Here though are ten little known facts about the Columbia River:
1. The Columbia River is the largest hydroelectric power producing river on the entire continent of North America. Over its length, there are fourteen different hydroelectric dams that span the width of the river and produce power that can be used by both those within the region as well as those from outside the area.
2. In 1836, the first steamboat entered the Columbia River when the British vessel ‘Beaver’ made the trip.
3. An area of the Columbia River called the Hanford Reach, located south of Priest Rapids Dam and before the river reaches the Tri-Cities, is the last stretch of the Columbia River within the United States that is free flowing and unimpeded by dams, reservoirs or the effects of the ocean tides.
4. The Columbia River starts in Canada and flows south into and through Washington State before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. Despite this, for the first 200 miles of the river’s journey it actually flows northwest.
5. The first European explorer to travel the entire length of the Columbia River from the headwaters down to the Pacific Ocean was Canadian explorer David Thompson who did so in 1811.
6. More than 40 percent of the wheat that is exported from the United States travels by barge down the Columbia River.
7. Only three rivers actually flow completely through the Cascade Mountains; the Columbia River along the Washington-Oregon border, the Klamath River in Oregon, and the Pit River in California.
8. Cape Disappointment is the name for the landmark on the northern edge of the mouth of the Columbia River. It was named as such by British Captain John Meares who had searched for the legendary river but could not find it.
9. Vanport City was a community located near Portland that was completely destroyed in 1948 due to a massive flood that resulted from a failed dike. At the time of its destruction it was the second largest city in Oregon.
10. A landslide during the 1700s near present-day Cascade Locks, Oregon formed a land bridge that crossed the Columbia River and allowed Native American tribes on each side to trade with each other more easily. The name for this bridge was the Bridge of the Gods. There is now an actual bridge near the location of the slide that is also named the Bridge of the Gods.
The Columbia River will continue to be one of the most used and needed resources in the Pacific Northwest. The power produced on the river benefits residents far outside the boundaries of Washington and Oregon and has played a vital role in the development of industries as well as wartime production. The Columbia River provides a number of options to visitors to the region as well as those who are local to the area. From water skiing, to fishing, to boating, to swimming, to commerce, to transportation, and more, the Columbia River offers something for almost everyone who travels near it.