Mount St. Helens Reflections


Site name:  Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument


Program/project name:  Mount St. Helens Reflections


Brief description of program/project development and components or hopes: 

In some respects, this humanities-science program began with a 3-day field trip in 2000, culminating in Gary Snyder’s book Danger on Peaks (2004, Shoemaker Hoard).  The 25th eruption anniversary on May 18, 2005, was occasion for two activities: an anniversary public duet of poet Gary Snyder and scientist Jerry Franklin as part of the Illahee Lecture Series.  About 1500 attended the event at the Arlene Schnitzer Performing Arts Center in Portland, OR.  Later in the summer of 2005, 20 writers, scientists, a photographer, and a song writer/performer gathered for a 4-day camp out in the blast zone, culminating in a public performance at Windy Ridge for an invited and walk-on audience of about 50.  This gathering resulted in the book In the Blast Zone (Goodrich et al. (eds). 2008. Oregon State Univ. Press).  A six city book tour gave further public exposure to this work.  The 2010 30th anniversary activities began with a May 18 public conversation with Gary Snyder, Jerry Franklin, and Ursula Le Guin, who have a collective ca. 180 years of personal experience with the volcano among them.  Later in the summer of 2010 a dozen writers joined 110 scientist-type folks in a week-long field work session and campout at Tower Rock U-Fish Campground.  Just like the scientists, the writers are assembling and refining their work, which is beginning to appear in journals and on-line postings.  Many of the resulting works are still in progress, but some are posted and linked at:  These events are documented with text and photographs in the Special Events section at:

Some of the writing and art from the 2010 Mount St. Helens pulse have been shared via the on-line journal To see  these, visit

Relationship with core science, education, cultural programs at the site:

As at LTER sites, this program of arts/humanities engagement with a wild and challenging landscape is a critical part of appreciating the natural world and our place in it.  The science program at Mount St. Helens has had a powerful influence on fields of volcano ecology and disturbance ecology more generally.  The stories to emerge from this work fit well in the domain of creative writer story telling; and the experience of doing the science is itself interesting material for attention from the humanities.  The landscape is a powerful teacher for all who come to learn.  So, in these senses science, education, and cultural programs are quite thoroughly meshed.


System for sharing and archiving outcomes:

Public events in 2005 and 2010 on the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the eruption have been the most public efforts for communicating with diverse audiences.  A key feature has been being part of the Illahee Lecture Series which brings a established audience of keenly interested folks from the Portland area.  We are building the Volcano Log (playing off the Forest Log of the Andrews Forest program) and plan to have it associated with the Mount St. Helens Institute webpage for broader exposure.  And hopefully the published works will direct interest back to the volcano and Volcano Log.  In the Blast Zone is sold at the visitor centers around the volcano and we hope readings from it are used by interpreters helping the public engage with many dimensions of the Mount St. Helens landscape – you’ve got to see it to believe it, and even then it’s tough to wrap your mind around.




Funding:  US Forest Service Research


Impediments:  As with all programs like this, funding and human energy to grow this work and keep it going are the critical limitations.


Future goals:  Sustain humanities engagements at Mount St. Helens at least associated with the 5-year anniversary science pulses, but also encourage other engagements more continuously.  Build, sustain, and encourage the profile of the Volcano Log website to share creative works, including space for public contributions.  Encourage incorporation of humanities and art work in interpretive programs for the several hundred thousand Mount St. Helens visitor from throughout the world each year.


Contact person(s):  Fred Swanson, 


Date:  October 25, 2013