Burroughs Mountain, Mt. Rainier NP, Washington

One of the many volcanic mountains of the Pacific Northwest, Mt. Rainier was established as a national park in 1899. It is the highest mountain in the Cascade Range at over 14,000 feet in altitude. Surrounding the peak are many permanent glaciers, tundra, and alpine ecosystems. Scientists believe the volcano used to be over one thousand feet higher, but due to a series of explosions, the top was blown off. Surrounding the volcano you will find meadows, old-growth forests, and many lakes and rivers. Don't think you're safe on the volcano. Not only are there risks hiking on moving glaciers, Mt. Rainier is still and episodically active volcano. No one knows when it may erupt again.

This area near Burrough's Mountain is classified as tundra. While you may think of places such as Alaska and Siberia as places with tundra, tundra biomes can also occur as you move above the tree line on mountains. There are no bushes or trees, most of the plants are small mosses, lichens, and dwarf species. The animals you find at these elevations are suited for these altitudes. Mountain goats forage off the rocks and small plants when they are easily accessible in spring. Winter months bring a snow pack that often covers their food supply. One of the key differences between the arctic and alpine tundras is the drainage. When the snow melts in the alpiune tundra, the water drains downhill and does not remain frozen or puddled on the surface. The key to tundra biomes is that there are no trees, poor soil, very low temperatures, and short seasons for growth.

Image Credit: Andrew Rader Studios

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- NPS: National Park Service Home Page
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