White Pass Country Historical Museum

Mt St Helens Display

MT St Helens
Ash and pumice from the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The dark piece of pumice in the photo is from an eruption of Mt Rainier.

In 1980, Mt St Helens erupted with a tremendous blast of fire and smoke that destroyed more than 230 square miles of forest.

Native American names for Mount St. Helens were “Loowit” or “Louwala-Clough”, which meant “smoking mountain”. A Gifford Pinchot National Forest “Mount St. Helens” Brochure (1980) tells the story of how Mount St. Helens came to be:

“An Indian name for the mountain, Louwala-Clough, means “smoking mountain”. According to one legend, the mountain was once a beautiful maiden, “Loowit”. When two sons of the Great Spirit “Sahale” fell in love with her, she could not choose between them. The two braves, Wyeast and Klickitat fought over her, burying villages and forests in the process. Sahale was furious. He smote the three lovers and erected a mighty mountain peak where each fell. Because Loowit was beautiful, her mountain (Mount St. Helens) was a beautiful, symmetrical cone of dazzling white. Wyeast (Mount Hood) lifts his head in pride, but Klickitat (Mount Adams) wept to see the beautiful maiden wrapped in snow, so he bends his head as he gazes on St. Helens. …”


According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Mount St. Helens began growing before the end of the Ice Age, its oldest ash deposits date to at least 40,000 years ago. Yet the visible portion of the volcano – the cone – is much younger. Geologist believe it formed over the last 2,200 years.

Mount St. Helens has had nine main eruptions prior to the 1980 eruption. Each “pulse” of eruptions lasted less than 100 years to up to 5,000 years, with long intervals of dormancy between them.

Location: Room 6

The Eruptionof Mt St Helens had a massive impact on the local area.

Age: Most of the items were created on May 18th 1980.