Lahar (noun): a landslide of wet volcanic debris on the side of a volcano.
During routine browsing at one of Rainier National Park’s visitors center, our imaginations were piqued by a display that mentioned the Osceola mudflow, an event that occurred about 5,600 years ago during which a 500-foot-tall wall of ice, mud, water, rock, and other material thundered off the mountain’s northeast slope (seen here) and smashed its way through the White River valley, eventually making its way to Puget Sound. This photo gives you a pretty good idea of the affected area: The White River was about 2,000 feet below this point, so the Osceola mudflow probably filled about a quarter of the canyon.
I say that our imaginations were “piqued,” but in reality the story was pretty horrifying. Rainier’s propensity for gigantic nasty mudslides has even resulted in scientists creating a lahar warning system. And a sign outside the White River campground had a rather chilling message for someone contemplating setting up their tent in an area that could be considered a playground for lahars. All of this worked to give the mountain a rather brooding and ominous feel, which I’m hoping came across in this photo.
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