U.S. Congress creates Mount Rainier National Park on March 2, 1899.

  • By Patrick McRoberts
  • Posted 3/02/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5345
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On March 2, 1899, both houses of the United States Congress pass legislation creating Mount Rainier National Park, dominated by the glacier-capped, 14,411 foot mountain located in Pierce County. The park is the country's fifth national park.

Ice and Snow

Located southeast of Tacoma and Puyallup, and about 60 miles southeast of Seattle, the park measures 378 square miles, including all of Mount Rainier, the fifth-highest mountain in the lower 48 states. Until Mount Baker unofficially surpassed it in 1998-1999, the mountain held the national record for snowfall, with 1,122 inches recorded during the winter of 1971-1972. It embraces a system of 27 glaciers, one of the largest glacier systems in the world.

The English explorer Captain George Vancouver (1758-1798) named the mountain after his friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. Rainier never saw the mountain or set foot in the United States.

From Tahoma to Rainier

Civic leaders in Tacoma for a long time wanted to rename the mountain Mount Tacoma or Tahoma, the Indian name for the peak, but Seattle leaders fought for it to remain Rainier. In the 1930s, the Rainier faction won this battle.


Darrell Glover, "Mt. Rainier Park Is 100 Today," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 2, 1999, B-1; "Mount Baker Breaks Unofficial Snow Record," The Seattle Times, May 14, 1999. See also Sara Almasy Porterfield, “Mount Rainier National Park: Wilderness as a Resource,” Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History Vol. 24, No. 4 (Winter 2010-11), 20-25.

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