From the glowing lava flows of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Yellowstone’s spewing geysers and bubbling paint pots, our national parks provide a window into the molten interior of our planet. Indeed, literally dozens of our national parks hold volcanic origins, and some of them have specifically been set aside to preserve them. Others, like Big Bend, Zion and the Badlands National Park, have been protected for other reasons, but still contain “significant volcanological resources,” as the National Park Service’s Vincent Santucci puts it.
USA Today asked Vincent Santucci to help us select 10 that show the range and diversity of volcano-related National Park Service areas:
The tallest mountain in the Cascade Range, Mount Rainer is an active volcano and has been designated as one of the most dangerous in the continental USA. Partly that’s because of its proximity to the heavily populated Seattle/Tacoma area, and partly because of its propensity to spawn “lahars,” or catastrophic, boulder-carrying mudflows that have in the past made their way as far as the Puget Sound. The mountain also contains the most glacial ice of any other single peak in the country outside of Alaska; glacial ice helped guide the form of the mountain, slowing, damming and deflecting lava flows into high, dramatic ridges.
The iconic stone pillar was memorialized in Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but has been a sacred worship site of the Northern plains tribes since time immemorial. There are various theories as to how it was formed; some say it’s the neck of an ancient volcano, and others say it’s an igneous extrusion, where magma welled up over time between cracks in the bedrock. The park shares several distinctions with Yellowstone: Both are volcanic parks, and both were firsts, with President Theodore Roosevelt declaring it the nation’s first national monument in 1906, while Congress designated Yellowstone the first national park in 1872.
Another volcanic wonder of the Cascade Range, Crater Lake is the caldera of an extinct…