beckey 2008 , pp. 191–200.
* ^ Martin 2002 , p. 31.
* ^ Duffell & McTaggart 1951 , p. 8.
* ^ Beckey 2003 , pp. 9–12.
* ^ "National Climate Extremes". National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. Archived from the original on June 26, 2012.
* ^ McLaughlin, Mark (October 14, 2010). "Weather Window: The
snowiest spot in
California is Lake Helen near Lassen Volcanic
National Park". Sierra Sun. Truckee, California. Retrieved November 9,
* ^ Beckey 2008 , p. 16.
* ^ Mueller Link, Paul. "
Columbia River Basalt Province". Digital
Geology of Idaho. Idaho State University. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
* ^ Harrison, John (October 31, 2008). "