Big Water, Great River: Two Ways of Looking at the Columbia River

Published In

Landscapes and Communities on the Pacific Rim

Document Type


Publication Date



Human ecology -- Pacific Northwest, Pacific Northwest -- Environmental conditions


East of Portland, Oregon, the Columbia River runs through a 3,000 foot-deep gorge in the Cascade Mountains on its westward course to the Pacific Ocean. Nearly at the end of its 1,210-mile run from the Canadian Rockies, the river cuts the only sea-level passageway through the chain of volcanic mountains that rise along the western edge of North America. It is a spectacularly scenic landscape. Rising steeply on the south bank, volcanic cliffs clothed in hemlock, fir, oak, spruce, and cedar loom over the river and elevated escarpments on the north bank. Dozens of glacier-fed streams fringe the precipices, dropping their waters hundreds of feet in falls and cascades to the Columbia. Formed by millions of years of catastrophic geological and hydrologi­cal forces, the “Gorge” has impressed, even stunned, every generation since it was first described in journal entries written by explorer William Clark in 1805.


© 2000 by Taylor and Francis



Persistent Identifier