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Helens not as a menace, but as a serene, beautiful mountain playground teeming with wildlife and available for leisure activities throughout the year. A forerunner of Spirit Lake was born about 3,500 years ago, or possibly earlier, when eruption debris formed a natural dam across the valley of the North Fork of the Toutle River.

At the base of the volcano's northern flank, Spirit Lake, with its clear, refreshing water and wooded shores, was especially popular as a recreational area for hiking, camping, fishing, swimming and boating. Helens region was shattered in the spring of 1980, however, when the volcano stirred from its long repose, shook, swelled, and exploded back to life. The most recent of the pre-1980 eruptive periods began about A. 1800 with an explosive eruption, followed by several additional minor explosions and extrusions of lava, and ended with the formation of the Goat Rocks lava dome by 1857. Helens is the youngest of the major Cascade volcanoes, in the sense that its visible cone was entirely formed during the past 2,200 years, well after the melting of the last of the Ice Age glaciers about 10,000 years ago. Helens' smooth, symmetrical slopes are little affected by erosion as compared with its older, more glacially scarred neighbors--Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in Washington, and Mount Hood in Oregon.

The local people rediscovered that they had an active volcano in their midst, and millions of people in North America were reminded that the active--and potentially dangerous--volcanoes of the United States are not restricted to Alaska and Hawaii. Helens is woven from geologic evidence gathered during studies that began with Lieutenant Charles Wilkes' U. As geologic studies progressed and the eruptive history of Mount St.

Helens became better known, scientists became increasingly concerned about possible renewed eruptions. Pecora, a former Director of the USGS, was quoted in a May 10, 1968, newspaper article in the Christian Science Monitor as being "especially worried about snow-covered Mt. Helens."On the basis of its youth and its high frequency of eruptions over the past 4,000 years, Crandell, Mullineaux, and their colleague Meyer Rubin published in February 1975 that Mount St.

Helens, as painted by Canadian artist Paul Kane following a visit to the volcano in 1847 (Photograph courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum). Helens began to grow before the last major glaciation of the Ice Age had ended about 10,000 years ago.

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The initial explosions formed a 250-foot-wide crater within the larger, preexisting snow- and ice-filled summit crater, and new fractures broke across the summit area. Helens, from a measurement site about 2 miles to the northeast (Photograph by Peter Lipman).

In contrast, the gently sloping shield volcanoes, such as those in Hawaii, typically erupt nonexplosively, producing fluid lavas that can flow great distances from the active vents.

Although Hawaiian-type eruptions may destroy property, they rarely cause death or injury.

Helens, located in southwestern Washington about 50 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon, is one of several lofty volcanic peaks that dominate the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest; the range extends from Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia, Canada, to Lassen Peak in northern California. Helens a composite volcano (or stratovolcano), a term for steepsided, often symmetrical cones constructed of alternating layers of lava flows, ash, and other volcanic debris.

Composite volcanoes tend to erupt explosively and pose considerable danger to nearby life and property.

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