Johnston Ridge Observatory
This visitor center, opened in May 1997, is located only 5mi from the crater and offers spectacular views of the steaming lava dome, as well as the collapsed flank of the mountain. The facility and the ridge on which it is located are named for David Johnston, a US Geological Survey scientist who was monitoring the volcano from a spot .25mi from the center on the morning of May 18, 1980. His now legendary last transmission-"Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!"-alerted the world to the explosion and cost Johnston his life. A 16min film, A Message from the Mountain, shown in the large, state-of-the-art observatory theater, relives the drama of that day through live footage and ends with a surprise flourish. The large electronic topographical model of the volcano and surrounding area uses serial lights to explain the often confusing sequence of events-ash, mud and pyroclastic flows, landslides and flooding. A working observatory, the facility also houses publicly displayed seismographic monitors that keep constant tabs on the mountain's activity. Beginning at the visitor center, the .25mi Eruption Trail leads back to the parking lot.