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General Interest Publication 19

Produced in cooperation with the National Park Service

Living With a Volcano in Your Backyard—An Educator’s Guide with Emphasis on Mount Rainier

Coordinated by Carolyn Driedger, Anne Doherty, Cheryl Dixon, and Lisa Faust

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (43.6 MB)Introduction

Today’s residents, as well as residents of centuries past, consider Mount Rainier “the spiritual and cultural icon of the Pacific Northwest.” As a backdrop for many of the State’s residents, Mount Rainier offers beauty, solace, inspiration, and challenge. The mountain sets the daily mood for thousands of people who gaze at and respect it. There is no mistaking this object of admiration when people smile and remark that, “the mountain is out!”

Yet, the origin of Mount Rainier, formed by volcanic processes and now heavily laden with snow and ice, remains an enigma to many admirers. During the 1980s, volcanologists from around the world voted Mount Rainier as one of 17 volcanoes most worthy of additional study because of the hazard potential to large population centers nearby. Subsequent research indicates that Mount Rainier, though quiet since the nineteenth century, is very much an “active volcano” with potential to erupt again and disrupt the life of Pacific Northwest residents. Following days to months or more of warning, Mount Rainier could erupt lava and ash and melt snow and ice to form lahars (volcanic mudflows). Or, Mount Rainier could simply warm up briefly, jolt us from our apathy, and then return to slumber for many more years.

Until such time, the mountain is ours to explore. Living with a Volcano in Your Backyard—An Educator’s Guide with Emphasis on Mount Rainier invites educators and their students to learn what scientists are discovering about Mount Rainier’s past, to explore its slopes during this period of quiescence, and to plan future responses to volcanic unrest. Mount Rainier National Park is a unique classroom, rich in resources for observing geologic change. The park staff encourages safe and knowledgeable use by educators and students and their families.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program (USGS-VHP) support development and publication of this educator’s guide as part of their mission to educate the public about volcanoes. The USGS-VHP studies the dynamics of volcanoes, investigates eruption histories, develops hazard assessments, monitors volcano-related activity, and collaborates with local officials to lower the risk of disruption when volcanoes become restless.

First posted December 10, 2014

This publication is available only online

For additional information, contact:
Contact CVO 
Volcano Science Center, Cascades Volcano Observatory 
U.S. Geological Survey 
1300 SE Cardinal Court, Building 10, Suite 100 
Vancouver, WA 98683-9589

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). For best results viewing and printing PDF documents, it is recommended that you download the documents to your computer and open them with Adobe Reader. PDF documents opened from your browser may not display or print as intended. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Driedger, C., Doherty, A., Dixon, C., and Faust, L., coordinators, 2005, Living with a volcano in your backyard—An educator’s guide with emphasis on Mount Rainier (ver. 2.0, December 2014): U.S. Geological Survey General Information Product 19, 716 p.,

ISSN 2332-0354X (online)



Chapter 1—Overview


Fire, Flood, and Fury 

Nineteenth-Century News 

Cascade Volcano Timeline 

A String of Volcanoes 

Volcano Hall of Fame 

Surrounded by Volcanoes 

Magma Mash 

Riding the Magma Elevator 

Soda Bottle Volcano 

Chapter 2—Overview

Understanding Volcanic Hazards Video/DVD

Volcanic Processes 

Tephra Popcorn 

Lava Building Blocks of Mount Rainier 

Rock Stars 

Fire and Ice 

Lahar in a Jar 

Rock Rubble Review 

Earth Blocks 

Volcano Fan Club 

Tephra Explorer 

Shoebox Geologist 

Perilous Beauty Video 

Chapter 3—Overview

Play-Dough Topo

Topographic Maps and Mount Rainier

Visualizing Topographic Maps

Planning Your Trip to Mount Rainier National Park

The Next Eruption of Mount Rainier

Reducing Volcanic Risk

Don’t be Scared—Be Prepared!

A Volcano Tussle—How Much Do We Risk?

Living Well with a Volcano in Your Backyard!—Prepare, Then Enjoy It!

Appendixes (5)


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