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Cascade Range

The Cascade Range is a mountain chain that runs north-south along the west coast of North America from British Columbia to Northern California. (The small part of the range that is in British Columbia is typically called the Cascade Mountains.) It believed that the mountains were named by explorers for the numerous waterfalls found where the Columbia River cuts a gorge or canyon through the Cascades, although the earliest attested use of this name is in the writings of the botanist David Douglas.

The Cascades (as they are called for short) are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the ring of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean. The range is still volcanically active: Lassen Peak erupted in 1911, and Mount St. Helens in 1980.

The volcanoes of the Cascades stand tall above the rest of the range, up to 4,400 m (14,400 ft), often twice the height of the surrounding mountains and white with snow and ice year-round. The northern part of the range, north of Mount Rainier is extremely rugged, with many of the lesser peaks steep and glaciated. The valleys are quite low however, and major passes are only about 1000 m (3300 ft) high.

Because of the range's proximity to the Pacific Ocean, precipitation is substantial, especially on the western slopes, with annual accumulations of up to 380 cm (150 in) in some areas. The western slopes are densely covered with Douglas fir, hemlock and alder, while the eastern slopes are mostly pine, with golden larch at higher elevations.

Primary Mountains: (listed north to south)


The Barlow Trail was the first established land path for U.S. settlers through the Cascade Range in 1845, and formed the final overland link for the Oregon Trail (previously, settlers had to raft down the treacherous rapids of the Columbia River). It passes north of Mt. Hood.