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.