This field trip will provide an introduction to several fascinating features of Mount St. Helens. The trip begins with a rigorous hike of about 15 km from the Johnston Ridge Observatory (9 km north-northeast of the crater vent), across the 1980 Pumice Plain, to Windy Ridge (3.6 km northeast of the crater vent) to examine features that document the dynamics and progressive emplacement of pyroclastic flows. The next day, we examine classic tephra outcrops of the past 3,900 years and observe changes in thickness and character of these deposits as we traverse their respective lobes. We examine clasts in the deposits and discuss how the petrology and geochemistry of Mount St. Helens deposits reveal the evolution of the magmatic system through time. We also investigate the stratigraphy of the 1980 blast deposit and review the chronology of this iconic eruption as we travel through the remains of the blown-down forest. The third day is another rigorous hike, about 13 km round trip, climbing from the base of Windy Ridge (elevation 1,240 m) to the front of the Crater Glacier (elevation 1,700 m). En route we examine basaltic andesite and basalt lava flows emplaced between 1,800 and 1,700 years before present, a heterolithologic flow deposit produced as the 1980 blast and debris avalanche interacted, debris-avalanche hummocks that are stranded on the north flank and in the crater mouth, and shattered dacite lava domes that were emplaced between 3,900 and 2,600 years before present. These domes underlie the northern part of the volcano. In addition, within the crater we traverse well-preserved pyroclastic-flow deposits that were emplaced on the crater floor during the summer of 1980, and a beautiful natural section through the 1980 deposits in the upper canyon of the Loowit River.
Before plunging into the field-trip log, we provide an overview of Mount St. Helens geology, geochemistry, petrology, and volcanology as background. The volcano has been referred to as a “master teacher.” The 1980 eruption and studies both before and after 1980 played a major role in the establishment of the modern U.S. Geological Survey Volcano Hazards Program and our understanding of flank collapses, debris avalanches, cryptodomes, blasts, pyroclastic density currents, and lahars, as well as the dynamics of magma ascent and eruption.
- Digital Object Identifier: 10.3133/sir20175022D
- Source: USGS Publications Warehouse (indexId: sir20175022D)