Location and Headwaters
The Columbia River rises in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada flowing Northwest and then South into Washington State. Turning west, it forms the border between Oregon and Washington state and empties into the Pacific Ocean. It is 1,243 miles long and its drainage basin is the size of France. It extends into seven states and British Columbia and by volume, is the fourth-largest river in the United States.
Characteristics of the River
Because of the river's heavy flow and its steep gradient, it has tremendous potential for the generation of electricity and has 14 hydroelectric dams on its main stem. It produces more hydro electrical power than any other North American River.
Early History of the River
The river and its many tributaries have been used for transportation purposes for thousands of years. Native American tribes lived along its banks and, due to the abundance of Salmon and other fish, were able to live sedentary and comfortable lives. Fresh water and food were plentiful. The banks of the river have been populated by many tribes of indigenous people. The Colville, Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, Yakima, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Palus, Umatilla, Cowlitz and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have lived along the US stretch of the river.
Migration and Transportion
The first non-indigenous boat entered the river in the late 1700s and from that time onward, the river became a great migratory route encompassing hundreds of miles including its many large tributaries going as far inland from the Pacific as Lewiston, Idaho.