Mount Saint Helens

When Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, millions of years were blasted off of earth’s geological timetable.  Features which were once assumed to require millions of years to form, formed in a matter of hours and days.  The 9 hour eruption transformed the landscape, offering science a true key to earth’s past.  Thousands of trees were washed  into Spirit Lake, creating a huge floating log mat, beneath which three feet  of bark peat has collected.  Not only was the Tuttle Valley  filled with hundreds of feet of finely layered sediment, but two years latter, in the spring of 1982, melting snow filled the crater until it’s rim was overflowed.   The resulting mud-flow carved a complex canyon system through the sediment – in just one day.

Down river from the volcano,                        the meandering river flows on the sediment laid during the eruption.

Yes, Mount St. Helens is where the present is the key to the past. 

The river now follows the path of the 1982 canyon-carving mudflow

Beneath floating logs,  3 feet of bark peat has collected.  However, the peat is decaying – not becoming coal. Peat must be buried quick and deep to create the pressure and heat needed to be converted into coal.

Some of the water-logged trees have sunk up right giving the appearance of having grown there.  Although the lake water is filled with silica, the trees are not becoming petrified.  They too needed the heat and pressure of being buried.


Canyon system carved by 1982 mud slide

Canyon System carved in one day
















Learn more fascinating facts about the 1980 eruption at