Spirit Lake: A story of survival • Earth.com

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features Spirit Lake in south-central Washington. The lake and the area around it were dramatically altered by the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980.

According to NASA, the lake was nearly obliterated by the events that unfolded during the eruption.

“The lake survived, and it took on a lovely new shape,” said NASA. “A white blanket of snow contrasts with the dark-blue water, emphasizing the lake’s heart-like shape when viewed from above.”

“Prior to the eruption, Spirit Lake had a smaller footprint that consisted of west and east arms connected by a narrow span of water – similar in shape to the top-half of a heart.”

“Then, on May 18, 1980, the volcano’s north flank let loose, producing the largest-known landslide in recorded history, followed by a lateral blast and shock wave as the eruption unfolded. The water in Spirit Lake was temporarily displaced but eventually flowed back into the basin.”

Spirit Lake was a popular tourist destination from the 1920s through the 1970s. It was known for its scenic beauty and recreational activities, such as fishing, boating, and camping. 

After the eruption, Spirit Lake became a subject of scientific study, as it provided researchers with an opportunity to observe how ecosystems recover from such catastrophic events. 

The area around Spirit Lake and Mount St. Helens has been designated as the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which allows for both preservation and research.

The recovery of Spirit Lake and the surrounding ecosystem has been remarkable, showcasing nature’s resilience. 

The image was captured on April 26, 2023 by the OLI (Operational Land Imager) on Landsat 8.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.


Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and Earth.com.

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day