Kat Dierickx | 05.18.2015

It was 35 years ago today that Mount St. Helens exploded in what is noted as one of the most devastating volcanic eruptions in U.S. history. On May 18, 1980, an early morning earthquake located about a mile below the volcano and measuring 5.1 on the Richter Scale caused the entire north face of the mountain to collapse. This sent a massive rock and ice avalanche down the mountain, barreling into Spirit Lake and 14 miles down the Toutle River. The avalanche relieved pressure on the heated groundwater and cleared the way for a lateral blast that spewed debris across 150 square miles of forest and sent a column of ash 15 miles into the air. 

In 1982 the 110,000-acre area was protected as the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, and recovery has come a long way since the landscape and ecosystem were devastated that May morning in 1980.

There are a number of ways to experience Mount St. Helens, but it's certainly worth a stop at the Johnston Ridge Observatory to learn more about the volcano's history and to see how nature has worked to reclaim the once dead lands.


Exploring the blast zone on the north side of the mountain is one of my favorite places to go for a day hike or backpack into the Mt Margaret wilderness. Elk herds, so many small frogs on the trail, incredible views, and very few people on the trails. I especially like entering by Coldwater Lake and making the hike up to Mt Margaret or toward Boundary Ridge.
Kat, this is awesome! It’s been fun watching the volcano evolve over time, particularly since I was born in 1980. It’s amazing how barren much of the north side still is. Great article and historic pics.
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