Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington, USA
© Don Geyer/Alam
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
We’re standing on the Boundary Trail at Johnston Ridge in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Forty years ago today, more than 44,500 hectares within Gifford Pinchot National Forest was dedicated to memorialise the deadliest and most destructive volcanic eruption in the United States. On 18 May 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted, forever changing the Washington landscape. The volcanic event started at roughly 8:30 on a Sunday morning with a 5.1 magnitude earthquake. This triggered what is known as a lateral eruption, which means the lava blast comes out of the side of the volcano, rather than the top, resulting in a massive avalanche and the destruction of about 388 square kilometres of surrounding forest.
The monument was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 to preserve the area for research, recreation and education. The land inside has been left to mostly recover naturally since the eruption. While it’s believed that Mount St. Helens will erupt again sometime within the next few centuries, that has not deterred people from hiking and climbing at the monument, which has been allowed since 1986.