The Columbia River is the largest river in volume flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America. Its headwaters are located in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, and it flows through the east-central portion of Washington. The last 300 miles (480 km) form the Washington-Oregon state line. It flows into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon.
Roll on, Columbia, roll on, roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
Roll on, Columbia, roll on. -- Woody Guthrie
The Columbia is a great source of hydroelectric power, hosting the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams, among others. These dams, like so many others in the world, came with a price: at one time the river was thick with salmon, and the presence of the dams together with overfishing have been major factors in the reduction of populations of this fish. Fish ladders have been installed to help mitigate the harm to this fish, but there is still much discussion of breaching some of the smaller dams along the river in order to help the salmon runs return. Other benefits the dams provide, besides hydroelectric power, include navigation and flood control, two areas that the first settlers to the Northwest were forced to grapple with many times.
In addition, the dams provide water for the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, one of the most extensive irrigation projects in the western United States. The project provides water to over half a million acres of fertile but arid lands in central Washington state. Water from the project has transformed the region from a wasteland barely able to produce subsistance levels of dry-land wheat crops to a major agricultural center. Important crops include appless, potatoes, alfalfa, wheat, corn (maize), barley, hops, beans, and sugar beets.
In addition to irrigation and electricity, the river also provides entertainment to thousands in the region. The Columbia River Gorge is considered by many wind surfers as the best wind surfing place in the world. Water skiers also enjoy this wide river throughout the summer.
|Table of contents|
2 Cities on the Columbia
3 Hydroelectric dams on the Columbia
Tributaries of the Columbia
(Listed in order upstream)
Cities on the Columbia
(Listed in alaphbetical order)
Hydroelectric dams on the Columbia