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Mt. Adams

Mount Adams

Mt. Adams, a towering stratovolcano (3,742 meters – 12,276 feet), is the second highest peak in the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon) after Mt. Rainier. 

Volcano: The Mount Adams stratovolcano is surrounded by volcanic fields that contain several hundred smaller volcanoes. In the Cascades, Mount Adams is second in eruptive volume only to Mount Shasta–48 cubic miles!– and far surpasses its loftier neighbor Mount Rainier from the base of its lava flows to the summit.  Future eruptions and other hazardous events present potential hazards to life, property, and economic health. Among these hazards are eruptions of lava flows and ash. But for Mount Adams, the hazard of volcanic mudflows, called lahars, is potentially the most devastating.

Glaciers: Mt. Adams is mantled by 12 glaciers, most of which are fed radially from its summit icecap. The total glacier area of the 12 glaciers has decreased by 49% (31.5 km2 to 16.2 km2) from 1904 to 2006.Glaciers on Mt. Adams show similar trends to those on both Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier.

Flora and fauna: Mt. Adams reflects the Cascade (ecoregion: 4b, 4c, and 4d) and Eastern Cascades and Foothills (ecoregion: 9a and 9b) ecoregions. According to David Biek and Susan McDougall, authors of The Flora of Mount Adams, Washington (2007), the mountain has the distinction of being home to a more diverse flora than found on any other mountain in the Pacific Northwest: 843 species of plants, from the 4,000-foot level to the highest ridges at over 11,000 feet.

The number, variability, and large size of middle elevation meadows are distinctive aspects of Mount Adams. Of the meadows on Mount Adams, Bird Creek Meadows, a series of alcoves that stretch a mile along the southern rim of the peak, may have gained the most attention. Flora in Bird Creek Meadows includes, magenta paintbrush, arrowleaf senecio, Penstemonslupinesmonkeyflowersheathers, and sedges. Wetland Grand and Swampy meadows lie on the southwest side at an elevation of 4,000 feet. Wetland species include dwarf birch, bog blueberry, highbush cranberrysundewpurple cinquefoil, and flatleaf badderwort as well as sedges and rushes. In contrast to these middle elevation wet meadows, the subalpine meadows on the north and west side of the mountain are much less extensive, limited, largely restricted by water and suitable topography. Species include partridgefootCascade rockcresssubalpine buttercup, and Sitka valerian. Alpine meadow species include small-fruit smelowskia, elegant Jacob’s ladder, and several species of wild buckwheat

Most of the mountain’s area (over 235 sq. miles) is below timberline, with coniferous forest (18 species) making up much of the landscape.  Mt. Adams has many diverse habitats created by interplay of topography and geographic location. For example, southeast aspect habitats range from mixed ponderosa pine, bitterbrush, and Douglas-fir to alpine tundra.   Transition from alpine to forest ranges from subtle to abrupt and well developed meadows are infrequent. Depending on mountain aspect and elevation, vegetation dominance zones vary. For example, from lower elevation  ponderosa pine, grand fir, and Douglas-fir zones, mid-elevation lodgepole pine and Pacific silver fir zones, and higher elevation subalpine fir, mountain hemlock, whitebark pine zones.

Global warming has been greatly influencing forest structure, composition, and overall ecosystem health. The sub-alpine meadows are rapidly filling in with young conifers. We have seen alarming and vast infestations of bark beetles and fungi, such as the budworm in grand fir (in the 1990’s), mountain pine beetle in lodgepole pine,  and blister-rust in the old-growth white-bark pine.  Wildfires are hotter and more extensive now, creating large zones of snags on the southeast, south, and southwest sides.  In addition, extensive logging on the mountain’s slopes, from about 2500 feet to 5200 feet elevation, have also altered the ecosystems, for better or for worse.

Animal species on the mountain, especially in the Wilderness and wild regions, are still relatively healthy and diverse. Larger mammals Rocky Mountain elk, deer, black bear, bobcat, cougar, coyote, inhabit mainly the forested and meadowed habitat. Increasing numbers of  mountain goats occupy high alpine and subalpine areas on the northwest, north, east, and southeast sides. A rare wolverine was photographed on Mt. Adams recently, but he may have moved on to another mountain region.  Smaller mammals, such as the marmot and pika, aren’t doing well now (because they are so temperature-sensitive), formerly occuring in large numbers in the the rocky habitat around the treeline. The Douglas squirrel is still numerous, occupying forested areas, while species such as the Cascade golden-mantled ground squirrel and chipmunk seem to be plentiful below and above treeline.

A large variety of birds can be seen at all elevations on Mt. Adams year-round, such as crows, ravens, Canada jays, Stellar’s jay, Clarks nutcracker, blue grouse, and ruffed grouse (increasing population in the higher elevations).  White-tailed ptarmigan, once so numerous on Mt. Adams, seem to have disappeared for some reason. But happily, birds of prey such as peregrine falcon and sharp-shinned hawk still grace the skies. 



19 Responses to Mt. Adams

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  11. Margaret says:

    Does anyone live on the volcano and is there any traditions

  12. Kirsty says:

    Just wondering, I’d like to ask if you’ve considered putting up a list of the scientific names of the plants (and a pic if possible) in each ecoregion. Would help a lot for identification.

    • friend says:

      Good idea, Kirsty! We’ll work on it; but for now, the best source of information on Mt. Adams wildflowers is David Biek’s and Susan McDougall’s authoritative book, The Flora of Mount Adams: 2007, Sound Books, 13008 37th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98125. http://mtadamsflora.clearwire.net.

  13. A huge fan of Mt Adams says:

    Mount Adams is such an amazing mountain! I seem to have a huge passion for it and its future protection, even if I haven’t hiked in the actual Mt Adams Wilderness really. I have hiked partway up the Shorthorn Trail, partway on the Killen Creek Trail, and a backpacking trip up to High Camp via Divide Camp Trail in the Mt Adams Wilderness, as well as Takh Takh Meadows, High Lakes, and Council Bluff in the Midway High Lakes Scenic Area. I’ve been to Mt Rainier National Park a few times, and after seeing the amazing wildflowers and high mountain meadows on our way to High Camp, I knew Mt Adams was definately “national park” stuff (way better than the overrated, yet way smaller, Mt Hood closest to me in the Portland area). I also just love camping there at Takhlakh Lake, Horseshoe Lake, and Killen Creek CG. One of my favorite aspects of the Mt Adams area is its rustic nature, windy, and gravel roads. I’ve spent sooo much time looking at maps, pictures, articles, etc. related to Mt Adams, that I even seem to have the entire map memorized! I’m kind of a huge “fan” of Mt Adams, similar to how I’m a huge fan of ponies from the (so not girly) popular tv show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I’m a Brony. (For those that haven’t heard about it, a Brony is usually an adult male fan of the show. There are approximately over 12 million in the fandom.) (Yes, official studies show that we are completely normal people, just like everyone else.) I would also suggest that an easy way to get this site and Mt Adams noticed by more people, would be to make some sort of official shout out or reference to the Bronies. Usually most big news will be reported on the fan site/news site Equestria Daily, garnering around 300,000 additional page views per day, and having received way over 300 million page views in just under three years and counting. If you guys did this, a LOT of people could end up seeing it!

  14. Sam Grimm says:

    I’m surprised that there is no mention of spruce budworm infestations in the “Forests” description above. While bark beetles are certainly a threat (and may turn into an epidemic in the Mt Adams area given multiple reproductive cycles per year due to warmer temperatures), past spruce budworm epidemics and lack of Federal management have left thousands of acres of dead and dying stands of timber creating massive fuel loading all around and within the wilderness area (a problem bark beetle infestations will certainly add to). As a result, the largest threat to the ecosystems in and around the Mt Adams area is catastrophic wildfire. The area was barely spared in 2008 with the Cold Springs fire. Had that fire started just a couple weeks later (a little bit drier), much of the area would likely have been lost. I would encourage organizations such as FOMA to promote active management across the Gifford Pinchot to help prevent catastrophic wildfire potential. Active management does not have to mean extensive clearcutting (although clearcutting as a method should not be removed from the toolbox). There are thousands and thousands of acres of Federal land that can be thinned, helping to promote healthy forests and reducing risk of wildfire and insect infestations. Please support your local Federal forest managers and give them support and TRUST in managing these lands.

    • friend says:

      Thanks for your good comment. I’m not sure if Bob Volke has responded, since he put together the Resources pages. But the FOMA Board is well aware of spruce budworm infestations on the mountain. We have made some effort to encouraged Forest Service thinning to prevent catastrophic fires and restore healthy ecosystems. The website in its present form is only a beginning. We will make important updates in the future. Please bear with us!

      Thanks again,
      Darryl Lloyd

      • Jurgen Hess says:

        I appreciate your comments. As a FOMA representative and former Forest Service employee, I sit on the Mt. Adams Ranger District Collaborative team. As a member of that team, I strongly support thinning of overly dense small trees, especially in in old treatment areas such as clear cuts. After fuel loading gets down to acceptable levels, prescribed burns need to happen and the District is doing some of these. The Forest Service does have several sales planned and operating this season for thinnings, biomass removal, and restoring meadows by removing reprod. Unfortunately with all the dead trees in many areas around Mt. Adams, I fear there will be more large fires before things get better.

    • A huge fan of Mt Adams says:

      It’s too bad that the 20,000 acre Cascade Creek Wildfire of 2012 burned nearly one third of the mountain’s forested area though. It burned nearly all of its western and southern slopes. I never got to hike in the west and south sides of the mountain much.

      • Kirsty says:

        As with other areas that suffer fire, such as Australia, certain plants need fire to germinate. Plants not seen in 100 years will probably start growing where you mention. Mt St Helens had a variety of plants not seen in more than 100 years growing a few years after the eruption. It’s not destruction, it’s change.

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