Tour the Columbia River. Select what part of the river you want to tour from the list below. See it on the map and be sure to read the facts below the map. Use + and – to zoom in and out of the map.
The Columbia River is 2,000 km long. It starts at Columbia Lake near Canal Flats, BC, and ends at the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon.
By volume, the Columbia is the fourth largest river in North America. By drainage area, it is the sixth largest river with a watershed that includes BC and seven states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.
As most of the river’s water comes from melting snow, its volume of water fluctuates seasonally. The highest volumes typically occur as snow melts between April and September, and the lowest between December and February.
From its headwaters to the ocean, the river drops 820 m. This change in elevation, combined with the hundreds of tributaries that flow into the river, make the Columbia a powerful generator of hydroelectricity, with 14 dams on its main stem alone.
The river begins at Columbia Lake at Canal Flats, BC. It then flows north through the Columbia Wetlands, one of the few naturally flowing stretches of the Columbia River. Next it approaches Kinbasket Reservoir, formed by Mica Dam.
The river heads south at Big Bend, where it meets the Wood and Canoe rivers. Many smaller tributaries join the Columbia as it flows south through Mica and Revelstoke dams and forms Arrow Lakes Reservoir.
The Columbia flows through Arrow Lakes Generating Station at Hugh Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar, which is the last dam on the Canadian portion of the river.
In the United States
The river meets Pend d’Oreille River a few kilometres south of the border.
It then flows through a series of dams, including the 1941 Grand Coulee Dam. The Okanagan and Kettle rivers—with headwaters in BC’s Okanagan Valley and Monashee Mountains—then join the Columbia. When the river meets its largest U.S. tributary—Snake River, which originates in western Wyoming—it turns west toward the Pacific Ocean and becomes the state line between Washington and Oregon.