Learning Center

National forests are the ultimate outdoor classroom, with natural processes and human activities interacting in all sorts of interesting ways. In this section of the web site, you can learn more about local history, find out how best to behave in the outdoors, and find resources for your own teaching or classroom.

Are you planning a field trip to Mount St. Helens?  Visit our Teacher's Corner to get started.


Mount St. Helens

On the morning of May 18, 1980, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake triggered the collapse of the summit and north flank of Mount St. Helens and formed the largest landslide in recorded history.

Gas rich magma and super-heated groundwater trapped inside the volcano were suddenly released in a powerful lateral blast. In less than three minutes, 230 square miles of forest lay flattened. The hot gas and magma melted the snow and ice that covered the volcano. The resulting floodwater mixed with the rock and debris to create concrete-like mudflows that scoured river valleys surrounding the mountain.

A plume of volcanic ash and pumice billowed out of the volcano reaching a height of 15 miles and transformed day into night across Eastern Washington. Avalanches of super-heated gas and pumice, called pyroclastic flows, swept down the flanks of the volcano. While the landslide and lateral blast were over within minutes, the eruption column, mudflows and pyroclastic flows continued throughout the day and following night.

By the following morning major eruptive activity had ceased and the landscape appeared to be a gray wasteland.

From this wasteland, new life soon emerged and trived. The last three-plus decades has offered a lot of knowledge and insight into the recovery of devistated landscapes. Learn more at http://www.mshslc.org.


Visit the Volcano!

Looking to arrange a field trip to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument? It starts here!

Forest History

Spud Hill Fire, Columbia National Forest, 1937

The origins of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest are firmly rooted in the great national conservation movement that swept this country at the beginning of the 20th century. The story of its creation involves two men who were among the foremost leaders of that movement: Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt.