ABOUT THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
The Pacific Northwest experiences a wide variety of climates. An oceanic climate (“marine west coast climate”) occurs in most coastal areas, typically between the ocean and high mountain ranges. An Alpine climate dominates in the high mountains. Semi-arid and arid climates are found east of the higher mountains, especially in rainshadow areas. The Harney Basin of Oregon is an example of arid climate in the Pacific Northwest. Humid continental climates occur inland on windward sides, in places such as Revelstoke, British Columbia. A subarctic climate can be found farther north, especially in Yukon and Alaska.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon – Crater Lake lies in the caldera of an ancient volcano called Mount Mazama that collapsed 7,700 years ago. It is the deepest lake in the United States and is noted for its vivid blue color and water clarity. There are two more recent volcanic islands in the lake, and, with no inlets or outlets, all water comes through precipitation.
Denali National Park, Alaska – Centered on Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, Denali is serviced by a single road leading to Wonder Lake. Denali and other peaks of the Alaska Range are covered with long glaciers and boreal forest. Wildlife includes grizzly bears, Dall sheep, caribou, and gray wolves.
Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska – The country’s northernmost park protects an expanse of pure wilderness in Alaska’s Brooks Range and has no park facilities. The land is home to Alaska Natives who have relied on the land and caribou for 11,000 years.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska – Glacier Bay contains tidewater glaciers, mountains, fjords, and a temperate rainforest, and is home to large populations of grizzly bears, mountain goats, whales, seals, and eagles. When discovered in 1794 by George Vancouver, the entire bay was covered by ice, but the glaciers have since receded more than 65 miles (105 km).
Katmai National Park, Alaska – This park on the Alaska Peninsula protects the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, an ash flow formed by the 1912 eruption of Novarupta, as well as Mount Katmai. Over 2,000 grizzly bears come here each year to catch spawning salmon. Other wildlife includes caribou, wolves, moose, and wolverines.
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska – Near Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, this park protects the Harding Icefield and at least 38 glaciers and fjords stemming from it. The only area accessible to the public by road is Exit Glacier; the rest must be viewed or reached from boat tours.
Kings Canyon National Park, California – Home to several giant sequoia groves and the General Grant Tree, the world’s second largest measured tree, this park also features part of the Kings River, sculptor of the dramatic granite canyon that is its namesake, and the San Joaquin River, as well as Boyden Cave.
Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska – Kobuk Valley protects 61 miles (98 km) of the Kobuk River and three regions of sand dunes. Created by glaciers, the Great Kobuk, Little Kobuk, and Hunt River Sand Dunes can reach 100 feet (30 m) high and 100 °F (38 °C), and they are the largest dunes in the Arctic. Twice a year, half a million caribou migrate through the dunes and across river bluffs that expose well-preserved ice age fossils.
Lake Clark National Park, Alaska – The region around Lake Clark features four active volcanoes, including Mount Redoubt, as well as an abundance of rivers, glaciers, and waterfalls. Temperate rainforests, a tundra plateau, and three mountain ranges complete the landscape.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington – Mount Rainier, an active stratovolcano, is the most prominent peak in the Cascades and is covered by 26 named glaciers including Carbon Glacier and Emmons Glacier, the largest in the contiguous United States. The mountain is popular for climbing, and more than half of the park is covered by subalpine and alpine forests and meadows seasonally in bloom with wildflowers. Paradise on the south slope is the snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is measured regularly. The Longmire visitor center is the start of the Wonderland Trail, which encircles the mountain.
North Cascades National Park, Washington – This complex includes two geographically distinct units of the national park, as well as Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. The highly glaciated mountains are spectacular examples of Cascade geology. Popular hiking and climbing areas include Cascade Pass, Mount Shuksan, Mount Triumph, and Eldorado Peak.
Olympic National Park, Washington – Situated on the Olympic Peninsula, this park includes a wide range of ecosystems from Pacific shoreline to temperate rainforests to the alpine slopes of the Olympic Mountains, the tallest of which is Mount Olympus. The Hoh Rainforest and Quinault Rainforest are the wettest area in the contiguous United States, with the Hoh receiving an average of almost 12ft (3.7 m) of rain every year.
Wrangell – St Elias National Park, Alaska – An over 8 million acres (32,375 km2) plot of mountainous country—the largest national park in the system—protects the convergence of the Alaska, Chugach, and Wrangell-Saint Elias Ranges, which include many of the continent’s tallest mountains and volcanoes, including the 18,008-foot Mount Saint Elias. More than a quarter of the park is covered with glaciers, including the tidewater Hubbard Glacier, piedmont Malaspina Glacier, and valley Nabesna Glacier.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho – Situated on the Yellowstone Caldera, the park has an expansive network of geothermal areas including boiling mud pots, vividly colored hot springs such as Grand Prismatic Spring, and regularly erupting geysers, the best-known being Old Faithful. The yellow-hued Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River contains several high waterfalls, and four mountain ranges traverse the park. More than 60 mammal species including gray wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, lynxes, bison, and elk, make this park one of the best wildlife viewing spots in the country.
Alaska is home to the highest peak in North America at 20,237 feet: Mount McKinley (Denali)
Denali is also one of the best places in the United States to see the Aurora Borealis
About 125 miles northeast of Denali is Fairbanks, Alaska, which is located in the Auroral Oval, making Aurora Borealis light shows abundant. The best time of year to see them is in the fall
An unexpected place, but great bet to see the Northern Lights are over Priest Lake and Idaho Panhandle National Forest in Idaho
There are a number of active volcanoes in the region including Mount Garibaldi, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Mount Shasta, and Glacier Peak
The last eruption from any of these volcanoes was Mount St. Helens in May of 1980
There are 4 mountain ranges that span across the Pacific Northwest including the Coast Range, the Olympic Range, the Cascade Range, and part of the Rocky Mountains
Fishing and canning of salmon, halibut, herring, geoduck, and other clams, crabs sea urchins and oysters make up a large part of the exports from this region
Animals that can be found in this region include moose, grizzly bears, wolves, cougars, bison, caribou, mountain goats, elk, deer, various species of owls and eagles, whales, seals, dolphins, turtles, river otters, and even mountain lions and bobcats