Mt. St. Helens and Badlands Formation


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Rapid Badland Formation:

When the initial volcanic eruption took place, an entire glacier was thrown down and buried in the valley to the mountain’s north

  • This quickly melted the ice and resulted in what is termed as “flash” steam
  • Water expands 1700 times when it turns to steam – yet when it is trapped under molten material, it leads to tremendous explosions
  • Steam explosion pits (some near 125 feet in depth) were formed
  • Initially these pits had vertical sides, but these began to collapse leaving a “rill and gully” effect
  • This is one of the chief characteristics seen with badlands 1

The formation of these badlands took only 5 days

  • “Conventional wisdom” has typically held that it takes hundreds (if not thousands) of years for such badlands to form 2

The picture here is of the Badlands that have formed since 1980 along the Toutle River (just next to the mountain) 3


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This is another picture (above) of the Badlands that have formed in just three decades 4


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Similar features are evidenced in the Badlands National Park in South Dakota

  • It makes you wonder just how long it might have taken such beautiful formations like this to develop