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Mt. St. Helens observatory reopens Saturday with $1.6M upgrade

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The Johnston Ridge Observatory near Mount St. Helens opens for the season Saturday with $1.6 million worth of new displays.

The Johnston Ridge Observatory opens Saturday at Mount St. Helens with some new displays to tell visitors the story of the volcano's big 1980 eruption.

The Daily News of Longview reports $1.6 million worth of improvements and enhancements have been made. When the Forest Service and Mount St. Helens Institute discussed them Tuesday, the center of attention was a touch-screen kiosk.

"We're trying to bring the three decades of biology research to the exhibits," said Peter Frenzen, a scientist employed by the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

The Forest Service filmed researchers who gathered at the peak last summer to mark the 30th anniversary of the volcano's most recent major eruption in 1980.

"It was the cream of the crop of St. Helens scientists," Frenzen said. The scientists provided hundreds of photos and Forest Service also got footage from an Austrian film, "Life from Zero," filmed for the 30th anniversary.

 Several of the kiosks at the observatory and other locations will let visitors touch screens to see photos and video of the volcano and learn about the changes that have taken place in the past 31 years.

By mid-July a new 200-seat amphitheater will open at the observatory.

Schedule of Events

Snowplows are cutting through 14-foot drifts at Johnston Ridge to prepare for its season opening.

  • Saturday: The "It's a Blast" event, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will include activities for children, talks by biologists and geologists and guided hikes. Admission is $8 for adults and free for children 15 and younger.
  • Sunday: The observatory will be open, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 
  • Wednesday, May 18: Ribbon cutting for new exhibits, with free admission.
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