Three prominent volcanoes that form part of the Cascade mountain range in Washington State (USA)Mounts StHelens, Adams and Rainierare located on the margins of a mid-crustal zone of high electrical conductivity1,5. Interconnected melt can increase the bulk conductivity of the region containing the melt6,7, which leads us to propose that the anomalous conductivity in this region is due to partial melt associated with the volcanism. Here we test this hypothesis by using magnetotelluric data recorded at a network of 85 locations in the area of the high-conductivity anomaly. Our data reveal that a localized zone of high conductivity beneath thisvolcano extends downwards to join the mid-crustal conductor. As our measurements were made during the recent period of lava extrusion at Mount St Helens, we infer that the conductivity anomaly associated with the localized zone, and by extension with the mid-crustal conductor, is caused by the presence of partial melt. Our interpretation is consistent with the crustal origin of silicic magmas erupting from Mount St Helens8, and explains the distribution of seismicity observed at the time of the catastrophic eruption in 1980 (refs9, 10). ?? 2009 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.