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Mount Baker

Mount Baker

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Mount Baker also known as Koma Kulshan or simply Kulshan, is an active glaciated
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

 andesitic
Andesite
Andesite is an extrusive igneous, volcanic rock, of intermediate composition, with aphanitic to porphyritic texture. In a general sense, it is the intermediate type between basalt and dacite. The mineral assemblage is typically dominated by plagioclase plus pyroxene and/or hornblende. Magnetite,...

 stratovolcano
Stratovolcano
A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a tall, conical volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic, explosive eruptions...

  in the Cascade Volcanic Arc
Cascade Volcanoes
The Cascade Volcanoes are a number of volcanoes in a volcanic arc in western North America, extending from southwestern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California, a distance of well over 700 mi ...

 and the North Cascades
North Cascades
The North Cascades are a section of the Cascade Range of western North America. They span the border between the Canadian province of British Columbia and the U.S. state of Washington and are officially named in Canada as the Cascade Mountains...

 of Washington State in the United States. It is the second-most active volcano in the range after Mount Saint Helens. About 31 miles (50 km) due east of the city of Bellingham
Bellingham, Washington
Bellingham is the largest city in, and the county seat of, Whatcom County in the U.S. state of Washington. It is the twelfth-largest city in the state. Situated on Bellingham Bay, Bellingham is protected by Lummi Island, Portage Island, and the Lummi Peninsula, and opens onto the Strait of Georgia...

, Whatcom County
Whatcom County, Washington
Whatcom County is a county located in the U.S. state of Washington. Its name ultimately derives from the Lummi word Xwotʼqom, meaning "noisy water." As of 2010, the population was 201,140. The county seat is at Bellingham, which is also the county's largest city...

, Mount Baker is the youngest volcano in the Mount Baker volcanic field. While volcanism has persisted here for some 1.5 million years, the current glaciated cone is likely no more than 140,000 years old, and possibly no older than 80-90,000 years. Older volcanic edifices have mostly eroded away due to glaciation.

After Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier is a massive stratovolcano located southeast of Seattle in the state of Washington, United States. It is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with a summit elevation of . Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most...

, Mount Baker is the most heavily glaciated
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

 of the Cascade Range volcanoes; the volume of snow and ice on Mount Baker (0.43 cubic miles or 1.8 cubic kilometers) is greater than that of all the other Cascades volcanoes (except Rainier) combined. It is also one of the snowiest places in the world; in 1999, Mount Baker Ski Area
Mount Baker Ski Area
Mt. Baker Ski Area is a ski resort located in Whatcom County, Washington, United States at the end of State Route 542. The base elevation is at 3,500 feet , while the peak of the resort is at 5,089 feet ....

, located 14 km (8.4 mi) to the northeast, set the world record for recorded snowfall in a single season—1,140 inches (95 feet or about 30 meters).

At 10781 feet (3,286 m), it is the third-highest mountain in Washington State and the fifth-highest in the Cascade Range, if Little Tahoma Peak, a subpeak of Mount Rainier, is not counted. Located in the Mount Baker Wilderness
Mount Baker Wilderness
Mount Baker Wilderness in northern Washington, USA,contains . Its eastern border is shared with the boundary of the North Cascades National Park for a distance of 40 miles . The Wilderness extends from State Route 20 north to the Canadian border...

, it is visible from much of Greater Victoria
Greater Victoria, British Columbia
Greater Victoria is located in British Columbia, Canada, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. It is a cultural rather than political entity, usually defined as the thirteen easternmost municipalities of the Capital Regional District on Vancouver Island but also includes adjoining areas and...

, Greater Vancouver, and, to the south, from Seattle (and on clear days Tacoma
Tacoma, Washington
Tacoma is a mid-sized urban port city and the county seat of Pierce County, Washington, United States. The city is on Washington's Puget Sound, southwest of Seattle, northeast of the state capital, Olympia, and northwest of Mount Rainier National Park. The population was 198,397, according to...

) in Washington.

Indigenous natives have known the mountain for thousands of years, but the first written record of the mountain is from the Spanish.
Spanish explorer Gonzalo Lopez de Haro
Gonzalo López de Haro
Gonzalo López de Haro was a Spanish explorer, notable for his expeditions in the Pacific Northwest in the late 18th century....

 mapped it in 1790 as the Gran Montaña del Carmelo, "Great Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel ; , Kármēlos; , Kurmul or جبل مار إلياس Jabal Mar Elyas 'Mount Saint Elias') is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. Archaeologists have discovered ancient wine and oil presses at various locations on Mt. Carmel...

". The explorer George Vancouver
George Vancouver
Captain George Vancouver RN was an English officer of the British Royal Navy, best known for his 1791-95 expedition, which explored and charted North America's northwestern Pacific Coast regions, including the coasts of contemporary Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon...

 renamed the mountain for 3rd Lieutenant Joseph Baker
Joseph Baker (captain)
Joseph Baker was an officer in the Royal Navy, best known for his role in the mapping of the Pacific Northwest Coast of America during the Vancouver Expedition of 1791-1795. Mt. Baker is named after him.-Voyaging with Vancouver:...

 of HMS Discovery
HMS Discovery (1789)
HMS Discovery was a Royal Navy ship launched in 1789 and best known as the lead ship in George Vancouver's exploration of the west coast of North America in his famous 1791-1795 expedition. She was converted to a bomb vessel in 1798 and participated in the Battle of Copenhagen. Thereafter she...

, who saw it on April 30, 1792.

History


Mount Baker was well-known to indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. Indigenous
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 names for the mountain include Koma Kulshan or Kulshan (Lummi, qwú’mə, "white sentinel", i.e. "mountain", and kwəlshé:n, "puncture wound", i.e. "crater"); Quck Sam-ik (Nooksack: kw’eq sámit, "white mountain"); Kobah (Skagit: qwúbə’, "white sentinel", i.e. "mountain"); and Tukullum or Nahcullum (in the language of the unidentified "Koma tribe"). Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier is a massive stratovolcano located southeast of Seattle in the state of Washington, United States. It is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with a summit elevation of . Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most...

, called "Tacoma", effectively means "larger than Koma (Kulshan)".

In 1790, Manuel Quimper
Manuel Quimper
Manuel Quimper Benítez del Pino was a Spanish Peruvian explorer, cartographer, naval officer, and colonial official. He participated in charting the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Sandwich Islands in the late 18th century. He was later appointed a colonial governor in his native Peru at the...

 of the Spanish Navy
Spanish Navy
The Spanish Navy is the maritime branch of the Spanish Armed Forces, one of the oldest active naval forces in the world. The Armada is responsible for notable achievements in world history such as the discovery of Americas, the first world circumnavigation, and the discovery of a maritime path...

 set sail from Nootka
Nootka Sound
Nootka Sound is a complex inlet or sound of the Pacific Ocean on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Historically also known as King George's Sound, as a strait it separates Vancouver Island and Nootka Island.-History:The inlet is part of the...

, a temporary settlement on Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a large island in British Columbia, Canada. It is one of several North American locations named after George Vancouver, the British Royal Navy officer who explored the Pacific Northwest coast of North America between 1791 and 1794...

, with orders to explore the newly discovered Strait of Juan de Fuca
Strait of Juan de Fuca
The Strait of Juan de Fuca is a large body of water about long that is the Salish Sea outlet to the Pacific Ocean...

. Accompanying Quimper was first-pilot Gonzalo Lopez de Haro
Gonzalo López de Haro
Gonzalo López de Haro was a Spanish explorer, notable for his expeditions in the Pacific Northwest in the late 18th century....

, who drew detailed charts during the six-week expedition. Although Quimper's journal of the voyage does not refer to the mountain, one of Haro's manuscript charts includes a sketch of Mount Baker. The Spanish named the snowy volcano "La Gran Montana del Carmelo", as it reminded them of the white-clad monks of the Carmelite Monastery

The British explorer George Vancouver left England a year later. His mission was to survey the northwest coast of America. Vancouver and his crew reached the Pacific Northwest coast in 1792. While anchored in Dungeness Bay
Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit is a long sand spit jutting out from the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula in northeastern Clallam County, Washington, into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It protects Dungeness Bay. The Dungeness Spit is entirely within the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and home of the...

 on the south shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, third lieutenant Joseph Baker made an observation of Mount Baker, which Vancouver recorded in his journal:
About this time a very high conspicuous craggy mountain ... presented itself, towering above the clouds: as low down as they allowed it to be visible it was covered with snow; and south of it, was a long ridge of very rugged snowy mountains, much less elevated, which seemed to stretch to a considerable distance ... the high distant land formed, as already observed, like detached islands, amongst which the lofty mountain, discovered in the afternoon by the third lieutenant, and in compliment to him called by me Mount Baker, rose a very conspicuous object ... apparently at a very remote distance.


Six years later, the official narrative of this voyage was published, including the first printed reference to the mountain. By the mid-1850s, Mount Baker was a well-known feature on the horizon to the explorers and fur traders who traveled in the Puget Sound region. Isaac I. Stevens, the first governor of Washington Territory
Washington Territory
The Territory of Washington was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from February 8, 1853, until November 11, 1889, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Washington....

, wrote about Mount Baker in 1853:

Mount Baker ... is one of the loftiest and most conspicuous peaks of the northern Cascade range; it is nearly as high as Mount Rainier, and like that mountain, its snow-covered pyramid has the form of a sugar-loaf. It is visible from all the water and islands ... [in Puget Sound] and from the whole southeastern part of the Gulf of Georgia, and likewise from the eastern division of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is for this region a natural and important landmark.

Climbing history



First ascent


Edmund Thomas Coleman, an Englishman who resided in Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada's Pacific coast. The city has a population of about 78,000 within the metropolitan area of Greater Victoria, which has a population of 360,063, the 15th most populous Canadian...

, Canada and a veteran of the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, made the first attempt to ascend the mountain in 1866. He chose a route via the Skagit River
Skagit River
The Skagit River is a river in southwestern British Columbia in Canada and northwestern Washington in the United States, approximately 150 mi long...

, but was forced to turn back when local Native Americans refused him passage.

Later that same year, Coleman recruited Whatcom County settlers Edward Eldridge, John Bennett and John Tennant to aid him in his second attempt to scale the mountain. After approaching via the North Fork of the Nooksack River, the party navigated through what is now known as Coleman Glacier
Coleman Glacier (Washington)
Coleman Glacier is a glacier on Mount Baker in the U.S. state of Washington. It was named for Edmund Thomas Coleman, who made the first ascent of Mount Baker....

 and ascended to within several hundred feet of the summit before turning back in the face of an "overhanging cornice of ice" and threatening weather. Coleman later returned to the mountain after two years. At 4:00 p.m. on August 17, 1868, Coleman, Eldridge, Tennant and two new companions (David Ogilvy and Thomas Stratton) scaled the summit via the Middle Fork Nooksack River, Marmot Ridge, Coleman Glacier, and the north margin of the Roman Wall.

Notable ascents

  • 1948 North Ridge (AD, AI 2-3, 3700 feet) Fred Beckey
    Fred Beckey
    Fred Beckey is an American mountaineer and author, who has made hundreds of first ascents, more than any other North American climber.-Early years:...

    , Ralph and Dick Widrig (August 1948)

Geology



The present-day cone of Mount Baker is relatively young; it is perhaps less than 100,000 years old. The volcano sits atop a similar older volcanic cone called Black Buttes, which was active between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago. Much of Mount Baker's earlier geological record eroded
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

 away during the last ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

 (which culminated 15,000–20,000 years ago), by thick ice sheets that filled the valleys and surrounded the volcano. In the last 14,000 years, the area around the mountain has been largely ice-free, but the mountain itself remains heavily covered with snow and ice.

Isolated ridges of lava
Lava
Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at...

 and hydrothermally altered rock, especially in the area of Sherman Crater, are exposed between glaciers on the upper flanks of the volcano; the lower flanks are steep and heavily vegetated
Vegetation
Vegetation is a general term for the plant life of a region; it refers to the ground cover provided by plants. It is a general term, without specific reference to particular taxa, life forms, structure, spatial extent, or any other specific botanical or geographic characteristics. It is broader...

. Volcanic rocks of Mount Baker and Black Buttes rest on a foundation of non-volcanic rocks.


Deposits recording the last 14,000 years at Mount Baker indicate that Mount Baker has not had highly explosive eruption
Explosive eruption
An explosive eruption is a volcanic term to describe a violent, explosive type of eruption. Mount St. Helens in 1980 was an example. Such an eruption is driven by gas accumulating under great pressure. Driven by hot rising magma, it interacts with ground water until the pressure increases to the...

s like those of other volcanoes in the Cascade Volcanic Arc
Cascade Volcanoes
The Cascade Volcanoes are a number of volcanoes in a volcanic arc in western North America, extending from southwestern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California, a distance of well over 700 mi ...

, such as Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano located in Skamania County, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is south of Seattle, Washington and northeast of Portland, Oregon. Mount St. Helens takes its English name from the British diplomat Lord St Helens, a...

, Mount Meager
Mount Meager
Mount Meager, originally known as Meager Mountain, is a complex volcano in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor of southwestern British Columbia, Canada. It is located north of Vancouver at the northern end of the Pemberton Valley. Part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc of western North America, its summit is above...

 or Glacier Peak
Glacier Peak
Glacier Peak is the most isolated of the five major stratovolcanoes of the Cascade Volcanic Arc in Washington...

, nor has it erupted frequently. During this period, four episodes of magma
Magma
Magma is a mixture of molten rock, volatiles and solids that is found beneath the surface of the Earth, and is expected to exist on other terrestrial planets. Besides molten rock, magma may also contain suspended crystals and dissolved gas and sometimes also gas bubbles. Magma often collects in...

tic eruptive activity have been recently recognized.

Magmatic eruptions have produced tephra
Tephra
200px|thumb|right|Tephra horizons in south-central [[Iceland]]. The thick and light coloured layer at center of the photo is [[rhyolitic]] tephra from [[Hekla]]....

, pyroclastic flows, and lava flows from summit
Summit (topography)
In topography, a summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it. Mathematically, a summit is a local maximum in elevation...

 vents and the Schriebers Meadow cinder cone
Cinder cone
According to the , Cinder Cone is the proper name of 1 cinder cone in Canada and 7 cinder cones in the United States:In Canada: Cinder Cone In the United States:...

. The most destructive and most frequent events at Mount Baker have been lahars or debris flows and debris avalanches; many, if not most, of these were not related to magmatic eruptions but may have been induced by magma intrusion
Intrusion
An intrusion is liquid rock that forms under Earth's surface. Magma from under the surface is slowly pushed up from deep within the earth into any cracks or spaces it can find, sometimes pushing existing country rock out of the way, a process that can take millions of years. As the rock slowly...

, steam eruptions, earthquakes, gravitational instability, or possibly even heavy rainfall.

Early history


Research beginning in the late 1990s shows that Mount Baker is the youngest of several volcanic centers in the area and one of the youngest volcanoes in the Cascade Range. The Pliocene
Pliocene
The Pliocene Epoch is the period in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.332 million to 2.588 million years before present. It is the second and youngest epoch of the Neogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Pliocene follows the Miocene Epoch and is followed by the Pleistocene Epoch...

 Hannegan caldera is preserved 25 km (15 mi) northeast of Mount Baker Volcanic activity in the Mount Baker volcanic field began more than one million years ago, but many of the earliest lava and tephra deposits have been removed by glacial erosion. The pale-colored rocks northeast of the modern volcano mark the site of the ancient (1.15 million years old) Kulshan caldera that collapsed after an enormous ash
Volcanic ash
Volcanic ash consists of small tephra, which are bits of pulverized rock and glass created by volcanic eruptions, less than in diameter. There are three mechanisms of volcanic ash formation: gas release under decompression causing magmatic eruptions; thermal contraction from chilling on contact...

 eruption one million years ago. Subsequently, eruptions in the Mount Baker area have produced cones and lava flows of andesite
Andesite
Andesite is an extrusive igneous, volcanic rock, of intermediate composition, with aphanitic to porphyritic texture. In a general sense, it is the intermediate type between basalt and dacite. The mineral assemblage is typically dominated by plagioclase plus pyroxene and/or hornblende. Magnetite,...

, the rock that constitutes much of other Cascade Range volcanoes such as Rainier, Adams
Mount Adams (Washington)
Mount Adams is a potentially activestratovolcano in the Cascade Range and the second-highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington.Adams is a member of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, and is one of the arc's largest volcanoes,...

, and Hood
Mount Hood
Mount Hood, called Wy'east by the Multnomah tribe, is a stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc of northern Oregon. It was formed by a subduction zone and rests in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States...

. From about 900,000 years ago to the present, numerous andesitic volcanic centers in the area have come and disappeared through glacial erosion. The largest of these cones is the Black Buttes edifice, active between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago and formerly bigger than today's Mount Baker.

Modern craters and cone



Mount Baker was built from stacks of lava
Lava
Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at...

 and volcanic breccia prior to the end of the last glacial period
Glacial period
A glacial period is an interval of time within an ice age that is marked by colder temperatures and glacier advances. Interglacials, on the other hand, are periods of warmer climate within an ice age...

, which ended about 15,000 years ago. There are two craters on the mountain. Ice-filled Carmelo Crater is under the summit ice dome. This crater is the source for the last cone-building eruptions
The highest point of Mount Baker, Grant Peak, is on the exposed southeast rim of Carmelo Crater, which is a small pile of andesitic scoria
Scoria
Scoria is a volcanic rock containing many holes or vesicles. It is most generally dark in color , and basaltic or andesitic in composition. Scoria is relatively low in mass as a result of its numerous macroscopic ellipsoidal vesicles, but in contrast to pumice, all scoria has a specific gravity...

 lying on top of a stack of lava flows just below. Carmelo Crater is deeply dissected on its south side by the younger Sherman Crater. This crater is south of the summit, and its ice-covered floor is 1000 ft (300 m) below the summit ice dome. This crater is the site of all Holocene eruptive activity. Hundreds of fumaroles vent gases, primarily H2O, CO2, and H2S.

Lava flows from the summit vent erupted between 30,000 and 10,000 years ago and, during the final stages of edifice construction, blocky pyroclastic flow
Pyroclastic flow
A pyroclastic flow is a fast-moving current of superheated gas and rock , which reaches speeds moving away from a volcano of up to 700 km/h . The flows normally hug the ground and travel downhill, or spread laterally under gravity...

s entered the volcano's southeastern drainages. An eruption from Sherman Crater 6,600 years ago erupted a blanket of ash that extended more than 40 miles (64.4 km) to the east. Today, sulfurous gases reach the surface via two fumarole pathways: Dorr Fumaroles, northeast of the summit; and Sherman Crater, south of the summit. Both are sites of hydrothermal alteration, converting lavas to weak, white-to-yellow clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

s; sulfur
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

 is a common mineral around these fumaroles. At Sherman Crater, collapses of this weakened rock generated lahar
Lahar
A lahar is a type of mudflow or debris flow composed of a slurry of pyroclastic material, rocky debris, and water. The material flows down from a volcano, typically along a river valley. The term is a shortened version of "berlahar" which originated in the Javanese language of...

s in the 1840s.

Mazama Park eruptive period: 6,600 years ago


Approximately 6,600 years ago, a series of discrete events culminated in the largest tephra-producing eruption in post-glacial time at Mount Baker. This is the last episode of undoubted magmatic activity preserved in the geologic record. First, the largest collapse in the history of the volcano occurred from the Roman Wall and transformed into a lahar
Lahar
A lahar is a type of mudflow or debris flow composed of a slurry of pyroclastic material, rocky debris, and water. The material flows down from a volcano, typically along a river valley. The term is a shortened version of "berlahar" which originated in the Javanese language of...

 that was over 300 feet (91.4 m) deep in the upper reaches of the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River
Nooksack River
The Nooksack River is a river in the northwest part of the U.S. state of Washington. It drains an area of the Cascade Range around Mount Baker, near the Canadian border. The lower river flows through a fertile agricultural area before emptying into Bellingham Bay and, via the Strait of Juan de Fuca...

. It was at least 25 feet (7.6 m) deep 30 miles (48.3 km) downstream from the volcano. At that time the Nooksack River is believed to have drained north into the Fraser River
Fraser River
The Fraser River is the longest river within British Columbia, Canada, rising at Fraser Pass near Mount Robson in the Rocky Mountains and flowing for , into the Strait of Georgia at the city of Vancouver. It is the tenth longest river in Canada...

; it is therefore unlikely that this lahar reached Bellingham Bay
Bellingham Bay
Bellingham Bay is a bay located on the northern Pacific coast of Washington state in the United States. It is separated from the Strait of Georgia on the west by the Lummi Peninsula, Portage Island, and Lummi Island. It is bordered on the east by Bellingham, Washington, to the south-east by the...

. Next, a small hydrovolcanic eruption occurred at Sherman Crater, triggering a second collapse of the flank just east of the Roman Wall. That collapse also became a lahar that mainly followed the course of the first lahar for at least 20 miles (32.2 km), and also spilled into tributaries of the Baker River. Finally, an eruption cloud deposited ash as far as 40 miles (64.4 km) downwind to the northeast and east.

Historical activity


Several eruptions occurred from Sherman Crater during the 19th century;
they were witnessed from the Bellingham area. A possible eruption was seen in June 1792 during the Spanish expedition of Dionisio Alcalá Galiano
Dionisio Alcalá Galiano
Dionisio Alcalá Galiano was a Spanish naval officer, cartographer, and explorer. He mapped various coastlines in Europe and the Americas with unprecedented accuracy, using new technology such as chronometers...

 and Cayetano Valdés
Cayetano Valdés y Flores
Cayetano Valdés y Flores Bazán was a commander of the Spanish Navy, explorer, and captain general who served in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, fighting for both sides at different times due to the changing fortunes of Spain in the conflict...

. Their report read, in part:
During the night [while anchored in Bellingham Bay] we constantly saw light to the south and east of the mountain of Carmelo [Baker] and even at times some bursts of flame, signs which left no doubt that there are volcanoes with strong eruptions in those mountains.


In 1843, explorers reported a widespread layer of newly fallen rock fragments "like a snowfall" and that the forest was "on fire for miles around". It is highly unlikely that these fires were caused by ashfall, however, as charred material is not found with deposits of this fine-grained volcanic ash
Volcanic ash
Volcanic ash consists of small tephra, which are bits of pulverized rock and glass created by volcanic eruptions, less than in diameter. There are three mechanisms of volcanic ash formation: gas release under decompression causing magmatic eruptions; thermal contraction from chilling on contact...

, which was almost certainly cooled in the atmosphere before falling. Rivers south of the volcano were reportedly clogged with ash, and Native Americans reported that many salmon perished. Reports of flooding on the Skagit River
Skagit River
The Skagit River is a river in southwestern British Columbia in Canada and northwestern Washington in the United States, approximately 150 mi long...

 from the eruption are, however, probably greatly exaggerated. A short time later, two collapses of the east side of Sherman Crater produced two lahars, the first and larger of which flowed into the natural Baker Lake, increasing its level by at least 10 feet (3 m). The location of the 19th-century lake is now covered by waters of the modern dam-impounded Baker Lake
Baker Lake (Washington)
Baker Lake is a lake in northern Washington in the United States. The lake is situated in the forested Baker River valley southwest of North Cascades National Park, and is fed by that river and numerous smaller tributaries. It lies about north of the city of Concrete.The lake covers an area of ...

. Similar but lower level hydrovolcanic activity at Sherman Crater continued intermittently for several decades afterward. On 26 November 1860, passengers who were traveling by steamer from New Westminster to Victoria reported that Mount Baker was "puffing out large volumes of smoke, which upon breaking, rolled down the snow-covered sides of the mountain, forming a pleasing effect of light and shade."

In 1891, about 15 cubic kilometers of rock fell producing a lahar that traveled more than 6 miles (9.7 km) and covered 1 square miles (2.6 km²).
Activity in the 20th century decreased from the 19th century. Numerous small debris avalanches fell from Sherman Peak and descended the Boulder Glacier; a large one occurred on July 27, 2007.
In early March 1975, a dramatic increase in fumarolic activity and snow melt in the Sherman Crater area raised concern that an eruption might be imminent. Heat flow increased more than tenfold. Additional monitoring equipment was installed and several geophysical surveys were conducted to try to detect the movement of magma. The increased thermal activity prompted public officials and Puget Power to temporarily close public access to the popular Baker Lake
Baker Lake (Washington)
Baker Lake is a lake in northern Washington in the United States. The lake is situated in the forested Baker River valley southwest of North Cascades National Park, and is fed by that river and numerous smaller tributaries. It lies about north of the city of Concrete.The lake covers an area of ...

 recreation area and to lower the reservoir's water level by 10 meters. If those actions had not been taken, significant avalanches of debris from the Sherman Crater area could have swept directly into the reservoir, triggering a disastrous wave that could have caused human fatalities and damage to the reservoir. Other than the increased heat flow, few anomalies were recorded during the geophysical surveys, nor were any other precursory activities observed that would indicate that magma was moving up into the volcano. Several small lahars formed from material ejected onto the surrounding glaciers and acidic water was discharged into Baker Lake for many months.

Activity gradually declined over the next two years but stabilized at a higher level than before 1975. The increased level of fumarolic activity has continued at Mount Baker since 1975, but no other changes suggest that magma movement is involved.

Current research at Mount Baker


A considerable amount of research has been done at Mount Baker over the past decade, and it is now among the most-studied of the Cascade volcanoes
Cascade Volcanoes
The Cascade Volcanoes are a number of volcanoes in a volcanic arc in western North America, extending from southwestern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California, a distance of well over 700 mi ...

. Recent and ongoing projects include gravimetric and GPS-based geodetic monitoring, fumarole gas sampling, tephra distribution mapping, new interpretations of the Schriebers Meadow lava flow, and hazards analyses. Mapping of Carmelo and Sherman craters, and interpretations of the eruptive history, continues, as well. The Mount Baker Volcano Research Center maintains an online archive of abstracts of this work, and an extensive references list, as well as photos.

Glaciers and hydrology


There are ten main glaciers on the mountain. The Coleman Glacier
Coleman Glacier (Washington)
Coleman Glacier is a glacier on Mount Baker in the U.S. state of Washington. It was named for Edmund Thomas Coleman, who made the first ascent of Mount Baker....

 is the largest; it has a surface area of 5.2 square kilometres (1,284.9 acre). The other large glaciers—which have areas greater than 2.5 square kilometres (617.8 acre)—are Roosevelt Glacier, Mazama Glacier, Park Glacier, Boulder Glacier, Easton Glacier and Deming Glacier. All retreated
Retreat of glaciers since 1850
The retreat of glaciers since 1850 affects the availability of fresh water for irrigation and domestic use, mountain recreation, animals and plants that depend on glacier-melt, and in the longer term, the level of the oceans...

 during the first half of the century, advanced from 1950–1975 and have been retreating increasingly rapidly since 1980.

Mount Baker is drained on the north by streams that flow into the North Fork Nooksack River, on the west by the Middle Fork Nooksack River, and on the southeast and east by tributaries of the Baker River
Baker River (Washington)
The Baker River is an approximately , southward-flowing tributary of the Skagit River in northwestern Washington in the United States. It drains an area of the high North Cascades in the watershed of Puget Sound north of Seattle, and east of Mount Baker...

. Lake Shannon
Lake Shannon
Lake Shannon is a long, narrow reservoir on the Baker River in Skagit County in the U.S. state of Washington. Formed in the 1920s by the construction of an arch dam just above the river's mouth, the lake is approximately long and averages wide at full extent...

 and Baker Lake
Baker Lake (Washington)
Baker Lake is a lake in northern Washington in the United States. The lake is situated in the forested Baker River valley southwest of North Cascades National Park, and is fed by that river and numerous smaller tributaries. It lies about north of the city of Concrete.The lake covers an area of ...

 are the largest nearby bodies of water, formed by two dams on the Baker River.

U.S. Navy



Two ammunition ship
Ammunition ship
An ammunition ship is a warship specially configured to carry ammunition, usually for Navy ships and aircraft. Their cargo handling systems, designed with extreme safety in mind, include ammunition hoists with airlocks between decks, and mechanisms for flooding entire compartments with sea water in...

s of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 (traditionally named for volcanoes) have been named after the mountain. The first was USS Mount Baker (AE-4)
USS Mount Baker (AE-4)
USS Mount Baker , originally named USS Kilauea , was acquired by the Navy 14 November 1940 while building by Tampa Shipbuilding Co., Tampa, Fla., as SS Surprise; delivered to Alabama Drydock & Shipbuilding Co., for conversion to Type C2; and commissioned 16 May 1941, Capt. W. I...

, which was commissioned from 1941 to 1947 and from 1951 to 1969. In 1972, the Navy commissioned USS Mount Baker (AE-34)
USNS Mount Baker (T-AE-34)
USNS Mount Baker is the seventh of eight s, currently in service with the Military Sealift Command. She is the second U.S. Navy ship to bear the name, and is named for Mount Baker, a volcano in the Cascade Range of Washington...

. It was decommissioned in 1996 and placed in service with the Military Sealift Command
Military Sealift Command
The Military Sealift Command is a United States Navy organization that controls most of the replenishment and military transport ships of the Navy. It first came into existence on 9 July 1949 when the Military Sea Transportation Service became solely responsible for the Department of Defense's...

 as USNS Mount Baker (T-AE-34).

See also

  • List of Highest Mountain Peaks in Washington State
  • Mountain peaks of North America
    Mountain peaks of North America
    This article comprises three sortable tables of major mountain peaks of greater North America.This article defines greater North America as the portion of the continental landmass of the Americas extending northward from Panama plus the islands surrounding that landmass...

  • Mountain peaks of the United States
    Mountain peaks of the United States
    This article comprises three sortable tables of the major mountain peaks of the United States of America.Topographic elevation is the vertical distance above the reference geoid, a precise mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface...


External links