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Mud and Rock Slide Draws Attention to Mount Shasta Glaciers


National Weather Service officials issued a cautionary flash-flood watch on Sept. 20, 2014, after volcanic mud, rock and water cascaded down Northern California’s Mount Shasta, possibly when a piece of a glacier broke off.

The incident, blamed on drought conditions and sun exposure, drew attention to the 14,179-foot volcanic mountain’s seven glaciers.

They are named Whitney, Bolam, Hotlum, Wintun, Watkins, Konwakiton, and Mud Creek.  Hotlum is the largest glacier in area and volume, while Whitney is the longest glacier in California. The Mud Creek Glacier was not officially recognized until 1986.

The earliest journals of explorers and settlers did not mention glaciers. The first published recognition was an 1866 article in the Yreka Journal that reported “a grand and extensive glacier of snow and ice.”

Reporting on an 1870 expedition, Clarence King described in the American Journal of Science a glacier “not less than three miles long” and 4,000 feet wide. The explorers later identified three more glaciers.

A topographical survey in 1882 observed five major “ice streams” believed to be glaciers, and in 1883-84 a U.S. Geological Survey recognized five glaciers, several of them not officially named for many years.

Source: Glacial History: Existing Glaciers. College of the Siskiyous, 2001. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. .

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.