Glacial History of Mount Hood in Oregon
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Published: Wed, 18 Oct 2017
Mount Hood, composed primarily of andesite and dacite, is considered one of the Stratovolcanic Mountain in the Cascade Volcanic Arc in northwest Oregon, in the United States of America; having existed for more than 500,000 years (Wikipedia). It is located about fifty miles east of Portland and thirty-five miles south of the Colombia River,(Oregon encyclopedia) and the fourth highest peak in the Cascade Ranges that extends to about 11,244 feet high, and a prominence of about 7,706 feet and thus considered Oregon’s highest point(Oregon encyclopedia).
The Social, Cultural and Environmental Significance of Mt. Hood
This mountain has significantly played a rich history in shaping up the geological, historic, cultural and environmental history of North West Oregon and the entire Pacific Northwest. One of the major factors, which have attracted particular attention to the study of this Mountain, are: it’s the rich background of its glacial activity, which has overtime impacted the Oregon society to be considered as a National historic landmark. Some of its renowned historical accounts are its usage in the sporting activities e.g. skiing, and mountain climbing; it has six major ski areas: Timberline, Mount Hood’s Meadows, Ski Bowl, Coopers spur, Snow Bunny and Summit. In addition, it encompasses some of the historic land marks as Timberline Lodge (located in Southern flank of Mount Hood just below Palmer glacier), Mount Hood National Forest. It is also regarded by the Chinookan tribes: Cascade and Molala people as a sacred place for worship, and as a viable source of raw material for their economic activities e.g. basketry weaving industry, fishing, hunting and gathering activities.(orogencyclope)
Currently major expeditions are in underway taken by scientist to study its major glacial activities and land features formation e.g. The Snow Dragon Cave, ice caves in Paradise as Johnson puts it that, “there are some aspects of glacier caves that are interesting as a main subject of study”, () this depicts how avid major activities are undertaken to explore one of the Oregon gigantic mountain.
History of the glacial activity
In the past 15,000 years, Mount Hood has had at least four major eruptive periods, in which the last three occurred within the past 1,800 years from its vents high on the SW flank, producing volcanic deposits that were distributed primarily to the south and west along the sandy and zigzag river(mountain hood hist).
According to one of the European explorer in 1972, Mount Hood is believed to have been triggered by a mild seismic activity, maintaining a consistent summit elevation. This elevation process gradually changed overtime. The estimated elevation of mountain Hood has however varied substantially overtime, despite its physical consistency. ()
After the periods of seismic action, glacial activities have impacted to a great length, to the shaping up of Mount Hood.
Glacier and Glaciations process
By definition, a glacier is composed of perennial snow or ice and it moves (orogencyclopedia). It refers to a mass of slowly moving ice or river; that results as an action of compaction or accumulation of snow on mountains or near poles.(dictionary) Glacial activity in Mount Hood has been evident by the existence of crevasses; gaping cracks developing in the ice. This differential movement causes tension. If the tension is more intense than the ice pressure, it results into cracks forming crevasses. (orogenicyclopedia)
Glaciers and permanent snow-field majorly found in the many of the western state including: Washington, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada, commonly located in the high alpine environment of Oregon, covering an area of approximately 42.5 square kilometer and numbers to about 463 glacial and perennial snow fields. (glacierinoregon),
The types of glacier in Mount Hood.
Glacier in the United States was not known to science, not at least until 1871 when a geological survey expedition, led by Clarence King, who identified glacier on Mt. Shasta in California, nearly almost the same time a team from the King survey, led by Arnold Hague, identified the Sandy glacier on Mt. Hood, during the subsequent periods many other glaciers in Oregon were discovered.
Some of the chronological order of these glaciers expeditions discovered is:
The Palmer Glacier; was also ones known as Salmon River Glacier; discovered in 1924 on the Eastern side of Hood Mountain, situated in the valley below Triangle Moraine, draining into the Salmon River. Was ones thought to be a snowfield not until 1923-1924 where, crevasses of the glacier were revealed.
Zigzag Glacier; drains into the Zigzag River, Lost Creek, and rushing water Creek. It originated in the crater between Crater Rock and Hawkins Cliff below illumination Rock. This was the first Glacier on Mt. Hood to be trod upon the white man when Joel Palmer climbed the slope in 1845. (Mounthood)
Reid Glacier; drains into the Sandy River, and found between illumination Ridge and Yocum Ridge. It was named in 1901 for professor Harry Fielding Reid of John Hopkins University; an expert in glaciology who did extensive studies of the White River Glacier.
Sandy Glacier; Drains into the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River, located on the West-Northwest side of the Hood Mountain and is rarely seen.
Glisan Glaciers; Drains into the McGee Creek. Was named after Rodney L.Glisan and is situated on the Northwest side of the Hood Mountain.
Ladd Glacier; it is situated between Cathedral Ridge and Eden Park and drains into Ladd Creek. Ladd Glacier named after William Ladd, one of the builders of Cloud Cap Inn. This glacier was located in the north-northwest side of the Hood Mountain.
Coe Glacier; depicted as one of the north flank largest glacier, draining mostly into Coe Creek with some flow into Elk cove. .(USGS.Volcanohazard prog) It was named after the Hood River store keeper and an early developer of the North side area; Henry L.Coe. Coe Glacier is situated below Pulpit Rock and is divided by Horseshoe and Andersons Rock. It is mainly used for irrigation purposes for the productive Hood River Valley fruit orchard, and also for fish habitat.
Langille Glacier; located west of Langille Crags and drains into the East Fork of Compass Creek.
Eliot Glacier; is one of the largest glacier on the North flank stretching to about 2.5 meters to 3 meters long in Mt. Oregon, draining into Eliot Creek.(USGS.Volcanohazard prog) Was named after an Early north side explorer; Thomas L.Eliot. It is the most spectacular glacier on Mt. Hood; lying, northwest of the summit and can be accessed easily from Cloud Cap Inn.
Newton Clark Glaciers; Drains into Newton Creek to the north and Clark Creek on the south with a large moraine between the creeks. It was later then named after a well known Hood River surveyor from the 1800s; Newton Clark and is situated on the Eastside of the summit.
White River Glacier; The White River is a branch of the Deschutes River, flowing into it near Tygh Valley. Ever since it was first spotted by the Barlow Party in 1845, it has gradually receded vastly, this is due to the response to volcanic heat exposing steam vents in its early 1900s (orgencyclopedia); these may however pose threats of devastation to the Highway 26 at the White River Bridge, if it will continues to occasionally release packets of retained water. White River Glacier is at the eastside due south of the summit of Hood Mountain, and have its origin in the crater to the east of the Hogsback.
Colman Glacier; changes its shape dramatically from a slopping body of ice, down to Hot Rocks, to a 40 feet ice cliff in the same place.
Over the last 100,000 years, after the ice cap covering Oregon Cascades from Mt. Jefferson retreated; during the period of the warmer Holocene, resulted into a much smaller glacier as the climate fluctuation caused glacier to wax and wane. Over the past Century glacier have advance and retreat in response to climatic variation specifically Oregon Mountain retreated rapidly from 1900s through the 1950s. During the 1960s and 1970s, the climate cooled a bit and the glacier held their own, with some of them even showing signs of significant adjustments. Retreat did however resume by the 1980s and up to currently still continues. This has totaled to a 34 percentage loss of glacier in Hood Mountain since 1910 statistics.() Mount Hood so far hosted eleven named active glaciers i.e. Zigzag, Reid, Sandy, Glisan, Ladd, Coe, Langille, Eliot, Newton Clark, White River and Colman. The Palmer glacier, initially christened as Solomon Glacier in 1924 didn’t stand the test of time to be regarded as a snowfield as it had lost enough of its volume and mobility to be categorized in the classes of Mt. Oregon snow field. This Mountain is also regarded as a source of five major Rivers namely: Salmon, Zigzag, Sandy, Hood, and White.(Mt. Hood historyhome.com)
2015-portland state university and the oregon historical society. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015.
USGS: Volcano Hazards Program – Mount Hood Geology and History. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015,
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