Oct 12, 2012

Mt St Helens - Lava Canyon

The water has been low in the PNW, even on the OP. Still, here's water to be found. One only need travel "a little higher in the drainage". One place I've really wanted to check out the past few years is Lava Canyon on Mt St Helens. Just like the name implies, it's worth the trip. When traveling to the big mountains here in WA, one is certain to find unique features that will cause immediate and sustained tranquility. Mt St Helens is a newly discovered gem for me and make no mistake, a volcanic eruption that literally blows the lid off is sure to have some sweet spots.

I first heard of Lava Canyon while perusing the waterfall enthusiast's online holy grail for sick stouts like Jordan Creek Falls a few years back. Ever since, it's been eating a hole in the back of my brain!

Lava Canyon was formed when the top 1100 feet of St Helens blew off and washed down the mountain on May 18th, 1980. It was an event locals, and pretty much anyone in the Pacific Northwest won't forget. The Muddy River flows off the south east side of Helens and when the entire mountain top washed down through, the ensuing lahar scoured the river bottom and surrounding area... clean. Straight down and through to deep basaltic bedrock formations. The high temperatures and pressure even polished the rock in places.

The St Helens lahar wasn't this violent, but here is a lahar in Japan. I've never seen water move like this or inundate an area so large, so quickly.

St Helens

a trickle in a boulder field, but then...

the Forest Service does it right

top of the canyon proper

The thought of all that debris crashing down through here is just unbelievable.

200 feet straight down

lava features in Lava Canyon

perfect clean pools

no resident trout up here

the Muddy River just keeps crashing its way downhill


when it gets too steep there are ladders

...and trails that lead to pixie hideouts

and unbelievable views

pixie cairn

There is a 12 mile loop trail which includes parts of Smith Creek and many more drops. I saved Smith Creek for another time so I could do a little more exploring elsewhere, but I'm tellin ya, St Helens is another world! If you haven't been, go get it. My pictures don't even do this place justice. Most places you can drive right into!! The woods aren't waiting. Don't you wait either. Til next time, stay safe and have a good one. Peace.

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