Loowit (Mount St. Helens)

Located 50 miles northeast of Portland, OR, this mountain has an active past.

The lore of this mountain has long been tied to her many eruptions over time.  Historically, Mount St. Helens is one of the most active volcanoes in the Cascade range, though still considered dormant by most standards.


Native Americans in the region experienced several of the volcanoes early eruptions, thus coining a name which meant "smoking" or "fire" mountain.  The origin of the word "Loowit" likely comes from longer names given to the mountain by native American tribes.  The Puyallup tribes called the mountain "Loowitlatkla," meaning literally "Lady of Fire," the Klickitats called the mountain "Louwala-Clough," and the Cowlitz tribes called it "Lavelatla," which means "smoking mountain." 


Mount St. Helens was given its modern name by the early European explorer Commander George Vancouver, who named the mountain in 1702 after British Diplomat, Alleyne Fitzherbert, First Baron of Saint Helens in England. 


Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its eruption on May 18, 1980, which is remembered as the most deadly and violent volcanic event in the history of the United States.  Inside the core of the volcano, a surge of magma swelled upward from the Earth's mantle, triggering an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale and an explosion which blew ash and debris miles into the air and reduced the mountain's elevation from 9,677 feet to 8,365 feet.

Quick Facts

  • Mt. Saint Helens erupted on May 18, 1980
  • Elevation:  9,677 feet (before eruption); 8,363 feet (after eruption)
  • 1,314 feet of elevation and 3.7 billion cubic yards of rock removed with eruption
  • Is considered an active stratovolcano located in Skamania County, Washington
  • The eruption left a deep, horse-shoe shaped crater that measures 2,084 feet deep
  • The eruption lasted for 9 hours
  • Volcanic ash fell as far as 930 miles away
  • After this major eruption, minor eruptions continued into 1986
  • Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest variously called Mount St. Helens "Louwala-Clough" or "Loowit," which meant "smoking mountain."
  • The modern name, Mount St. Helens, was given to the volcanic peak in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver of the British Royal Navy, who named it after Alleyne Fitzherbert, who held the title Baron St. Helens and who was at the time the British Ambassador to Spain.