The Cascades

The Cascades are a major mountain range in western North America, running from southern British Columbia in Canada through the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon to northern California. It forms a part of the  American Cordillera, a nearly continuous chain of mountain ranges that make up the western “backbone” of  North America, Central America, and South America. The highest peak in the range, at 14,411 feet, is Mount Rainier in Washington. Other mountains in the range include: Mt. Shasta in northern California (14,179 feet), the Cascade’s 2nd-highest peak, and Mt. Hood (11,249 feet), Oregon’s highest mountain. Early Spanish explorers referred to the range as the Sierra Nevada, or “snowy mountains”.

As a part of the Pacific Ocean‘s “Ring of Fire”, the range also includes several volcanic mountains. In fact, over the last two centuries, all of the eruptions in the contiguous U.S. have been from Cascade volcanoes, including: Lassen Peak, which erupted from 1914 to 1921, and Mount St. Helens, which had a major eruption in 1980 and minor ones from 2004 to 2008.

In 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through the range on the Columbia River, which for many years was the only practical way. They were the first non-indigenous people to see Mount Adams, but they mistakenly thought that it was Mount St. Helens. And when they later saw Mount St. Helens, they thought it was Mount Rainier! On their return, they named a high but distant snowy pinnacle for the sponsor of the expedition, U.S. President  Thomas Jefferson. 

  • Viewed: 1980 (including Mt. Rainier, Mt. Shasta, and Mt. Hood)

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