Coldwater Lake, Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Washington

While many of the volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest are quiet, Mount Saint Helens decided to show the world it was still active by erupting at 8:32 AM on May 18, 1980. This was the most recent major volcanic eruption in the lower 48 states. The volcano was still very active as recently as October 2004, producing several steam and ash releases. The surrounding forests were all destroyed by pyroclastic flows of the eruption. Within a few hours, the combination of landslide and eruption had removed 1,300 feet from the top of the volcano and left a crater that is two thousand feet deep. Don't worry, the eruption and landslide only removed the forest from one side of the volcano. The other side remains intact and provides an excellent example of how the region will look after it recovers.

Coldwater Lake and the visitor's center are inside of the blast zone created by the volcanic eruption of 1980. You can still see fragments of tree trunks across the landscape. Since over twenty years have passed since the original eruption, the land is slowly recovering. Plants, insects, birds, and larger mammals are all returning to the area.

Coldwater Lake was created by the original 1980 blast as a natural dam was formed and the area flooded. There is now a large variety of wildlife found at the lake. Freshwater lakes have enormous variety of sizes. You may be looking at the enormous Lake Michigan or this small lake created 20 years ago. Coldwater has a depth of 200 feet, three miles long, and a half a mile wide. During the summer months you will find dragonflies, swallows, salamanders, frogs, and many species of microorganisms. Those microorganisms have filtered out the murky material originally found in the lake. They cleared the lake in only a few years and made it habitable to many species. Plant species that have returned after the 1980 eruption include cattails, goldeneye, and many submerged species.

Image Credit: Andrew Rader Studios

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