Did you know the United States is home to at least 169 active volcanoes? What’s even alarming is that a third of these active volcanoes have erupted throughout the course of last two centuries. While there is something quite mesmerizing and seemingly harmless about observing molten lava from afar, the truth is that volcanic gas can be deadly — not to mention lava flowing through your backyard. Follow along to learn about the 10 most dangerous and very active volcanoes in America.
10. Crater Lake Volcano, Oregon
- Last erupted 4,800 years ago
Crater Lake is many things — a tourist destination, the deepest lake in the United States, and a high risk for future eruptions. Although its appearance is innocent and picturesque, what lies beneath is quite a different story. When Mount Mazama violently erupted 7,700 years ago, the caldera known as Crater Lake was formed.
Despite lacking the appearance of an ominous volcanic mountain ready to explode, geologists have confirmed that the last known eruption took place beneath the surface of the water near Wizard Island 4,800 years ago. Furthermore, these geologists anticipate a future explosion and continue to closely monitor the lake.
Next: This state is riddled with active volcanoes.
9. Redoubt Volcano, Alaska
- Last erupted in 2009
The short distance between Anchorage and Redoubt Volcano in Alaska make for a dangerous recipe, especially considering the volcano’s last eruption took place in 2009. Prior, Redoubt erupted in 1989 and 1990, throwing ash into the sky that caused a 747’s engine to seize up in mid-air. Although the flight crew was able to get the engine back up and avoid a catastrophe, Redoubt is both very active and dangerous.
Next: The world’s largest volcano has no plans of going extinct anytime soon.
8. Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawaii
- Last erupted in 1984
Hawaii has long been known for its vacation destinations and volcanic hot spots. The archipelago is home to extinct, dormant, and very active volcanoes. The largest of all is the active volcano Mauna Loa located on the Big Island of Hawaii. Since 1843, the behemoth has erupted 33 different times, and for the most part, islanders have grown accustomed to this volcano’s threat.
Next: This volcano is part of a large cluster on the U.S. mainland.
7. Lassen Volcanic Center, California
- Last erupted between 1915 and 1917
Lassen Peak is part of a large cluster of active volcanoes in the Redding, California, region. Although Lassen Peak erupted back in 1917, the Cascade Volcano Observatory suspects that the next eruption could come from any of the volcanoes that are part of the Lassen Volcanic Center. Geologists consider this cluster to be “volatile,” particularly due to its close proximity to Redding and other populated areas of northern California.
Next: A cluster of volcanoes in Oregon has shown some bizarre activity.
6. South Sister Volcano, Oregon
- Last erupted 2,000 years ago
Located west of Bend, Oregon, the South Sister Volcano is part of a 115 square mile area of Oregon known as the Three Sisters. This region of Oregon is considered a hotbed for volcanic activity, and according to the USGS, it is a “very high threat.” In the late ’90s and early 2000s, geologists noticed what was dubbed the “Bulge.” This bulge in the Earth hinted that magma was brewing under the surface. Even though the Bulge has started to deflate, Cascades Volcano Observatory’s William Scott said that it could be “evidence of a process that may eventually produce one [volcano].”
Next: California is more volatile than you imagined.
5. Mount Shasta Volcano, California
- Last erupted in 1786
Due to Mount Shasta’s proximity to homes and interstate traffic, the USGS considers the volcano to be a “very high threat” in the event of an eruption. According to Cascades Volcano Observatory’s Scott, “We haven’t had [an eruption] since settlement by European settlers, but in the geologic sense the volcano has been quite frequently active.”
Next: This popular ski area may be a catastrophe waiting to happen.
4. Mount Hood Volcano, Oregon
- Last erupted in the early 1800s
Not only is Mount Hood Volcano a popular ski and recreation area, but its base is clad with homes. The last eruption of Mount Hood took place just before Lewis and Clark passed through in the 1800s. Sure, it may seem uncanny that the volcano could erupt, but according to Scott, “it might be erupting on the order of every few centuries.”
Scott went on to explain that an eruption would be increasingly more dangerous because “people live on the flank of the volcano, state highways cross its flanks—so there’s a lot of stuff up close.”
Next: How safe is Mount Rainier?
3. Mount Rainier Volcano, Washington
- Last erupted 500 years ago
Mount Rainier Volcano goes through 500 to 1,000-year eruption cycles. So while the threat of an eruption in the near future is unlikely, the reality of one would be absolutely devastating to the surrounding region. Additionally, since the mountain holds a significant amount of snowpack, an eruption would send concrete-like mudflows into the Puget Sound river valley. That sort of debris would ravage developed areas of the valley.
Next: This volcano erupted just a few decades ago.
2. Mount St. Helens Volcano, Washington
- Last erupted in 1980
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens Volcano erupted and wreaked havoc in Washington. Killing 57 people and gushing 520 million tons of volcanic ash, the historic event left the nation in awe.
While the eruption destroyed much of the mountain, USGS Volcano Hazards Program coordinator Eichelberger explains that while “there’s nothing to say that a new, very gas-rich batch of magma couldn’t come in under the thing and start a new explosive cycle.”
Next: Here’s why Kilauea is the most dangerous volcano in America.
1. Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
- Last erupted in 2018
Although Kilauea has been very active since 1983, the most recent 2018 eruption has devastated the surrounding community. Over 25 homes on the eastern edge of the island have been completely destroyed.
According to USGS volcanic scientist Wendy Stovall, “Scientists on the ground are reporting that lava flows are traveling through the forest, power lines are coming down, and a few explosions have been heard — likely from propane tanks or methane explosions.”