The Columbia River

The river's path

The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest and the fourth largest river in the U.S. by volume. It is roughly 1,243 miles long. It originates in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, and flows south through Washington state until it meets with the Snake River near Pasco, Washington, and turns west. The Columbia River forms the border between Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean just west of Astoria, Oregon. 

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Wherever you live in the Pacific Northwest, river commerce reaches your door

Ports and marine-related businesses are vital to the strength of our communities. We cannot afford to take these jobs and the rivers for granted. Our communities and neighborhoods are more resilient because of the connections our rivers provide to the global marketplace.

More than 40,000 Pacific Northwest jobs are dependent or strongly influenced by Columbia River maritime commerce.

Columbia River ports

Ports are the economic builders of our region. They manage everything from small business incubators to marinas and internet access in their local areas. They also work with shippers, barge lines, export companies and farmers to transport cargo like grain, automobiles, lumber and steel up and down the Columbia River safely, efficiently and successfully.

Today's river commerce 

Keeping with its heritage, the Columbia River continues its vital role in commerce and trade for the region. Today, 50 million tons of cargo travel up and down the Columbia River. It is the third largest grain export gateway in the world, exporting more than 50% of the nation's wheat.

Our ports have access to global trade because of our rivers. Many of our communities were born because of their access to international trade. Without this river commerce access, our communities could be underserved and underdeveloped.

Skilled Columbia River Bar Pilots board vessels at the mouth of the Columbia River and help them safely navigate the Columbia River Bar. You can see how this process happens on the following video by Oregon Field Guide.

Once safely across the bar, a Columbia River Pilot takes over and steers the ships through the navigation channel. It is roughly 105 miles from the mouth to Portland, Oregon, and the ships can dock at any of the seven ports along the Lower Columbia River.

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Our Uses

We depend on the rivers in many ways, for many purposes

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Snake River

The Snake River provides power for our region and supports thousands of jobs

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Willamette River

Rising from southern Oregon this river is teeming with activity