Mount Rainier is a young volcano whose slopes are undergoing rapid change by a variety of geologic processes, including debris flows. Debris flows are churning masses of water, rock and mud that travel rapidly down the volcano's steep, glacially carved valleys, leaving in their wake splintered trees, picnic sites buried in mud, and damaged roads. Debris flows typically contain as much as 65 to 70 percent rock and soil by volume and have the appearance of wet concrete. At Mount Rainier National Park, these flows invariably begin in remote areas nearly inaccessible to people, but may move rapidly downstream into areas frequented by visitors.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Volcano fact sheet; glacier-generated debris flows at Mount Rainier