“Of all the fire mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”
— John Muir, Naturalist
Mount Rainier (pronounced: /reɪˈnɪər/) is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, and the highest mountain in the state of Washington. It is a large active stratovolcano located 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Seattle. It is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with a summit elevation of 14,411 ft (4,392 m). Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list. Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could potentially produce massive lahars that could threaten the entire Puyallup River valley.
At the time of European contact, the river valleys and other areas near the mountain were inhabited by many Pacific Northwest tribes who hunted and gathered berries in its forests and mountain meadows. These included the Nisqually, Cowlitz, Yakama, Puyallup, and Muckleshoot.
Captain George Vancouver reached Puget Sound in early May 1792 and became the first European to see the mountain.
In 1833, Dr. William Fraser Tolmie explored the area looking for medicinal plants. Hazard Stevens and P. B. Van Trump received a hero's welcome in the streets of Olympia after their successful summit climb in 1870. The first female ascent was made in 1890 by Fay Fuller, accompanied by Van Trump and three other teammates.
John Muir climbed Mount Rainier in 1888, and although he enjoyed the view, he conceded that it was best appreciated from below. Muir was one of many who advocated protecting the mountain. In 1893, the area was set aside as part of the Pacific Forest Reserve in order to protect its physical/economic resources: timber and watersheds.
Citing the need to also protect scenery and provide for public enjoyment, railroads and local businesses urged the creation of a national park in hopes of increased tourism. On March 2, 1899, President William McKinley established Mount Rainier National Park as America's fifth national park. Congress dedicated the new park "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" and "... for the preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition."