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Mount St. Helens Volcano, Washington

Mount St. Helens Volcano

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Plumes of steam, gas, and ash often occured at Mount St. Helens in the early 1980s. On clear days they could be seen from Portland, Oregon, 50 miles (81 kilometers) to the south. The plume photographed here rose nearly 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) above the volcano's rim. The view is from Harrys Ridge, five miles (8 kilometers) north of the mountain.
USGS Photograph taken on May 19, 1982, by Lyn Topinka.
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Compiled From: 1 Smithsonian Institution - Global Volcanism Program Website, 1998, 2 Wright and Pierson, 1992, Living With Volcanoes, The U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program: USGS Circular 1073, and 3 Foxworthy and Hill, 1982, Volcanic Eruptions of 1980 at Mount St. Helens, The First 100 Days: USGS Professional Paper 1249
Mount St. Helens
Location: Washington
Latitude: 46.20 N
Longitude: 122.18 W
Height: 2,549 Meters (8,364 feet (9,677 feet before May 18, 1980))
Type: Stratovolcano
Number of eruptions in past 200 years: 2-3 2
Latest Eruptions: Between 1600 and 1700; about 1800-1802; 1831; 1835; 1842-44(?); about 1847-1854; 1857; 1980-? 3.
Present thermal activity: Strong steaming
Remarks: Continuous intermittent volcanic activity since 1980 2 ... Occasional eruptions of steam and ash; occasional pyroclastic flows; intermittent extrusion of dome-forming 3.

From: Foxworthy and Hill, 1982, Volcanic Eruptions of 1980 at Mount St. Helens, The First 100 Days: USGS Professional Paper 1249
Mount St. Helens was known as "the Fuji of America" because its symmetrical beauty was similar to that of the famous Japanese volcano. The graceful cone top, whose glistening cap of perennial snow and ice dazzled the viewer, is now largely gone. On May 18, 1980, the missing mountaintop was transformed in a few hours into the extensive volcanic ash that blanketed much of the Northwestern United States and into various other deposits closer to the mountain.

Even before its recent loss of height, Mount St. Helens was not one of the highest peaks in the Cascade Range. Its summit altitude of 9,677 feet made it only the fifth highest peak in Washington. It stood out handsomely, however, from surrounding hills because it rose thousands of feet above them and had a perennial cover of ice and snow. The peak rose more than 5,000 feet above its base, where the lower flanks merge with adjacent ridges. The mountain is about 6 miles across at its base, which is at an altitude of about 4,400 feet on the northeastern side and about 4,000 feet elsewhere. At the pre-eruption timberline (upper limit of trees), the width of the cone was about 4 miles.

Mount St. Helens is 34 miles almost due west of Mount Adams, which is in the eastern part of the Cascade Range. These "sister and brother" volcanic mountains are each about 50 miles from Mount Rainier, the giant of Cascade volcanoes. Mount Hood, the nearest major volcanic peak in Oregon, is about 60 miles southeast of Mount St. Helens.

Mount St. Helens was named for British diplomat Alleyne Fitzherbert (1753-1839), whose title was Baron St. Helens. The mountain was named by Commander George Vancouver and the officers of H.M.S.Discovery while they were surveying the northern Pacific coast from 1792 to 1794.

Mount St. Helens was recognized as a volcano at least as early as 1835; the first geologist apparently viewed the volcano 6 years later. James Dwight Dana of Yale University, while sailing with the Charles Wilkes U.S.Exploring Expedition, saw the peak (then quiescent) from off the mouth of the Columbia River in 1841. Another member of the expedition later described "cellular basaltic lavas" at the mountain's base.

Although Mount St. Helens is in Skamania County, the best access routes to the mountain run through Cowlitz County on the west. State Route 504, ... connects with the heavily traveled Interstate Highway 5, about 34 miles to the west. That major north-south highway skirts the low-lying cities of Castle Rock, Longview, and Kelso along the Cowlitz River and passes through Vancouver, Washington - Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area less than 50 miles to the southwest. The community nearest the volcano is Cougar, which is in the Lewis River valley about 11 miles south-southwest of the peak. Guifford Pinchot National Forest surrounds Mount St. Helens, but some land ... are Washington State lands or are privately owned. ...

Mount St. Helens, like most other Cascade volcanoes, is a great cone of rubble consisting of lava rock interlayered with pyroclastic and other deposits. Volcanic cones of this internal structure are called composite cones or stratovolcanoes. Mount St. Helens includes layers of basalt and andesite through which several domes of dacite lava have erupted. The largest of the dacite domes formed the previous summit; another formed Goat Rocks on the northern flank. ...

Northwest Legends

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Gifford Pinchot National Forest "Mount St. Helens" Broshure, 1980: Government Printing Office GPO 1980 699-331
Northwest Indians told early explorers about the firey Mount St. Helens. In fact, an Indian name for the mountain, Louwala-Clough, means "smoking mountain". According to one legend, the mountain was once a beautiful maiden, "Loowit". When two sons of the Great Spirit "Sahale" fell in love with her, she could not choose between them. The two braves, Wyeast and Klickitat fought over her, burying villages and forests in the process. Sahale was furious. He smote the three lovers and erected a mighty mountain peak where each fell. Because Loowit was beautiful, her mountain (Mount St. Helens) was a beautiful, symmetrical cone of dazzling white. Wyeast (Mount Hood) lifts his head in pride, but Klickitat (Mount Adams) wept to see the beautiful maiden wrapped in snow, so he bends his head as he gazes on St. Helens.

From: Scott,, 1997, Geologic History of Mount Hood Volcano, Oregon -- A Field-Trip Guidebook: USGS Open-File Report 97-263
Native American legends abound with descriptions of the brothers Wy'east (Hood) and Pahto (Adams) battling for the fair La-wa-la-clough (St. Helens). Behaviors attributed to Wy'east include hurtling of hot rocks from gaping holes, sending forth streams of liquid fire, loss of formerly high summits, and choking of valleys with rocks. These are fair descriptions of Mount Hood's reconstructed activity over the past two millennia.

From: Pringle, 1993, Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Vicinity: Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Earth Resources Information Circular 88
Native cultures in the Pacific Northwest, such as the Salish and Klickitat Indians, called Mount St. Helens Loo-Wit Lat-kla or Louwala-Clough (fire mountain or smoking mountain). In their legends, a female spirit (Mount St. Helens) tried to make peace between two sons (Mounts Adams and Hood) of the Great Spirit who fought over her, throwing fiery rocks at each other and causing earthquakes. The warring of the sons destroyed the Bridge of the Gods that once crossed the Columbia River. These legends are undoubtedly referring to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that both frightened and awed the area's early inhabitants.

Baron St. Helens

From: Foxworthy and Hill, 1982, Volcanic Eruptions of 1980 at Mount St. Helens, The First 100 Days: USGS Professional Paper 1249
Mount St. Helens was named for British diplomat Alleyne Fitzherbert (1753-1839), whose title was Baron St. Helens. The mountain was named by Commander George Vancouver and the officers of H.M.S.Discovery while they were surveying the northern Pacific coast from 1792 to 1794.

Early Documentation

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Before the devastating May 18, 1980 eruption, Mount St. Helens was considered to be one of the most beautiful and most frequently-climbed peaks in the Cascade Range. Spirit Lake was a vacation area offering hiking, camping, boating, and fishing.
USFS Photograph taken before May 18, 1980, by Jim Nieland, U.S. Forest Service, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
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From: Pringle, 1993, Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Vicinity: Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Earth Resources Information Circular 88
The first documented observation of Mount St. Helens by Europeans was by George Vancouver on May 19, 1792, as he was charting the inlets of Puget Sound at Point Lawton, near present-day Seattle. Vancouver did not name the mountain until October 20, 1792, when it came into view as his ship passed the mouth of the Columbia River.

A few years later, Mount St. Helens experienced a major eruption. Explorers, traders, missionaries, and ethnologists heard reports of the event from various peoples, including the Sanpoil Indians of eastern Washington and a Spokane chief who told of the effects of ash fallout. Later studies determined that the eruption occurred in 1800.

The Lewis and Clark expedition sighted the mountain from the Columbia River in 1805 and 1806 but reported no eruptive events or evidence of recent volcanism. However, their graphic descriptions of the quicksand and channel conditions at the mouth of the Sandy River near Portland, Oregon, suggest that Mount Hood had erupted within a couple decades prior to their arrival.

Meredith Gairdner, a physician at Fort Vancouver, wrote of darkness and haze during possible eruptive activity at Mount St. Helens in 1831 and 1835. He reported seeing what he called lava flows, although it is more likely he would have seen mudflows or perhaps small pyroclastic flows of incandescent rocks.

On November 22, 1842, Reverend Josiah Parrish, while in Champoeg, Oregon, (about 80 miles or 130 kilometers south-southwest of the volcano), witnessed Mount St. Helens in eruption. Ash fallout from this event evidently reached The Dalles, Oregon (48 miles or 80 kilometers southeast of the volcano). Missionaries at The Dalles corroborated Parrish's account. Captain J.C. Fremont recounts the report of a clergyman named Brewer, who gave him a sample of ash a year later (Wilkes, 1845):

   "On the 23rd day of the preceding November, St. Helens
   had scattered its ashes, like a light fall of snow, over
   the Dalles of the Columbia."

Other accounts of the same ashfall note that it was "like fine sand", its color "appeared like ashes", and the odor was "that of sulphur" (Majors, 1980).

Contemporary sketches and paintings by Paul Kane suggest the mountain was probably erupting at a point halfway down the north slope before or during 1847. The vent was apparently the Goat Rocks dome, which was removed by the 1980 eruption. On the basis of these and other observations, scientists think eruptive activity may have continued intermittently until 1857.

Small eruptions were reported in 1898, 1903, and 1921, but these events were not independently confirmed, nor have their deposits been identified. Judging by the nature of the post-May 18, 1980, activity at Mount St. Helens, it is likely that these events were steam emissions, small explosions, or large rockfalls.

From: Tilling, Topinka, and Swanson, 1990, Eruptions of Mount St. Helens: Past, Present, and Future: USGS Special Interest Publication
Some Indians of the Pacific Northwest variously called Mount St. Helens "Louwala-Clough," or "smoking mountain." The modern name, Mount St. Helens, was given to the volcanic peak in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver of the British Royal Navy, a seafarer and explorer. He named it in honor of a fellow countryman, Alleyne Fitzherbert, who held the title Baron St. Helens and who was at the time the British Ambassador to Spain. Vancouver also named three other volcanoes in the Cascades- Mounts Baker, Hood, and Rainier-for British naval officers.

The local Indians and early settlers in the then sparsely populated region witnessed the occasional violent outbursts of Mount St. Helens. The volcano was particularly restless in the mid-19th century, when it was intermittently active for at least a 26-year span from 1831 to 1857. Some scientists suspect that Mount St. Helens also was active sporadically during the three decades before 1831, including a major explosive eruption in 1800. Although minor steam explosions may have occurred in 1898, 1903, and 1921, the mountain gave little or no evidence of being a volcanic hazard for more than a century after 1857. Consequently, the majority of 20th-century residents and visitors thought of Mount St. Helens not as a menace, but as a serene, beautiful mountain playground teeming with wildlife and available for leisure activities throughout the year. At the base of the volcano's northern flank, Spirit Lake, with its clear, refreshing water and wooded shores, was especially popular as a recreational area for hiking, camping, fishing, swimming and boating.

From: Tilling, Topinka, and Swanson, 1990, Eruptions of Mount St. Helens: Past, Present, and Future: USGS Special Interest Publication
Ancestral Mount St. Helens began to grow before the last major glaciation of the Ice Age had ended about 10,000 years ago. The oldest ash deposits were erupted at least 40,000 years ago onto an eroded surface of still older volcanic and sedimentary rocks. Intermittent volcanism continued after the glaciers disappeared, and nine main pulses of pre-1980 volcanic activity have been recognized. These periods lasted from about 5,000 years to less than 100 years each and were separated by dormant intervals of about 15,000 years to only 200 years. A forerunner of Spirit Lake was born about 3,500 years ago, or possibly earlier, when eruption debris formed a natural dam across the valley of the North Fork of the Toutle River. The most recent of the pre-1980 eruptive periods began about A.D. 1800 with an explosive eruption, followed by several additional minor explosions and extrusions of lava, and ended with the formation of the Goat Rocks lava dome by 1857.

First Ascent

The summit of Mount St. Helens was first reached on August 26, 1853. An account of the climb was published in The Oregonian on September 3, 1853, and repeated in The Columbian on September 24, 1853.
[The Columbian, September 24, 1853]

Hydrologic Setting

From: Iverson and Martinson (eds.), 1986, Mount St. Helens: American Geomorphological Field Group, Field Trip Guidebook and Abstracts, 1986 Conference September 3-6, Cispus Center, Washington.
Mount St. Helens is a young volcano that developed over the last 40,000 years within a highly dissected terrain of Tertiary volcanic and metavolcanic rocks. Major valleys surrounding the volcano were extensively glaciated during Pleistocene glacial advances, but mass wasting, fluvial, and other erosion processes have carved complex landforms that are not dominated by the signature of any single process.

Average annual precipitation ranges from 1,140 millimeters (45 inches) near the Columbia River to more than 3,200 millimeters (125 inches) on the upper slopes of the volcano. About 75 percent of annual precipitation falls between October and March, forming a persistent snow pack above 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). Storms are typically of long duration (days) and moderate intensity with 20 millimeters per hour (3/4 inch per hour) occurring not more than once in 10 years. Most major floods result from prolonged rainfall or from warm rain on wet snow.

The pre-eruption landscape was dominated by dense coniferous forests and clear streams and lakes. Forests below about 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) elevation were dominated by Douglas fir and western hemlock; at higher elevation true firs and mountain hemlock were dominant. Clearcuts up to about 30 years in age were scattered throughout the area, especially on private lands northwest of the volcano. Streams and lakes were cold and contained low levels of nutrients and organisms. Productive resident and anadromous fisheries made these fast-flowing streams and clear lakes popular recreational areas.

From: Foxworthy and Hill, 1982, Volcanic Eruptions of 1980 at Mount St. Helens, The First 100 Days: USGS Professional Paper 1249
Streams that head on the volcano enter three main river systems -- the Toutle River on the north and north-west, the Kalama River on the west, and the Lewis River on the south and east. The streams are fed by abundant rain and snow that dump an average of about 140 inches of water on Mount St. Helens a year, according to National Weather Service data. The Lewis River is impounded by three dams for hydropower generation. The southern and eastern sides of the volcano drain into an upstream impoundment, the Swift Reservoir, which is directly south of the volcano.

Water-related recreation has been one of the major activities in the area. All three reservoirs on the Lewis River have been used extensively for recreation, as was Spirit Lake before 1980. Before the eruption, Spirit Lake was impounded in the North Fork Toutle River valley by a natural dam formed chiefly of deposits from one or more ancient mudflows. The principle resource of the region is timber, and many areas near the volcano had been logged recently and were still being logged at the beginning of the 1980 eruptive activity.

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Eruptive History

From: Wolfe and Pierson, 1995, Volcanic-Hazard Zonation for Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1995: USGS Open-File Report 95-497

Mount St. Helens remains a potentially active and dangerous volcano, even though it is now (1995) quiescent. In the last 515 years, it is known to have produced 4 major explosive eruptions (each with at least 1 cubic kilometer of eruption deposits) and dozens of lesser eruptions. Two of the major eruptions were separated by only 2 years. One of those, in 1480 A.D., was about 5 times larger than the May 18, 1980 eruption, and even larger eruptions are known to have occurred during Mount St. Helens' brief but very active 50,000-year lifetime. Following the most recent major eruption, on May 18, 1980, there were 5 smaller explosive eruptions over a period of 5 months. Thereafter, a series of 16 dome-building eruptions through October 1986 constructed the new, 270-meter- (880-feet) high, lava dome in the crater formed by the May 18, 1980 eruption.

From: Swanson, Cameron, Evarts, Pringle, and Vance, 1989, IGC Field Trip T106: Cenozoic Volcanism in the Cascade Range and Columbia Plateau, Southern Washington and Northernmost Oregon: American Geophysical Union Field Trip Guidebook T106.
Mount St. Helens is young. Its oldest known deposits were erupted about 50-40 thousand years ago, and the cone that partly collapsed in 1980 is only 2,200 years old. Since its birth it has produced more than 60 tephra layers (Mullineaux, 1986), several tens of volcanically-induced debris flows (at least six of which entered the Columbia River 100 kilometers downstream (Scott, 1988)), and the equivalent of 60 cubic kilometers of dacitic lava (Smith, 1987). It has been the most active volcano in the Cascades during the Holocene, and for that reason its eruption in 1980 came as no surprise. The volcano has been studied intensively, and its eruptive history is know with greater clarity than that of any other Cascade volcano.

Crandell (1987) divides the history of the volcano into "four extended stages of intermittent activity, each lasting two thousand years or longer. The volcano is now in such a stage that began about 4,000 radiocarbon years ago". The stages are separated by dormant intervals of thousands of years. Each stage contains eruptive periods with durations of decades to centuries; those periods for the current stage are named, but those for past stages are not. Many carbon-14 and dendrochronologic ages (Crandell,, 1981; Mullineaux, 1986; Yamaguchi, 1983, 1985) provide a well-constrained context within which to interpret the volcanic history.

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May 18, 1980

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For more than nine hours a vigorous plume of ash erupted, eventually reaching 12 to 15 miles (20-25 kilometers) above sea level. The plume moved eastward at an average speed of 60 miles per hour (95 kilometers/hour), with ash reaching Idaho by noon. By early May 19, the devastating eruption was over. Shown here is a close-up view of the May 18 ash plume.
USGS Photograph taken on May 18, 1980, by Donald A. Swanson
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From: Foxworthy and Hill, 1982, Volcanic Eruptions of 1980 at Mount St. Helens, The First 100 Days: USGS Professional Paper 1249
On May 18, 1980, after nearly 2 months of local earthquakes and steam eruptions, picturesque Mount St. Helens, ... suddenly began a major explosive eruption directed first northward and then upward. The lateral blast, which lasted only the first few minutes of a 9-hour continuous eruption, devastated more htan 150 square miles of forest and recreation area, killed countless animals, and left about 60 persons dead or missing. The 9-hour eruption, the huge debris avalanche that immediatedly preceded it, and intermittent eruptions during the following 3 days removed about 4 billion cubic yards (0.7 cubic mile) of new magmatic material and of the upper and northern parts of the mountain, including about 170 million cubic yards (0.03 cubic mile) of glacial snow and ice. The eruption caused pyroclastic flows and many mudflows, the largest of which produced deposits so extensive and voluminous that they reached and blocked the shipping channel of the Columbia River about 70 river miles from the volcano. The May 18 eruption blew volcanic ash, consisting of pulverized old rock from the mountain's core as well as solidified new lava, more than 15 miles into the air. Winds carried the ash generally eastward across the United States and, in trace amounts, around the world. The ash, which fell in troublesome amounts as far east as western Montana, severely disrupted travel, caused widespread economic loss, and resulted in other problems that persisted ...

From: Brantley, 1994, Volcanoes of the United States: USGS General Interest Publication, online version 1.1
Mount St. Helens, Washington: The catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980, was preceded by 2 months of intense activity that included more than 10,000 earthquakes, hundreds of small phreatic (steam-blast) explosions, and the outward growth of the volcano's entire north flank by more than 80 meters. A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck beneath the volcano at 08:32 on May 18, setting in motion the devastating eruption.

Within seconds of the earthquake, the volcano's bulging north flank slid away in the largest landslide in recorded history, triggering a destructive, lethal lateral blast of hot gas, steam, and rock debris that swept across the landscape as fast as 1,100 kilometers per hour. Temperatures within the blast reached as high as 300 degrees Celsius. Snow and ice on the volcano melted, forming torrents of water and rock debris that swept down river valleys leading from the volcano. Within minutes, a massive plume of ash thrust 19 kilometers into the sky, where the prevailing wind carried about 540 million tons of ash across 57,000 square kilometers of the Western United States.

The well-documented landslide at Mount St. Helens has helped geologists to recognize more than 200 similar deposits at other volcanoes in the world, including several other Cascade peaks. Geologists now realize that large landslides from volcanoes are far more common than previously thought--seventeen such volcanic landslides have occurred worldwide in the past 400 years. Consequently, when scientists evaluate the types of volcanic activity that may endanger people, giant landslides are now included, in addition to other types of volcanic activity such as lava flows, pyroclastic flows, lahars, and falling ash.

Following the 1980 explosive eruption, more than a dozen extrusions of thick, pasty lava built a mound-shaped lava dome in the new crater. The dome is about 1,100 meters in diameter and 250 meters tall.

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Lava Dome

From: Brantley and Myers, 2000, Mount St. Helens -- From the 1980 Eruption to 2000: USGS Fact Sheet FS036-00
Mount St. Helens Lava Dome
Elevation of top of dome: 7,155 feet
Height: 876 feet above 1980 crater floor
Diameter: About 3,500 feet
Volume: 97 million cubic yards

From: Tilling, Topinka, and Swanson, 1990, Eruptions of Mount St. Helens: Past, Present, and Future: USGS General Interest Publication
The dome at Mount St. Helens is termed a composite dome by scientists, because it represents the net result of many eruptive events, not just one event. The dome-building process may be pictured as the periodic squeezing of an upward-pointing tube of toothpaste or caulking compound. The process is dynamic, involving the upward movement of new material, cracking and pushing aside of old material, sloughing of material from steep surfaces of the dome, and occasional, small but violent explosions that blast out pieces of the dome.

At the start of 1990, the composite dome was about 3,480 feet by 2,820 feet in diameter and rose about 1,150 feet above the low point on the adjacent crater floor. It has a volume of about 97 million cubic yards, less than 3 percent of the volume of the volcano (about 3.5 billion cubic yards) removed during the landslide and lateral blast on May 18, 1980. If the dome resumes growth at its average rate of the 1980s (about 17 million cubic yards per year), it would take nearly a century to fill in the summit crater and more than 200 years to rebuild Mount St. Helens to its pre-1980 size.

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Volcano and Hydrologic Monitoring

From: Iwatsubo,, 1988, Measurements of slope distances and zenith angles at Newberry and South Sister volcanoes, Oregon, 1985-1986: USGS Open-File Report 88-377, 51p.
Between 1980 and 1984, the U.S. Geological Survey's David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO) established baseline geodetic networks at Mount Baker, Mount Rainer, and Mount St. Helens in Washington, Mount Hood and Crater Lake in Oregon, and Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak in California. To this list of potentially active volcanoes, CVO extended its monitoring program in 1985 to include Newberry and South Sister volcanoes in central Oregon. The Newberry and South Sister networks were re-measured in 1986 and will be measured periodically in future years. Improvements since 1984 in the recording of endpoint and flightline temperatures resulted in better overall data than obtained previously. The improvements included: calibration of all the sensors and precision thermistors, installation of a new recording system for flightline data, and recording of endpoint temperatures 6 meters above ground level. The data collected in 1985 and 1986 indicate little or no apparent deformation at either volcano between surveys.

From: University of Washington's Geophysics Program Website, 2001
In addition to locating regional earthquakes, the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network (PNSN), in cooperation with the Cascades Volcano Observatory, is also responsible for monitoring seismic activity at volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest. The PNSN currently operates seismometers on or near Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, Mount Baker, Three Sisters, and Crater Lake.

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Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

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Mount St. Helens and the devastated area is now within the 110,000-acre Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, under jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service. Visitor centers, interpretive areas, and trails are being established as thousands of tourists, students, and scientists visit the monument daily. Mount St. Helens is once again considered to be one of the most beautiful and interesting of the Cascade volcanic peaks.
USGS Photograph taken on May 19, 1982, by Lyn Topinka.
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From: Tilling, Topinka, and Swanson, 1990, Eruptions of Mount St. Helens: Past, Present, and Future, USGS Special Interest Publication
Despite the troubled economy in early 1980s, tens of thousands of visitors flocked to the area surrounding Mount St. Helens to marvel at the effects of the eruption. On August 27, 1982, President Reagan signed into law a measure setting aside 110,000 acres around the volcano as the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the nation's first such monument managed by the USFS. At dedication ceremonies on May 18, 1983, Max Peterson, head of the USFS, said,"we can take pride in having preserved the unique episode of natural history for future generations." Since then, many trails, viewpoints, information stations, campgrounds, and picnic areas have been established to accommodate the increasing number of visitors each year.

Beginning in the summer of 1983, visitors have been able to drive to Windy Ridge, only 4 miles northeast of the crater. From this spectacular vantage point overlooking Spirit Lake, people see firsthand not only the awesome evidence of a volcano's destruction, but also the remarkable, gradual recovery of the land as revegetation proceeds and wildlife returns. A majestic Visitor Center was completed in December 1986 at Silver Lake, about 30 miles west of Mount St. Helens and five miles east of Interstate Highway 5. By the end of 1989, the Center had hosted more than 1.5 million visitors. Opening in 1993 was an interpretation complex in the Coldwater Lake area, and in 1997 an interpretation complex in the Johnston area, from which visitors can view the inside of the crater and its dome from the site of David Johnston's camp on the morning of May 18, 1980. Mountain climbing to the summit of the volcano has been allowed since 1986.

The National Volcanic Monument preserves some of the best examples and sites affected by volcanic events for scientific studies, education, and recreation. Intensive monitoring of the volcano is now all the more important to ensure the safety of the scientists and the monument's visitors.

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10/07/08, Lyn Topinka