The National Archives at Seattle

Century's End

The optimism of the 1950s and early 1960s gave way to social unrest fueled by the war in Vietnam and the struggle for civil rights. By the mid-1970s, an energy embargo caused gasoline shortages, and the Watergate scandal resulted in a Presidential resignation that shook the country further. In the Pacific Northwest, a natural explosion shook the region with the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Ash and dust blanketed vast areas of the region as thirteen hundred feet from the top of the mountain was destroyed in the explosion. Fifty-seven people were killed and mud flows destroyed roads and bridges.

Toward the end of the century, the economy of the Pacific Northwest experienced more diversification as high tech and bio tech industries developed in the major population areas of Seattle, Portland, and Boise. While the economy was no longer dependent on logging and fishing, the environmental impacts of these industries increasingly became the focus Federal agency programs. Balancing the needs of business and government while preserving the natural beauty of the region is a challenge the citizens will face long into the 21st century.

Park Central Files, 1884-1993; Mount Rainier National Park; Records of the National Park Service (RG 79)

Americaís National Parks have been a vacation destination since the first years of the 20th century. The Mission 66 program of the 1950s and 1960s endeavored to create a consistent experience for travelers. The visitorsí centers designs were standardized to streamline visitor services at Parks nationwide. Park Rangers, and the interpretive and educational programs they offer, have become an icon of the National Parks. The children in this photograph have gathered to learn about their wilderness surroundings from a Park Ranger at Mount Rainier. (ca. 1980)

Documerica, 1972-1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency (RG 412); National Archives at College Park. (National Archives Identifier 556911)

An aerial view of a Polaris submarine transiting Puget Sound. Polaris and Poseidon submarines were berthed at the U.S. Navy Submarine Base at Bangor. (February 1974)

Documerica, 1972-1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency (RG 412); National Archives at College Park. (National Archives Identifier 555519)

Oregon still had scattered gasoline problems in May, 1974. A downtown station in Portland, Oregon shows a sign saying the day's allocation is sold out. A bicyclist uses an alternate method of transportation.

Records of Mt. St. Helenís National Volcanic Monument; Gifford Pinchot National Forest; Records of the Forest Service (RG 95)

Records of Mt. St. Helenís National Volcanic Monument; Gifford Pinchot National Forest; Records of the Forest Service (RG 95)

In this pristine image, Mount St. Helens presides over Spirit Lake in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest of the Washington Cascade Mountains. After several months of grumbling, the volcano roared to life on May 18, 1980 at 8:32 a.m. For nine hours the volcano erupted, destroying plant and animal life in the surrounding 230 square miles of forest. The blast of ash, rock, and steam blew across the land at speeds up to 670 miles per hour, with the ash plume reaching 15 miles upwards. These two before-and-after photos detail the drastic change in the landscape caused by the famous eruption. In 1982, President Reagan created the 110,000-acre National Volcanic Monument around the volcano, where the environment can proceed naturally towards restoration.

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