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National Volcanic Monument
Before May 18, 1980, the valleys and ridges around this beautiful, symmetrical mountain were teeming with life.  A dense forest of fir and hemlock stood tall and mature.  Spirit Lake, on the northeast side of the mountain, had been a favorite haunt of fishermen and sail boaters; cabins and camps encircled its secluded shoreline.  Then on that Sunday morning, a huge lateral blast leveled mature trees and sent a plume of steam and volcanic ash soaring 16 miles into the sky.  Virtually all life was destroyed over a 212 square mile area.  Volcanic ash fell as far as 930 miles away and was a serious problem from far west of Portland, Oregon to east of Yakima, Washington.

St. Helens has been the most active volcano in the Pacific Northwest for the last 4000 years (according to the USGS) and there had been plenty of warning that the volcano was getting ready for a "big one."  Travel near the mountain had been restricted, yet more than 50 died of causes related to the blast.  A lodge owner named Harry Truman, who had made his home at Spirit Lake for many years, stubbornly refused to leave.  The rusting hulk a miner's automobile remains in a viewing area beside the road to Windy Ridge northeast of the mountain. 

This event included several eruptions after the big one on May 18.  Major eruptions occurred also in June and July of 1980.  I captured this photo of the July 22nd blast from our house 60 miles Southwest of Mount St. Helens.  It's easy to remember the date of something like this when it's your birthday.

Before May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens was 9,677 feet high.  It is now only 8,364 feet high. 
On September 29, 2003, an overcast, drizzly day, we returned to the northeastern flank of Mount St. Helens.  It's been 23 years since the blast.  Wildlife is back;  Noble firs are growing.  Shrubs and wildflowers are displaying their fall colors, making even the fog beautiful.

There are still no big trees on the shores of Spirit Lake and Harry's lodge is gone.  But the lake is now larger than it was before.
The slopes pictured here (above and below) are on the opposite side of Spirit Lake from the mountain, but sustained the blasts directly.  All vegetation seen here is recovering naturally, even though the 1980 eruption may have been one of the more sterilizing blasts in the history of Mount St. Helens.
The sweeping Upper Clearwater Valley lies directly east of Mount St. Helens.  This was established as a vast forestry laboratory.  Loggers came in and salvaged the toppled trees and most of the standing snags.  Then the area was re-planted with natural species.  According to a plaque at this scene, this re-forestation, next to natural reforestation is hoped to provide data that will improve forestry management practices.
Our visit to the east side of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument ended quickly when the fog and a light rain cut visibility to about 500 feet.
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