Road to Mount St. Helens to close for winter Sunday

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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People who want to see the volcanic crater of Mount St. Helens from the Johnston Ridge Observatory this year have one more weekend to enjoy that view.

The upper reaches of the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, also known as state Route 504, will close for the winter at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Each fall, the Washington State Department of Transportation coordinates the closure of the gates at Coldwater Lake with the U.S. Forest Service.

Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is 5 1/2 miles from the crater, also will close for the season on Sunday. The observatory is 54 miles east of Castle Rock at exit 49 off Interstate 5.

The highway “has already had a dusting of snow,” WSDOT spokesman Bart Treece said.

The closure will give road crews a chance to do some prep work before winter weather turns nasty, Treece said.

“Water can damage the road. We’ll clear ditches and culverts,” he said.

The lower portion of the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, up to Coldwater Lake, will stay open as long as conditions allow.

WSDOT will reopen the full stretch of the highway in the spring — typically in mid-May — once the threat of significant snowfall has passed.

“There will be some work in the spring” before the road is ready, Treece said.

Travelers can check roadway conditions on the WSDOT Travel Alerts web page and the WSDOT mobile app, or by calling 511.