St. Helens observatory reopens next week

May 8, 2011 

  • IF YOU GO

    Hours: The visitor center will be open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through October.

    Admission: The cost to enter Johnston Ridge and Coldwater Lake is $8 per person for people 16 and older, children 15 and younger are free.

    Website: The monument earlier this year debuted a new website, www.fs.usda.gov/mountsthelens.

    Anniversary celebration: For the 31st anniversary of the eruption, admission to Johnston Ridge Observatory and Coldwater Lake will be free May 18.

    Information: Additional information about access to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and roads blocked by snow can be obtained online or by calling 360-449-7800.

Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument will reopen for the season May 15, with several new exhibits and a new outdoor amphitheater.

Inside the visitor center, people will be able to use new touch-screen exhibits that tell the story of how the volcano and surrounding landscape have recovered since the 1980 eruption.

A newly remodeled high-definition theater with surround sound will enhance the movie-viewing experience, said monument spokesman Ken Sandusky. In addition, a new movie will make its debut sometime this summer.

Also making its debut this summer will be the outdoor amphitheater. It is on the hill to the west-southwest of the observatory.

“It’s a place for interpreters to give their presentations. It’s a pretty big facility, and could seat a couple of hundred people,” monument spokesman Ken Sandusky said. “That will be one of the neatest things this summer.”

The new touch-screen exhibits will offer information on the blast zone recovery and the return of life in the area, Sandusky said.

There also will be new interpretive signs across the monument.

“Some of the ones you couldn’t read last year because of weathering, will be fresh, with new stories this year, creating a new vivid experience,” Sandusky said.

“All the new interpretive information and displays telling the Return to Life story makes this year especially exciting,” monument manager Tom Mulder said in a prepared statement.

Complicating access across much of the monument will be the weather. Late-season snow means many roads might open later than usual.

“Road 99 to Windy Ridge won’t be open for quite some time,” Sandusky said of the main access point on the monument’s east side. “There will be a lot of access issues because of snow across the (Gifford Pinchot National Forest).”

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640 jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure

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