The USGS Provisional 1986 topo map of Mount Shasta recognizes seven glaciers although Rhodes (1987) suggests there are ten extant glaciers. The seven glaciers recognized by the USGS are Whitney Glacier, Bolam Glacier, Hotlum Glacier, Wintun Glacier, Watkins Glacier, Konwakiton Glacier, and Mud Creek Glacier. The other glaciers are Upper Wintun Glacier, Chicago Glacier, and Olberman Glacier (Rhodes, 1987; Biles, 1989).
Glaciers on Mount Shasta were not described in the scientific literature until Clarence King published his observations of an 1870 expedition on Mount Shasta in the American Journal of Science in 1871. The first glacier King and his companions saw was Whitney Glacier, named after Josiah Dwight Whitney. King stated, "Its entire length in view was not less than 3 miles, its width opposite our station [on the rim of Shastina] about 4,000 feet..." (King in Russell, 1885). The next day they climbed the main peak and saw three more glaciers, "the largest about 4 1/2 miles in length and 2 or 3 miles wide." King pointed out that there were also relics of glaciers on the mountain.
J. D. Whitney and William Brewer of the Whitney Survey explored the mountain in 1862, prior to King's expedition (Russell, 1885; Farquhar, 1923; Hill, 1975; Biles, 1989). Not only did they not see any glaciers, Brewer stated in an 1862 letter to George Brush, "In this climate, although immense quantities of snow fall in winter, no rain falls during the long cloudless days of summer, so there are no glaciers." The letter describes how difficult the climb was; Whitney had "his fingers frostbitten" and much of the day was cloudy.
Although not published in the scientific literature, glaciers on Mount Shasta were known about as early as 1866, prior to the scientific explorations. Following is an excerpt from an 1866 article in the Yreka Journal:
...The wonder is that no one before ourselves has ever attempted to make the ascent by this route, which winds on a comparatively easy grade around the mountain to its summit. It is very evident why the new way is so agreeably bare of drifted debris. Vast quantities of snow and ice have at different periods gathered and become packed between the two summits, until forming an immense glacier, which would in time by its great weight, break away and go sliding and plowing down the mountain, carrying with it everything movable. By this means the very ribs of the mountain have been planed and polished, and in places sharply grooved, the grooves invariably running downward and parallel with each other.
We were not far from the base of the crater's wall when the stars began to pale in the dazzling light of heaven, and soon rosy sunshine flooded the world of our vision except where the shadows of great mountains stretched away to the west; that of Shasta like a dense, black, pall lying prone across the land, its apex well defined against the western sky.
When looking from below we supposed if we could reach the crater at all, it must be by the ravine to the divide, but arriving at the base of the wall, and finding the rocks lying against it quite large and firm, we resolved to scale straight over the intervening space of probably twenty-five hundred feet to the top. This we did, and emerging upon the grand ramparts, which as jaws encircled the terrible mouth of Shasta, whose bellowings therefrom once shook the continent, we uncovered our heads in reverence and in awe of the mighty power which, though not active, manifestly exists in repose.
And greeting old Shasta with a loud cheer, "the long silent cliffs were glad to peal it back again." The crater upon the top is nearly circular in form, and about one mile in diameter, its walls in many places being about two hundred feet in height and nearly perpendicular, the inside bearing unmistakable evidence of the great heat once coming from below, in plating the exposed parts with black obsidian--glass. In the bottom there are three little lakes, or ponds, of ice having a deep green tinge, evidence of great depth. These, after the manner of scientific explorers, we modestly named Lake Ensign, Lake Sisson, and --Chauncy's pond...
The large ravine which lies between the main peak and the crater, on the northwest, holds at its head a grand and extensive glacier of snow and ice. The accumulated snows of a hundred winters from either side of the mountain are here packed, and the huge mass is now breaking, has moved, in fact, and may soon come crushing down the mountain to Shasta Valley. Where it is breaking a great number of immense fissures are visible, some of them hundreds of yards in length, and ten or twenty feet wide. Their depth we had no means of ascertaining. Looking down the mountain in this direction, Mr. Sisson called our attention to what he termed a grand natural road, which is a peculiarly well-defined smooth place of several hundred yards in width, and of uniform appearance throughout its length, at least eight miles. This is undoubtedly the track of descending glaciers that have at intervals of perhaps fifty years (I judge of the time by the appearance of the trees now growing upon this road, as compared with those on the outside, and assuming that the present glacier is about to break away--but this may be little better than conjecture) broken away from the location of the present one.
Having spent several hours viewing the wonders of the crater and glacier, we started up the main peak...
In 1882 Gilbert Thompson conducted a topographical survey (see map). They observed five major "ice streams" and pointed out that a "careful examination of some of the ice-bodies on the western flank of Mount Shasta would perhaps lead to their being classed as glaciers of secondary magnitude..." (Thompson in Russell, 1885). Thompson made an interesting statement that photos from 1870 showed there was more snow than when he made the climb in 1882.
Joseph Silas Diller worked in place of C. E. Dutton for a 1883-84 USGS survey of Mount Shasta. He made several later publications relating to Mount Shasta, among them Mount Shasta, A Typical Volcano (1895). In this monograph, he discusses five glaciers of Mount Shasta, Whitney, Bulam [sic], Hotlum, Wintun, and McCloud [Konwakiton].
While Hotlum Glacier is not famous for its mud flows, a July 12, 1928 article in the Mount Shasta Herald questioned whether Hotlum Glacier might not produce an avalanche that year. Stuhl, on returning from one of his expeditions, stated that the "old military road, over which General Canby traveled, is now impassable on account of the flow from Inconstance Creek." This creek flows from Hotlum Glacier and was "out of its banks;" while it had overflowed in past years, it never had this early according to local knowledge. The article further states that Ash Creek has muddy water each year but leaves no deposits and Mud Creek has always "been the creek to leave its bank and cause so much trouble."
Wintun Glacier is on the southeast side of Mount Shasta. Rhodes (1987) believes this glacier should be divided into 2 glaciers, Wintun Glacier and Upper Wintun Glacier, but this is not recognized by the USGS. The meltwater of Wintun Glacier flows into Ash Creek. Unlike most of the other streams on Mount Shasta, Ash Creek flows most of the year (Osterkamp, Hupp, and Blodgett, 1986). Wintun Glacier does not have a terminal moraine as mud flows from Ash Creek have formed, along with mud flows from Mud Creek, the 300 km2 Mud-Ash debris fan north of the McCloud River (Diller, 1895; Osterkamp, Hupp, and Blodgett, 1986).
Watkins Glacier is named after R. Harry Watkins, Jr., a late Siskiyou County resident who tried to have this glacier recognized for much of his lifetime. It is speculated in an issue of the Mount Shasta Herald (Heston, 1978) that even though this cirque glacier was depicted on a 1883 USGS sketch, it was not recognized as a true glacier due to the name of the creek below its base. Streams flowing from glaciers have rock flour in them, resulting in a milky appearance; the name Clear Creek suggests otherwise. In the same article, Watkins is quoted as saying, "I'm the champion of this little tiny glacier. That's what I'm interested in -- to get people to recognize it." The letter granting him this long sought-after recognition follows:
January 29, 1976
Mr. R. H. Watkins
P.O. Box 896
Mount Shasta, California 96067
Dear Mr. Watkins:
Your January 23 letter and enclosures regarding "Clear Creek" or "Lost" Glacier on Mt. Shasta is of much interest. This is a true glacier by I.H.D. definition, as are all of the perennial snowfields on the mountain which exceed 0.1 km2 in area.
As for a name for this active, and in 1959 possible advancing glacier, my thought is that Mr. Rhodes' suggestion that this glacier be named for you is a good one in view of your long outstanding interest in Mt. Shasta. I have suggested to Mr. Rhodes that your name be reserved for this feature for possible future consideration.
Please let us know whether you wish the photos you sent returned or whether they may be retained for the Data Center files.
Again our thanks for showing your photos and data. Your letter as well as other material you donate will go into the permanent files.
World Data Center-A, Glaciology
While not labeled as a glacier on a USGS map until 1986, a 1935 newspaper describes an...
While on one of his almost weekly hikes over Shasta, John Hughes of the local branch of the California experimental station, made a definite decision that there is a sixth glacier on Shasta, unmapped and unnamed, although known to exist by many who are familiar with the upper sections of the mountain.
The glacier is sometimes referred to as the Mud Creek glacier, but Konwakiton glacier is commonly known as Mud Creek glacier and as the unnamed and unmapped glacier is removed from Konwakiton it should be identified on the maps, but no maps show it.
The unnamed glacier lies over the divide from the head of Panther creek, about 1000 feet below Konwakiton, with the runoff going into the Mud Creek gorge over a waterfall of more than 100 feet. The water runs across the glacier in a stream about four feet in width. This glacier has no crevasses, which likely indicates that it rests on a smooth surface. A 50-foot ledge of ice faces the gorge. The waterfall on this glacier can be seen when coming down the mountain.
Hughes will report his information to the department of interior for study. Another thing that studies of the mountain have brought out is that Thumb Rock on the new maps is not Thumb Rock, as known to the people familiar with Shasta. The rock designated as Thumb Rock on the maps is on the same ridge, but a thousand or more feet below the real Thumb Rock. This is to be reported also. It appears that closer studies of the mountain during the past few weeks have brought to light many irregularities in names and maps. The confusing names of Inconstance creek was another instance. This was discussed at length in the Herald a few weeks ago.
There is much action in the Mud Creek gorge, with rocks falling and rolling continually. It would be almost impossible to go into the gorge any distance at the higher elevations on account of the danger.
The disagreement as to the number of glaciers which exist on Mount Shasta can be readily understood if one can envision the entire scenario. Scientific expeditions have been conducted on Mount Shasta since 1870 and have continued to the present. The climate has changed during this time, so that in some years the snowfall would cover any small glaciers that may have been in existence at that time. During times of drought, the smaller glaciers may have receded to the extent that they were no longer recognizable as glaciers, yet in wetter years their regrowth would enable them to again be considered glaciers. When is a receding glacier no longer considered a glacier? Another major point is that maps are typically not revised and reprinted each year, so that it may appear that certain glaciers aren't recognized, when, in fact, they have been.
Although Konwakiton glacier is one of the smaller glaciers on Mount Shasta, it has a large effect on the local population. Mudflows produced from Konwakiton Glacier will be discussed in the next section.
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