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Columbia River

Length: 1210 miles (1,947 kilometers)

The Columbia River rises in Columbia Lake, southeast British Columbia, Canada. It flows first northwest in the Rocky Mountain Trench, then hooks sharply about the Selkirk Mountain to flow south through Upper Arrow Lake and Lower Arrow Lake and receives the Kootenai River (spelled Kootenay in Canada) before entering the United States after a course of 465 miles. It continues south through Washington and just below the mouth of the Spokane River is forced by lava beds to make a great bend west before veering south again, running the while entrenched in a narrow valley through the Columbia Plateau. Its chief tributary, the Snake River, joins it just before it turns west again. The Columbia then forms part of the Washington-Oregon border before entering the Pacific Ocean through a wide estuary west of Portland, Oregon. The Columbia River has created regal gorges by cutting through the Cascades and the Coast Ranges, It is fed by the Cowlitz and Willamette rivers, which drain the Puget trough between those ranges. The Grand Coulee, now a reservoir in the Columbia Basin Project, was a former stream channel of the Columbia River. It was created during the Ice Age when the Columbia’s course was blocked by ice, forcing it to cut a new channel through the Columbia Plateau. When the ice receded the river resumed its former channel. The Columbia River, commanding one of the great drainage basins of North America (259,000 sqquare miles), was visited by Robert Gray, an American explorer, in 1792 and is named for his vessel, the Columbia. It was first actually entered by a British naval officer, William R. Broughton, later the same year. Long before this time Native Americans were fishing salmon from the river; today fish are still caught here, but heavy settlement along the river and its tributaries, the construction of dams, and human use have reduced the salmon runs. The first whites to arrive overland were the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the fur traders (notably David Thompson of the North West Co. and the founders of Astoria). The river was the focus of the American settlement that created Oregon, and the river was itself sometimes called the Oregon River or the River of the West. Irrigation was begun early, and some tributaries were used to water cropland and orchards, as in, e.g., the valleys of the Wenatchee and Yakima rivers. After 1932 plans gradually developed to use the Columbia River to its ultimate possibility and the Columbia basin project was established. Its purpose was to establish flood control, which would alleviate the destruction seen in the Columbia’s greatest flood, that of 1894, and somewhat lesser but damaging floods, such as that of 1948; to improve navigation; to extend irrigation in order to make optimum use of the water of the Columbia and its tributaries; and to produce hydroelectric power to supply the Pacific Northwest. There are six Federal and five non-Federal dams on the Columbia River. Grand Coulee Dam (the key unit of the Columbia basin project) and Chief Joseph Dam, on the river’s upper course, provide power, flood control, and irrigation. Priest Rapids, Wanapum, Rock Island, Rocky Reaches, and Wells dams are on the middle course; all are among the largest non-Federal hydroelectric facilities in the United States. Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day, and McNary dams, on the lower course, were designed as power, flood control, and navigation projects; these dams provide a 328-mile slack-water navigation channel up the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean to the Snake River. With these Federal projects and non-Federal dams on the Columbia, hydroelectric plants on the river have a potential generating capacity of about 21 million kw. The development of hydroelectric power has had a significant effect on the economic pattern of the Pacific Northwest.


About the Lake The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers manages and maintains Lake Celilo. The lake lies between the states of Washington and Oregon in the northeastern United States. Interstate-84 / US-395 North in Oregon runs along the southern side of the lake, and Hwy 14 in Washington runs along the northern side. Lake Celilo was fo...
    Full Pool: 160.0 MSL     Area: 4,900 Acres

        Area: 82,300 Acres      Printed Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Lake Map