The Columbia River (known as Wimahl or Big River to the Chinook-speaking natives who live on its lowermost reaches) is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It is named after the Columbia Rediviva, the first ship from the western world known to have traveled up the river. It stretches from the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) through the U.S. state of Washington, forming much of the border between Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. The river is 1,243 miles (2,000 km) long, and its drainage basin is 258,000 square miles (670,000 km2).|
Measured by the volume of its flow, the Columbia is the largest river flowing into the Pacific from North America and is the fourth-largest river in the U.S. The river's heavy flow, and its large elevation drop over a relatively short distance, give it tremendous potential for the generation of electricity. It is the largest hydroelectric power producing river in North America with fourteen hydroelectric dams in the U.S. and Canada, and many more on various tributaries.
The Columbia and its tributaries are home to numerous anadromous fish, which migrate between fresh water streams and the Pacific Ocean. These fish—especially the various species of salmon—have been a vital part of the river's ecology and the local economy for thousands of years.