Thirty years ago today, Washington state’s Mount St. Helens had its catastrophic eruption. It was the most destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed, and 250 homes, 47 bridges, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. The eruption spewed ash for hundreds of miles and caused a massive debris avalanche, reducing the elevation of the mountain’s summit some 3,000 feet from its prior height of nearly 10,000 ft. The resulting crater, dust covered surface, and barren fir trees made for an eerie lunar like landscape.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. Congress established the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Following the 1980 eruption, the area was left to gradually return to its natural state. When you consider this area has been a center for volcanic activity for 37,000 years – it’s worth a visit. Many trails, viewpoints, information stations, campgrounds, and picnic areas have been established to accommodate the increasing number of visitors each year. Check out Windy Ridge or the monument’s visitor’s center at Silver Lake for more info on where to photograph.

P.S. A few days after I wrote this, Les Line, famed Audubon magazine editor and one of the fathers of environmental journalism, passed away. You can read more here: