Lewis and Clark, who camped near the mouth of the Lewis River below Sauvies Island in November 1805, describe in their Journal their view of the peak some 70 miles upstream: “Three miles below the Image Canoe Island…we had a full view of the mountain…[Mount St. Helens]; it rises in the form of a sugar loaf to a great height, and is covered with snow.”

Washington, A Guide To the Evergreen State (WPA, 1941)

Upon driving up the winding road to the observation deck at Mount St. Helens you notice the immensity of the explosion that happened over 30 years ago. The surrounding landscape still has fallen trees. It looks barren. Tour guides tell groups of people about the amount of volcanic destruction.

But oddly enough, the mountain’s eruption created new freshwater lakes nearby. One such lake, known as Coldwater Lake, had at one time been just a small stream. The landslide dammed it and created the lake. Right after the explosion Coldwater was full of mud and debris, but due to fast acting microbes the lake became clear and even drinkable in just a matter of years.

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Zak Long is a State Guide to California and his home state of Ohio.  Born in Cleveland, OH, and now residing in San Francisco, CA,  much of his photography and videography explore first hand accounts of American rail travel. You can follow him on his personal Tumblr, zaklong.tumblr.comand also on UC Research.


University of California has long been known as an innovative institution. The 1939 WPA guide to California referred to the university as a “home of celebrated scholars and a brilliant center of research,” and today, that tradition of research continues at UCLA, UC Berkeley and the other campuses across the state.    

One of the university’s invaluable resources is its nature reserve system - a network of protected land throughout the state where researchers and graduate students can conduct field studies. Hastings Natural Reserve is the oldest in the system. Its rich and unique history as a research station dates back to the 1930s when former farming land was offered to the University for biological fieldwork. The forward-thinking landowner and University staff and faculty allowed the 2700 acres of land to return to a natural state, and 80 years later, it’s become a great place for scientists to investigate anything from geology to phenology - the study of seasonal or periodic events in biology - with a focus on long term patterns in the environment.

We visited the reserve to interview Brian Haggerty, a UC Santa Barbara graduate student.  He’s one of the researchers working on the The California Phenology Project, an effort to track and keep record of plants as a way to monitor climate change. He conducted a workshop with thirty scientists from central California to talk about creating a statewide database for phenological events… or as he calls it “Facebook for plants.”  Brian and Vince Voegeli, the reserve manager, took some time to show us around Hastings and tell us a little bit about current research going on here along with the other reserves at UC.

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UC Research tells the stories of the innovative research emerging from the University of California. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and at, and find their website here.