Why we use the rivers for navigation

By transporting goods up and down the Columbia, Snake and Willamette rivers we keep more than 700,000 trucks off our Northwest highways. 

Barging is the safest, lowest-cost and most environmentally friendly mode of transportation for trade. 

A typical barge system consists of a towboat and four barges (or containers). The tow boat pushes the barges up and down the river, stopping at ports along the way. A typical four-barge tow on the river system moves the same amount of cargo as 140 rail cars or 538 semi-trucks. 

Barge Truck

Because of this efficiency and proximity to Pacific Rim customers, farmers across the West use the Snake River to ship their wheat and other commodities. Grain farmers in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington use Snake River ports to get their wheat to ports near the mouth of the Columbia River. From there, grain is loaded onto ocean-going ships which carry grain to customers along the Pacific Rim. It's roughly 360 miles from the Port of Lewiston to ports on the Lower Columbia River. In 2014 nine million tons of cargo moved along this system. Below is a photo of a grain facility in Lewiston, Idaho.

Grainport Lewiston

Barging on the Snake River is vital to farmers in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, more than 10% of U.S. wheat exports move via the Snake River port system each year. This video from the television show Washington Grown explains how grain travels from one of the 27 grain elevators along the upper Columbia and Snake rivers to the lower river ports.

Have you ever wondered how wheat moves from farm to market? The wheat farmers of Washington put together this video to illustrate the journey of wheat from the research phase to the end product, including how it travels down the Snake and Columbia rivers.

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Columbia River

The mighty Columbia is more than a source for irrigation and kayaking.

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Willamette River

Rising from southern Oregon this river is teeming with activity.

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Our Uses

We use the rivers in many ways, for many purposes.