Washington (2,550 m) – Most Active Volcano in the United States
Mount St. Helens is, along with Mount Rainier, the most famous mountain in the Cascades. Also a stratavolcano, Mount St. Helens is historically less active than Rainier, but erupted more recently. On May 18, 1980, it exploded in what was one of the largest natural catastrophes in United States history. Much of the mountain was destroyed at this time. However, St. Helens was well documented both before and after the eruption, it has since become a scientific treasure trove for geologists.
Like Rainier, Mount St. Helens has been known to Native Tribes since prehistoric times and was considered a sacred place. Legend has it that the maiden Loowit was transformed into the mountain by the Gods out of punishment for the destructive war caused by rival suitors. The area was first explored by Europeans in 1792, and visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805.
More than thirty years after the 1980 eruption, the ecology around Mount St. Helens is recovering at a brisk pace. New forests are growing and the animals have returned, along with many visitors who come to witness this ongoing rebirth. Only fifty miles north of Portland and a hundred miles south of Seattle, Mount St. Helens is both accessible and isolated thanks to its distance from major roads. The mountain is also almost completely surrounded by state parks and national forests.