Columbia River

Columbia River

The Columbia River is a large river that flows in North America and is about 2,000 kilometers long. The Columbia River flows through the province of British Columbia in Canada and the states of Washington and Oregon in the United States.

The Columbia River is important to the region through which it flows. It serves as the border between Washington and Oregon and provides important waterways for navigation and transportation. The river is also a source of electricity due to the presence of several hydroelectric power plants along its route.

The Columbia is also known for its rich ecosystem and significant diversity of flora and fauna. It provides unique habitat for many species of fish, including salmon, white sturgeon, and others. The river is also a popular place for fishing, rafting, and other outdoor activities.


The river originates in a lake of the same name in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Feeding on meltwater from glaciers, it flows about 800 km across Canada and into the U.S. state of Washington before flowing into the Pacific Ocean, forming a large part of its border with the state of Oregon. Part of the way the Columbia flows from north to south through the wide (up to 400 km) plateau between the Rocky and Cascade Mountains of the Columbia Basin. To get to the Pacific Ocean, the river abruptly changes course, turning west at the border of Washington and Oregon, literally breaking through the Cascade Range which it meets on the way Columbia changed its character depending on the season: in high waters it was threatened by floods, in summer it became shallow, and the surrounding farmers fought in vain against drought.


For centuries its shores were inhabited by Indian tribes (the disappeared Cajus and others). The first Europeans arrived at the mouth of the river only in 1792. Captain Robert Gray (1755-1806), who made the first round-the-world voyage under the U.S. flag on the ship Columbia, after whom the river was named. Next in line were Captain Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and his friend and explorer William Clark (1770-1838). Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) to explore the Louisiana Purchase from the French, they undertook the first land expedition to the Pacific Coast in 1803-1806, collecting information about the river and its basin.

Cartographer David Thompson (1770-1857) studied the river basin from source to mouth in 1807-1811. But the real development of the Columbia began more than 100 years later. The fate of the river was changed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) changed the fate of the river. In 1933 by his decree the construction of the “Grand Coulee Federal Dam” began. To this day it is the most powerful hydroelectric complex and the longest dam in the country. The unique pumping station, capable of pumping up to 600 cubic meters of water per second, regulates the water flows: an additional reservoir accumulates “extra” spring water, which is then used to make up for the lack of water during the dry season.


The construction of the dam greatly simplified the lives of the population of the whole region, and many hydroelectric facilities were built on the river – today there are 14 of them, 11 American and three Canadian. Abundant reservoirs throughout the river and a well-developed irrigation system allow year-round control of water flow and prosperous agriculture. Local farmers grow vegetables and fruits (about 2,000,000 tons of export apples a year), cereals (up to 3,000,000 tons of wheat a year), are engaged in cattle breeding. Tourists come to admire the beauty and to fish. Colombia has been the key to the development of the local economy.

But beyond the obvious benefits, human intervention has also created a number of problems. For centuries, salmon have spawned in the river. Hydroelectric plants blocked their usual paths, and water pollution began in the stagnant areas. Equally dangerous are the Hanford Nuclear Complex and the chemical weapons storage facility at Umatilla. It is possible that “gaps” will be made in a number of dams for fish. And the issue of nuclear and military waste disposal is still open.

General Information

  • River in North America. Pacific Ocean basin.
  • Flows through the states: USA: (states Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada), Canada: (province of British Columbia).
  • Main navigable tributary: The Snake.
  • Largest lake: Okanagan (Canada).
  • Largest man-made lake: Franklin-Roosevelt (1941).
  • Largest cities: Portland.
  • Most important port: Portland.
  • Most important airport: Portland International Airport.
  • Length: about 2,250 km.
  • Basin area: 670,000 km2.
  • Average water flow rate downstream: 5,520 m3/sec.
  • Grand Coulee Dam: Length: 1,592 m. Height: 168 m.
  • Franklin-Roosevelt Lake: Length: over 240 km.
  • Length of shoreline: about 900 km.


  • Industry: hydropower (U.S. dams: Grand Coulee, Rock Island, Bonneville, McNary, Chif-Joeff, Dulles, Priest Rapids, Rocky Reach, Wanapum, Wells, John Day).
  • Fishing (mostly salmon).
  • Shipping.
  • Agriculture: gardening, grain crops, cattle breeding.
  • Services: tourism, trade, transport.

Climate and weather

  • Continental, temperate.
  • Average temperature in January: -2°C (north), +8°C (south).
  • Average temperature in July: +24 ºC.
  • Average annual rainfall: 2500 mm in the Cascade Mountains and 300 mm over most of the basin.


  • National parks: Kootenay, Yoho, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, etc.
  • Roosevelt Bust in front of Grand Coulee Power Station
  • Bonneville Salt Lake
  • Multnomah Falls (Portland)

Fun Facts

  • Lake Okanagan is home to a local version of the Loch Ness monster, the Ogopogo (Nha-a-tik), according to Native American legends and many eyewitness accounts. Its existence is evidenced by ancient rock art around the lake, as well as many photographs and even two videos. The creature with a long body and four fins does not give rest to local residents for hundreds of years, scientists, not recognizing to the end of its existence, believe that it may be plesiosaurus or basilosaurus. The statue of Ogopogo is even installed in the city of Kelowna (Canada), and the coat of arms of this city adorns the hippocampus, a mythical sea horse with a fish tail, as the most similar to the described creature.
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