© 2024 Boise State Public Radio
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What Was The Treasure Valley Like When There Was Volcanic Activity?

AP Images
Mount St. Helen's erupts in Washington on July 22, 1980, two months after the infamous May 18 eruption.

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted.

The volcano 50 miles north of Portland sent out a lateral blast first, killing David Johnston, one of the scientists who had been monitoring the mountain months leading up to the blast. There was a 5.1 earthquake and a landslide, and every tree, animal and person within miles died.

Ash from the volcano blanketed the region, closing I-90 between Spokane and Seattle for more than a week. Trace amounts of ash fell in Idaho as far south as McCall.

Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio
Wanna Know Idaho listener Jeff Frechette poses his question to Boise State professor Brittany Brand.

The volcano was devastating. But it also spurred on a new era of scientific research and curiosity among the public, both young and old.   

“I was a kid [in Boise] in 1980 when it exploded and it was very exciting," says question asker Jeff Frechette. "We were in grade school so I remember talking a little about volcanoes.”

Frechette is an engineering manager at HP, a job that has nothing to do with volcanoes. But the same curiosity he had about Mount St. Helen’s as a kid growing up in Boise led him to ask this question of Wanna Know Idaho:


"What did the Boise valley look like when there was volcanic activity, which clearly was millions of years ago."

Or was it that long ago? On this episode of Wanna Know Idaho from Boise State Public Radio, we take a closer look at Idaho’s explosive history – and what it can tell us about the world around us today. Click 'play' below to learn all about it.


Thanks to Boise State volcanologist Brittany Brand, and to Jeff Frechette for the excellent question. What are you curious about? Submit what you want to know below and you could be featured in an upcoming episode.   

Until next time, stay curious Idaho!


P.S. Thanks to Boise music project ‘Up is the Down is The’ for the awesome theme music. Check the project out on Spotify and Bandcamp, and at Treefort Music Fest on March 24. 

For more 'Wanna Know Idaho' content, follow host Frankie Barnhill on Twitter

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio 


Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.

You make stories like this possible.

The biggest portion of Boise State Public Radio's funding comes from readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

Your donation today helps make our local reporting free for our entire community.