Anthropogenic controls connected to climate change and land use practices have significant impacts on water quality conditions in fluvial systems. The ramifications associated with human access on the water quality of streams in Mount Rainier National Park are unclear. This study investigated the viability of a potential environmental threat connected to salt accumulation in the Nisqually River due to snow dumping in the summer of 2015, and conducted preliminary investigations into the water quality of the Nisqually River, relative to three separate land use regimes, from 1985-1995 using a previously unanalyzed NPS dataset. While salinity accumulation proved insignificant to water quality in years following winters with low precipitation, water quality anomalies that occurred in parameters tested peripherally to salinity prompted additional analysis and investigation that suggests the occurrence of a small scale glacial outburst event at the end of June 2015. Analysis indicates that human access had no appreciable impact on the Nisqually River during the time period; however, comparisons of nutrient concentrations between land use regimes demonstrate the capacity for natural sources in low impact environments to consistently exceed exports from anthropogenic sources in areas of high impact. The discovery of glacial outburst activity, in conjunction with the current state of the Nisqually Glacier, suggests the possibility of imminent, large-scale jökulhaup activity and associated research opportunities. The findings of the long term study diverge from conventional, accepted theories and imply the need for a cautious approach to established notions.


Judge, Shelley




Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Fresh Water Studies | Hydrology | Water Resource Management

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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