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Mount Baker Volcano

Mount Baker’s Early History

USGS research in the last decade shows Mount Baker to be the youngest of several volcanic centers in the area and one of the youngest volcanoes in the Cascade Range. Volcanic activity in the Mount Baker area began more than one million years ago, but many of the earliest lava and tephra deposits have been removed by glacial erosion. The pale-colored rocks northeast of the modern volcano mark the site of ancient Kulshan Caldera that collapsed after an enormous ash eruption one million years ago. Subsequently, eruptions in the Mount Baker area have produced cones and lava flows of andesite, the rock that makes up much of other Cascade Range volcanoes like Mounts Rainier, Adams, and Hood. From about 900,000 years ago to the present, numerous andesitic volcanic centers in the area have come and gone, eroded by glaciers. The largest is the Black Buttes edifice, active between 400,000 and 300,000 years ago and formerly bigger than today’s Mount Baker.

Although numerous in Oregon and southern Washington, cinder cones formed of the rock type called basalt are rare around Mount Baker. A cinder cone that formed 9,800 years ago in Schriebers Meadow produced a widespread tephra layer, and lava flows that reached the Baker River.

Mount Baker Today

Modern Mount Baker formed during and since the last ice age, which ended about 15,000 years ago. Lava flows from the summit vent erupted between 30,000 and 10,000 years ago and, during the final stages of edifice construction, blocky pyroclastic flows poured down most of the volcano’s drainages. An eruption 6,600 years ago produced a blanket of ash that extended more than 20 miles to the northeast. This eruption probably occurred from the presently ice-filled summit crater. Subsequently, sulfurous gases have found two pathways to the surface – Dorr Fumaroles, northeast of the summit, and Sherman Crater, south of the summit. Both these area are sites of pervasive bedrock alteration, converting lavas to weak, white-to-yellow.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Mount Baker Facts

  • When was the last time Mount Baker erupted?  Mount Baker’s last eruption was in 1880.
  • What does kulshan mean?  Mount Baker (Lummi: Qwú’mə Kwəlshéːn; Nooksack: Kw’eq Smaenit or Kwelshán), also known as Koma Kulshan or simply Kulshan, is an active glaciated andesitic stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc and the North Cascades of Washington in the United States.
  • Is Mount Baker active dormant or extinct?  Mount Baker is also an active volcano. Mount Baker will erupt again, disrupting the landscape and the lives of people downstream and downwind. During an eruption at Mount Baker, you can expect: Lahars caused (volcanic mud flows caused by melting of snow and ice) can flow for tens of miles down valleys.