~ Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument ~

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is a U.S. National Monument that includes the area around Mount St. Helens in Washington. It was established on August 27, 1982 following the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. The 110,000 acre (172 square miles) National Volcanic Monument was set-aside for research, recreation, and education. Inside the Monument, the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance.

The Monument was the United States' first such monument managed by the United States Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture. 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."

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is located at the end of State Highway 504, 52 miles east of Castle Rock, Washington. Exhibits focus on the geologic history of the volcano, eyewitness accounts of the explosion, and the science of monitoring volcanic activity. A half-mile trail provides views of the lava dome, crater, pumice plain, and landslide deposit. The observatory is located by the site of volcanologist David A. Johnston's camp on the morning of May 18, 1980, and opened in 1997.

There has been movement to redesignate Mount St. Helens as a National Park to be managed under the National Park Service of the Department of Interior. The Department of Agriculture was not set up to manage National Monuments or Parks and many think they have not placed enough emphasis on maintaining this area.

Ayuh, that's Arvie back there with the band-aid on the overhang

Heading up to Mount Saint Helens



A big bridge

And a deep valley

These photos do show the base of the mountain, but it was so evercast that I didn't believe I would actually see it.

I was still 19 miles from the viewing point on Johnston Ridge

At the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center

Toothpick trees

I could almost see it

Clearing up

Go away, clouds!

I thought this might be as good as it gets for this day

There was much to photograph to show the vast destructive force of an eruption

The area within the park is being allowed to recover naturally, while the areas outside the park have been replanted by man and have mostly recovered over the thirty years since the eruption. For years there was nothing green in the valley.
The photo on the right is a detail showing the stumps and trunks of trees destroyed by the eruption.

Wildlife is returning

Beginning to clear up
The blast killed an estimated 7000 large mammals like deer, elk, and bear. Most birds and small mammals (excepting burrowing mammals like marmots) were killed in the blast, along with about 12 million chinook and coho salmon fingerlings and about 40,000 wild young salmon.
Over time, many of the wildlife populations most devastated by the eruption have returned. The mountain is host to returning populations of Roosevelt Elk, Columbia Black Tailed Deer, and Mountain Goats. Many smaller mammals such as marmots and squirrels have returned to the mountain. The changed landscape created hundreds of small ponds, which were slowly populated with insects and amphibians, and the streams are now host to populations of returning fish. Bird populations have largely recovered, nesting in the dead trees and fertilizing the nearby ground.

That bulge in the right side of the crater in the left photo is the lava dome.

The photo on the left is of a photo in the visitor center showing Mount St. Helens as it was prior to the eruption.

Within the blast zone to the north of the dome, plant recovery has been slow to take hold in the nutrient poor soil. Outside the blast zone, forests of Douglas Fir, western red-cedar and noble fir, along with red alder, maple, and cottonwood remain. Within monument boundaries, nature is being left to take its course. Over time, observers have witnessed a gradual but unmistakeable "greening" of the landscape, with young groundcover slowly taking root in the soil. Experts predict a healthy young conifer forest by mid-century, and an ecosystem similar to the pre-blast ecosystem in roughly two centuries.

All of this land was forested before the eruption

Looking along Johnston Ridge

Clearing a bit more

The above photos were taken just a minute apart

The body of water is Spirit Lake

As good as it got

Kids everywhere

Mount St. Helens on the way out
It must have been a field trip day for some Washington schools

The photo on the left was impossible on the way into the park. It had cleared considerable while I was there.

Music is "Only Time"

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