Devastated terrain and logging equipment above Coldwater Lake in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument that was destroyed by the 1980 eruption.
When Mt. St. Helens erupted catastrophically on the morning of 18 May, 1980, it devastated nearly 625 square kilometers of forested landscape mostly to the north of the peak. All of the forest in the landscape visible in the panorama was completely destroyed. The eruption was triggered by a 2.8-cubic-kilometer landslide that decapitated the peak and filled the upper Toutle valley with a hummocky debris avalanche deposit up to 600 ft. (180m) thick. Coldwater Lake formed after this deposit dammed the mouth of Coldwater Creek.
At the time of the eruption, the upper slopes of Coldwater canyon were also being actively logged. Visible to the left of Mt. St. Helens crater, about 6.5 miles in the background, is a yarder, which is a logging machine consisting of heavy-duty winches and a tall boom that supports an aerial cable system used to haul cut logs up the hillside to a landing where they are gathered before transport to a mill.
I shot this panorama on the tangled remains of logs that were stored on the landing before the eruption. If you look carefully you might also spot the bulldozer farther up on the ridge next to a young tree; on a bench below is a support truck; and just below the crest you might find the rear wheels of an overturned logging truck. Hidden behind the logs are the mangled remains of the yarder boom.
On public lands, which are being allowed to recover naturally from the eruption, fast-growing alders are one of the first trees to recolonize the landscape, especially on the sheltered slopes above the lake. Conifers have been slower regaining a foothold in this harsh landscape.
To the west, across Coldwater Lake, the patches of green mark private lands that were replanted with conifers after the eruption. Within the last year, some of these trees were already being logged.
See the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
and Cascades Volcano Observatory
web sites for information about Mt. St. Helens.