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 Cascades Volcano Observatory, Vancouver, Washington
Volcanoes and History

Naming the Cascade Range Volcanoes
Mount St. Helens, Washington

Mount St. Helens was named on October 20, 1792, by Captain George Vancouver as he sailed off the mouth of the Columbia River. He named the peak for British diplomat Alleyne Fitzherbert (1753-1839), whose title was Baron St. Helens.
"... The clearness of the atmosphere enabled us to see the high round snowy mountains, noticed when in the southern parts of Admiralty inlet, to the southward of mount Rainier; from this station it bore by compass N. 77 E. and, like mount Rainier, seemed covered with perpetual snow, as low down as the intervening country permitted it to seen. This I have distinguished by the name of MOUNT ST. HELENS,in honor of his Britannic Majesty's ambassador at the court of Madrid. It is situated in latitude 46o 9' and in longitude 238o 4', according to our observations. ..."
[Captain George Vancouver, October 20, 1792]

Native American names for Mount St. Helens were "Loowit" or "Louwala-Clough", which meant "smoking mountain". A Gifford Pinchot National Forest "Mount St. Helens" Brochure (1980) tells the story of how Mount St. Helens came to be:
"... Northwest Indians told early explorers about the fiery Mount St. Helens. In fact, an Indian name for the mountain, Louwala-Clough, means "smoking mountain". According to one legend, the mountain was once a beautiful maiden, "Loowit". When two sons of the Great Spirit "Sahale" fell in love with her, she could not choose between them. The two braves, Wyeast and Klickitat fought over her, burying villages and forests in the process. Sahale was furious. He smote the three lovers and erected a mighty mountain peak where each fell. Because Loowit was beautiful, her mountain (Mount St. Helens) was a beautiful, symmetrical cone of dazzling white. Wyeast (Mount Hood) lifts his head in pride, but Klickitat (Mount Adams) wept to see the beautiful maiden wrapped in snow, so he bends his head as he gazes on St. Helens. ..."


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03/09/11, Lyn Topinka