As the largest river in the Pacific Northwest of North America, the Columbia River is 1,243 miles long.
The largest tributary of the waterway is the Snake River that comes out of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, and the Columbia drainage basin is comparable in size to the country of France!
Why is it famous?
It’s estimated that the Columbia River is anywhere from six to 17 million years old. Flood basalt lava invaded the Columbia River Plateau sometime during that period and pushed the lower part of the river to where it is located presently. Humans have inhabited the area around the Columbia for well over 15,000 years.
The Columbia River flows through parts of Canada and the United States before dumping into the Pacific Ocean. The Gorge Amphitheater is a popular concert venue that was constructed along the river. Other nearby notable destination spots include Priest Rapids Dam and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
The beginning of the Columbia River is in the Rocky Mountain Trench in British Columbia, Canada. It goes northwest through Windermere Lake and the town of Invermere, more commonly called the Columbia Valley. It passes through several other cities, including Castlegar, and Trail, which are two of the most populated areas in the region.
After entering the United States in eastern Washington, Columbia flows south before turning west when it joins with the Spokane River. After the Okanogan River confluence, the river turns again to the south in the region of central Washington. A sharp bend in the river to the west at the border between Washington and Oregon is where the Columbia River completes its journey to the sea in Clatsop County, Oregon.
Events in time
In 1961, three rescue boats including two that were supposed to be “unsinkable” went on a rescue mission at the Columbia River entrance on the Washington side. Strong winds, shallow water, and a swift current had pushed a crab-fishing boat towards what’s known as Peacock Spit. None of the boats came back, and five Coast Guard officers died during the attempted rescue.
Because of its vastness and powerful water flow, the Columbia River has become an ideal place for hydropower today. There are 14 different dams on the main river and hundreds more found along the tributaries working to produce up to 50% of the electrical power to the region. That goes to show that the river remains just as important to today’s culture as what it was thousands of years ago.