The Columbia River

The lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest.

The Columbia is the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean and you could comfortably fit 24 Massachusetts in the watershed. It is 1,243 miles long, capturing waters from large areas of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and even parts of Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah. It flows from Canadian snowfields to high-desert grasslands, slices through the Columbia River Gorge, draws a watery line between Portland and Vancouver, and creates a magnificent estuary where freshwater meets the sea.

Native Americans lived along her banks for over 10,000 years before Lewis and Clark’s amazing journey to the Pacific, followed by fur traders, cattlemen, industrialists, and windsurfers, who still share the big river. The United States and Canada have transformed the Columbia into a workhorse for hydroelectric power, transportation, and irrigation. Abundant water and cheap electricity helped settle the west. Now we wish we would have been more careful with both.