The largest river in the Pacific Northwest and fourth largest by volume in the United States
Rising in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, it flows for 1,243 miles – 2,000 km – before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. Its watershed extends into seven US states and a Canadian province. The river’s heavy flow and relatively steep gives it tremendous potential for the generation of electricity.
14 Hydroelectric Dams produce more than 44 percent of total U.S. Hydroelectric Power
Culture the river and its tributaries have been central to the region’s culture and economy for thousands of years. The river system hosts many species of fish, which migrate between fresh water habitats and the saline waters of the Pacific Ocean. Salmon provides the core subsistence for native peoples.
Transportation in past centuries, indigenous peoples traveled across western North America to the Columbia to trade for fish and overland explorers entered the Willamette Valley through the scenic Columbia River Gorge and pioneers began to settle the valley in increasing numbers. Steamboats along the river linked communities and facilitated trade; the arrival of railroads in the late 19th century, many running along the river, supplemented these links.