Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
IUCN Category III (Natural Monument)
Map showing the location of Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Map showing the location of Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Location Skamania / Cowlitz / Lewis counties, Washington, USA
Nearest city Castle Rock, Washington
Coordinates 46°13′59″N 122°11′04″W / 46.2331657°N 122.1845412°W / 46.2331657; -122.1845412Coordinates: 46°13′59″N 122°11′04″W / 46.2331657°N 122.1845412°W / 46.2331657; -122.1845412[1]
Area 110,000 acres (445 km2)
Established 1982-08-26
Governing body U.S. Forest Service

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 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan following the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.[2] The 110,000 acre (445 km2) National Volcanic Monument was set-aside for research, recreation, and education. Inside the Monument, the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance.[3]

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was the United States' first such monument managed by the United States Forest Service. 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.[2]

Map of the site

Beginning in the summer of 1983, visitors have been able to drive to Windy Ridge, only 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of the crater.

Mountain climbing to the summit of the volcano has been allowed since 1986.[2]


Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake

A visitor center was completed in December 1986 at Silver Lake, about 30 miles (48 km) west of Mount St. Helens and five miles (8 km) east of Interstate Highway 5. By the end of 1989, the Center had hosted more than 1.5 million visitors.

The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake opened in 1987, and is now operated by the Washington State Park System. Exhibits include the area's culture and history, and the natural history and geology of the volcano and the eruption, including the recovery of the area's vegetation and animal life. The Center includes a theater, a gift shop and outdoor trails. A small admission fee is charged.

The Center was formerly operated by the U.S. Forest Service, and due to its location near Seaquest State Park, it is also known as Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Seaquest State Park.

Forest Learning Center

The Forest Learning Center is located inside the blast zone of Mount St. Helens on Highway 504. The center is operated as a partnership between Weyerhaeuser Company, Washington State Department of Transportation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Exhibits focus on the geology and natural history of the park and forests, including forest recovery, reforestation and conservation of forest resources.

The center is open to the public from May to October, and admission is free.

Johnston Ridge Observatory

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is located 52 miles (84 km) east of Castle Rock, Washington, at the end of Washington State Route 504. Exhibits focus on the geologic history of the volcano, eyewitness accounts of the explosion, and the science of monitoring volcanic activity. A movie is available and a bookstore. 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.

Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center

Opening in 1993 was an interpretation complex in the Coldwater Lake area. The visitor center closed permanently in November 2007. In August 2010, funding to replace the windows at the closed center topped a list of wasteful stimulus spending examples in a report released by Senators Tom Coburn and John McCain.[4]

South and East sides of Mount St. Helens

The southern and eastern sides of Mount St. Helens are accessible only by Forest Service roads. The main roads are:

  • Forest Route 25.svg Forest Service Road 25 - Monument entrance from U.S. Route 12 to Road 90.
  • Forest Service Road 26 - Road 99 to Norway Pass to Road 25.
  • Forest Service Road 81 - SR 503/Road 90 to Merrill Lake, Kalama Horse Camp, and Climber's Bivouac.
  • Forest Service Road 83 - Road 90 to Ape Cave, Ape Canyon, Lava Canyon lahar, and Smith Creek.
  • Forest Route 90.svg Forest Service Road 90 - Monument entrance from State Route 503.
  • Forest Route 99.svg Forest Service Road 99 - Road 25 to Bear Meadows, Meta Lake and Miner's Car, and Windy Ridge.

Bear Meadows

Bear Meadows is an alpine meadow and viewpoint northeast of Mt. St. Helens. It is located on Forest Service Road 99. Gary Rosenquist camped here with friends on May 17–18, 1980. He started taking his famous eruption photographs from this location. The sequence of eruption photos show give a time lapse view of the developing eruption. As the lateral blast developed, he and his friends abandoned their campsite fearing for their lives. He continued taking photos as they escaped in a car. The eruption's lateral blast narrowly missed the site as it was deflected by a ridge just west of the meadow. In an interview with KIRO-TV in 1990, a friend called that ridge "the line of death."

Windy Ridge

Windy Ridge is the closest view point accessible to the general public. Beginning in the summer of 1983, visitors have been able to drive to Windy Ridge, on Forest Service Road 99, only 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of the crater. From this vantage point overlooking Spirit Lake, people see firsthand not only the evidence of a volcano's destruction, but also the remarkable, gradual (but faster than originally predicted) recovery of the land as revegetation proceeds and wildlife returns.


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