The New International Encyclopædia/Columbia River
COLUMBIA or OR′EGON RIVER. One of the largest rivers of North America, rising in the eastern chain of the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia, in about latitude 50° N. and longitude 110° W. (Map: Washington, E 4). It flows at first northwest as far as latitude 53°, and then turns sharply on itself and flows south into Washington. Just before crossing the boundary, it is joined by the Pend Oreille River (Clarke's River or Fork), a large branch from the east. In Washington it flows in a winding course, at first south (to its junction with Spokane River), then west, then south, and then southeast to the Oregon line in about longitude 119° W. Near the Oregon boundary it is joined by its largest branch, Snake River, which rises in Yellowstone Park. Below the point of junction the river flows in a westerly direction, forming the boundary between Oregon and Washington over the remaining distance to the Pacific, being joined on its way by the John Day, Deschutes, and Willamette rivers from the south. Its head-waters drain the Rocky Mountain region on the west from about latitude 54° N. to about latitude 42° N. Its length is 1300 to 1400 miles. Its drainage area is fully 300,000 square miles, and its low-water flow at the Dalles, Oregon, is 108,000 cubic feet per second. The river is broken by falls and rapids into many separate portions; the first navigable reach is that from its mouth to the Dalles, 190 miles in length. From Celilo, 13 miles above the Dalles, it is navigable to Priest Rapids, 198 miles, and for several shorter stretches farther up, the total navigable length amounting to 750 miles. The total navigable mileage of the Columbia and its branches is 2132 miles. The important city of Vancouver, Wash., is built on its northern bank, just above the entrance of the Willamette, and Astoria, Oregon, is situated at the mouth of the river. The value of the river as a waterway is lessened by the fact that the entrance to its month is obstructed by a bar. Large vessels, however, ascend the Columbia to Vancouver, and also the Willamette to Portland. The tide ascends to the cascades about 150 miles from the sea, which are overcome by vessels through a lock constructed by the United States Government. (See Jetty.) The Columbia is famous for its salmon fisheries. This great river was long vaguely believed to exist. Its mouth was discovered only in 1792, by Captain Gray, of Boston, Mass., who gave it the name of his own vessel in place of the name Oregon. It was explored by Lewis and Clark in 1804-05.