Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

“But when I am around strangers, I turn into a conversational Mount St. Helens. I’m dormant, dormant, quiet, quiet, old-guy loners build log cabins on the slopes of my silence and then, boom, it’s 1980. Once I erupt, they’ll be wiping my verbal ashes off their windshields as far away as North Dakota.”
-Sarah Vowell (Assassination Vacation)

Mount St. Helens is a volcano in Washington state, well known for its spectacular ash explosions and pyroclastic flows. It is an active stratovolcano located in the Cascade Mountain Range and is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, which is in the Pacific Ring of Fire, consisting of over 160 active volcanoes.

It is most famously known for its destructive 1980 eruption, where it took 57 lives, 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway. It was the most destructive volcano in the history of the United States, both in terms of its death toll and economic recovery.

The mountain is also referred to as “Louwala-Clough,” “Lawetlat’la” to the native Cowlitz people, and “Loowit” to the Klickitat people.

Pine forest destroyed by eruption of Mount St Helens | DJ Cockburn

According to Multnomah tribe legend, the Great Spirit, Sahale, had two sons, Wy’east and Pahto, who both loved a beautiful maiden named Loowit.  The two brothers battled over Loowit by burning villages, which angered the Great Spirit Sahale, so he punished Wy’east, Pahto, and Loowit.  Afterwards Sahale felt remorseful and created Mount St. Helens for Loowit, Mount Hood for Wy’east, and Mount Adams for Pahto.

An illustration of the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens | Aaron Rutten

Mount St. Helens is considered the sister mountain to its “brother,” Mount Adams, located 34 east of St. Helens. Both of these are approximately 50 miles from Mount Rainier. And Oregon’s Mt. Hood lies about 60 miles southeast of Mount St. Helens.

Mount St. Helens sits in Skamania County, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest.

Country: United States

Mountain Range: Cascades

Height: 8,363 feet / 2,549 meters

First Ascent: 1853 by Thomas J. Dryer

Fun Fact: Before its 1980 eruption, Mount St. Helens was the fifth-highest peak in the state of Washington.


Mt St Helens with snow covered in winter during sunset, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument viewpoint
Loowit Viewpoint, Mount St Helens National Park, West Part, South Cascades in Washington State | Roman Khomlyak
Harry’s Ridge Trail. Mount St Helens National Park, South Cascades in Washington State | Roman Khomlyak
Mount St Helens | JPL Designs
Aerial image taken inside Mt. Saint Helens volcano, Washington | Russ Heinl
Downed trees and wildflowers at beautiful Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in Washington State | Doug James
Mt. St. Helens | Peder Digre

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