The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The river rises in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. It flows northwest and then south into the US state of Washington, then turns west to form most of the border between Washington and the state of Oregon. The 14 hydroelectric dams on the Columbia’s main stem and many more on its tributaries produce more than 44 percent of total US hydroelectric generation.
About Columbia River in brief
The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The river rises in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. It flows northwest and then south into the US state of Washington, then turns west to form most of the border between Washington and the state of Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. Since the early 20th century, dams have been built across the river for power generation, navigation, irrigation, and flood control. The 14 hydroelectric dams on the Columbia’s main stem and many more on its tributaries produce more than 44 percent of total US hydroelectric generation. Plutonium for nuclear weapons was produced for decades at the Hanford Site, which is now the most contaminated nuclear site in the US. During the Missoula Floods 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, much of the river bed took a direct route south, forming the ancient river bed known as the Grand Coulee. After the floods, the river was left dry, and the present course was left in its present form. The Grand Cou Lee Dam was built in the mid-20th century to control flooding. It is the fourth-largest river in U.S. by volume. The Columbia has the greatest flow of any river entering the Pacific and the 36th greatest of anyRiver in the world. The first documented European discovery of the Columbia River was that of Bruno de Heceta, who in 1775 sighted the river’s mouth. Steamships along the river linked communities and facilitated trade; the arrival of railroads in the late 19th century supplemented these links.
In the following decades, fur trading companies used the Columbia as a key transportation route. These fish—especially the salmon species—provided the core subsistence for native peoples. The River system hosts many species of anadromous fish, which migrate between freshwater habitats and the saline waters of the Pacific ocean. It has been used for transportation since ancient times, linking the region’s many cultural groups, and has been central to culture and economy for thousands of years. Its drainage basin is roughly the size of France and extends into seven US states and a Canadian province. For its first 200 miles, the Columbia flows northwest along the trench through Windermere Lake and the town of Invermere, a region known in British Columbia as the Columbia Valley. It turns south and turns to the west at the Spokane River confluence. It marks the southern borders of the Colville Indian Reservation and the western border of the Spokane Reservation after the Okanogan River. It then turns south again near the confluence with the Wenatchee River. The Pend Oreille River joins the Columbia about 2 miles north of the US–Canada border. Below the Arrow Lakes, the Columbia passes the cities of Castlegar, located at the Columbia’s confluent with the Kootenay River, and Trail, two major population centers of the West Kootsenay region.