On 18th May 1980, Washington State experienced a massive volcanic eruption at Mt. St.Helen which devastated the surrounding area for 17 miles with 17 lives and many homes lost. We visited Mt St Helen National Volcanic Monument and visitor centre and saw a film and talk which detailed the story leading up to, during and after the eruption. The explosion leveled 230 sq miles of forest in 10 minutes, the mountain lost 1300 ft of height and the lava caused a landslide of debris that buried 14 miles of river valley to an average of 150 ft. The ash eruption rose to a height of 15 miles above the crater and lasted 9 hours. It was a fascinating place to visit and although the habitat has now recovered there was still plenty of evidence of the devastation and destruction. The volcano is still active and could erupt at any time but scientists and geologists have moved on a lot since 1980 and would now be fully aware of an eruption about to take place.
Dividing Washington and Oregon is the Columbia River George which offers impressive waterfalls, museums and hot springs with lots of hiking. We visited the Bonneville Dam which was completed in 1937 and was the first major dam along the Gorge. The visitor centre was interesting and downstairs underwater windows allow visitors to watch salmon swim by on their way upstream along fish ladders which help them to climb the river against the flow of water and through the dam itself. Somebody literally sat downstairs in the dark watching the fish through a glass screen manually counting each one and recording its species, it was surprising they didn't fall asleep it must be like counting sheep and qualify as the most mind numbingly boring job in the world!!