The Columbia River is a defining part of Portland’s geography, culture and history. Flowing more than 1,200 miles from the base of the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia to its mouth at the Pacific Ocean, it is one of the largest rivers in the United States. The Columbia River basin includes parts of seven states and is roughly the size of France. The City of Portland covers only a tiny fraction of the entire river basin.
All of Portland’s land eventually drains to the Columbia River. So, all Portlanders live in the Columbia River basin, and nearly all live in the Willamette River watershed. Zooming farther down, most Portlanders also live in the watershed of a smaller local stream or waterway such as Johnson Creek, Tryon Creek, the Columbia Slough, or Fanno Creek.
Even though the city occupies only a small portion of the Columbia basin, Portland is located where the Willamette River and Columbia River converge. The confluence of these two large rivers is an area of critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Salmon pass through this confluence and rest as they migrate from Canada and the Willamette Valley to and from the ocean. Many species of birds also travel through this area as they migrate between South America and the Arctic, and from the Pacific Ocean through the Columbia Gorge.
The confluence is also a critical area for the economy. The Columbia River contains significant port facilities that facilitate trade and link Portland to the global economy.
The Columbia River has many challenges over which Portland has little or no influence, such as upstream pollution and dams that regulate flow. One challenge in our confluence area is the limited amount of shallow water and off-channel habitat, and a lack of large wood that provides refuge for fish and wildlife.
Even though we have a small area of influence, all of Portland’s actions to improve water quality, habitat and diversity of fish and wildlife within the city also help contribute to a healthier Columbia River.
For more information:
- Keep up with news about watershed projects, green infrastructure stories and community events on the City Green Blog and on Facebook.
- Get construction traffic alerts and other Environmental Services news on Twitter @BESPortland and on Facebook.
- Learn what you can do for clean rivers and streams.
- Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership Learn more about the Lower Columbia River’s habitat, recreation opportunities, and ways to get involved.
- Columbia River Watershed Map See Portland’s place in the Columbia River Basin on this Wikipedia map.