Saturday, November 24, 2007

Johnston Ridge Observatory - Mt. St. Helens, Washington

The Johnston Ridge Observatory (JRO) is located at the terminus of the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Southwest Washington State. This vantage point brings visitors within five miles of the north side of the volcano and offers spectacular views of the still-steaming lava dome, crater, pumice plain and landslide deposit.

JRO is located on Johnston Ridge which was named in honor of U.S.Geological Survey (USGS) volcanologist David A. Johnston who was on duty at the USGS, Coldwater II observation post during the May 18, 1980, eruption. David Johnston was one of 57 people who lost their lives in the eruption. JRO is the third visitor center to be constructed by the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and it's completion marks the end of a 12-year $100 million capital investment program.

The one-story, 16,000 square-foot concrete and glass structure is set back into the ridge and has special, non-refective glass to blend into the surrounding blast zone terrain. The building was constructed at a cost of $8.9 million with $1.65 million of interpretive exhibits for a total cost of $10.5 million. Of this amount, $5 million was contributed by the State of Washington. The observatory will house seismic, deformation, and other monitoring equipment that will be relayed to the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver for analysis.

Johnston Ridge Observatory features:

  • 280-seat theater
  • 10,000 square-foot exhibit hall
  • terminals to access volcano info on the world wide web and video disk
  • staffed information desk
  • interpretive sales area
  • restrooms, public phones, and administrative offices
  • parking for 350 cars, 50 RV's and 20 buses
  • viewing plaza
  • trailhead access to the Boundary Trail #1 leading east and west
  • interpretive staff will offer a variety of formal talks and guided walks.
How to get there:
  • From Interstate 5 -- take Exit 49 (Highway 504 Exit)
  • Travel east on Highway 504 (Spirit Lake Memorial Highway) to end of road, approximately 50 miles. Park where appropriate. (Elevation approximately 4,300 feet.)
  • The Johnston Ridge Observatory will be open daily, including holidays, during Summer. Winter hours and schedules are to be determined. Contact the National Monument (link available at bottom of this page) if you have any questions.

-- Excerpts from: U.S. Forest Service, Johnston Ridge Observatory Fact Sheet: April, 1997.

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