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Pyroclastic Flows Are Rare at Mount Rainier

Deposits of pyroclastic flows are not as common at Mount Rainier than at some other Cascades volcanoes, such as Mount St Helens. In part, this is probably due to fewer pyroclastic flow eruptions, but it is also due to Mount Rainier's glacial environment. A pyroclastic flow that descend glaciers incorporates snow and ice. The snow and ice melt, cooling the pyroclastic flow and transforming it to a lahar that can continue far beyond the foot of the volcano. This has happened many times at Mount Rainier.

Deposits of small pyroclastic flows also often come to rest as thin, unconsolidated rubble and ash that erode readily in high alpine settings. A small pyroclastic flow that descended the valley of the South Puyallup River about 2,400 years ago left a dark, sandy and bouldery rubble deposit exposed along the West Side Road. Rarely at Mount Rainier, pyroclastic flows accumulated to thicknesses sufficient to retain heat, giving the debris time to cool slowly and compress as rock fragments and ash weld together into hard rock. Deposits from such a welded pyroclastic flow flank the headwaters of Kautz Creek, supporting Mildred Point, Pearl Falls, and Basaltic Cliff.