The Columbia River

Prepared By: Leanne Penha, Daniel England, Peter Robbins, and Joe Mazur
Multonmah Falls
Table of Contents:
 The Columbia River History
 Environmental Problems With the Columbia River
Projects In The Works on the Columbia River
Scenic Areas on the Columbia River
Pictures of the Columbia River
 References Cited

The Columbia River History:

   The Columbia River is a 1,200 mile river beginning in the Canadian Rockies and emptying into the Pacific Ocean.  Some Native Americans call this river Nichi-wana which means  The Big River before the inhibition of the white man the Columbia River was of great importance to the Native Americans and wildlife that lived off of the river.

    The Columbia River has much history that has happened within its confines throughout the years.  As previously stated the Columbia River begins in the Canadian Rockies, on its journey to the Pacific it also flows through the Cascade Mountains.  This is home to much beautiful scenery as well as important history.  Much of this history came about during the Westward expansion.

    The  The Lewis and Clark expedition marked the beginning of this westward expansion.  Thomas Jefferson appointed Meriwether Lewis captain of this expedition in 1805.  Clark was co-captain of this learning experience, both traveled extensively throughout this river for two years.  Although the river was traveled by the two it was discovered by another man.  This man's name was Captain Robert Gray of Boston.  He discovered the river on May 20th, 1792.

    In 1851 the first steam engine traveled along the Columbia River.  It was called the "James P. Flint" built by a man with the same name.  The steam engine sunk and was later erected and rebuilt.  This new vessel was later called the "Fashion".  This steam engine operated in the lower Columbia River until 1961. The Columbia River has been witness to many other historical events such as the gold rush, the  steamship race to Portland, and many other land marking events.

Environmental Problems with the Columbia River:

   For many years non-Native American dwellers of the Columbia River have brought much damage to the Columbia River with their industries.  Since 1883 people looking to make life easier have made life harder for the wildlife that is part of this river.  In 1883 the cannery business hurt the salmon living in that area.  In just one year forty canneries packed about thirty-five million pounds of Chinook salmon.  The first cannery was built in Camas in 1884.  Many Native Americans believe that the damage of the river is due to the white man.

    Now the problem with the river still exists and maybe to greater lengths.  The level of dioxins and furans is very high.  The levels of  dioxin in the fish are so intense that the EPA has stated it is unsafe for human consumption.  These dioxins can be cancer forming (carcinogenic).  These unsafe conditions may be associated with the pulp and paper factories that are found along the river bend.

    There is also a problem with high levels of contamination by heavy metals in the river.  These are metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury, copper, and cadmium just to name a few.  Many industries are dumping metals in the river on a daily basis, which is causing these levels to rise everyday.

    Another problem with toxins in the river is the newly found high levels of bacteria in the river.  These levels tend to rise after heavy rain storms.  Other causes of the bacteria rise in the river is the problem with overflowing sewage that flows over into the river.

    Lastly, pesticides are a growing problem in the Columbia River.  This is a major concern to the whole entire river basin.  The farmers use many chemicals that are very damaging to the fish, wildlife, and people that live along the river.  The big concern with this is that it is not federally regulated, so the source of the pesticides will go undetected.

    There are many other problems with the Columbia River such as the building of dams, which is the cause of the destruction of many habitats along the river. The threat of PCB's are another concern because they are hazardous to the wildlife species particularly the bald eagle which is already an endangered species.  PCB's also can be harmful to humans, with side effects such as skin rashes, fatigue, loss of appetite, birth defects, and immune suppression just to name a few.  Lastly, the rise in temperature during the hot summer months are also a problem.  Many of the species of fish are not used to these extreme temperatures.  Their eggs die and eventually they do too.  They were meant for colder waters than what they are experiencing.

Projects in the works on the Columbia River:

    In the quest on making the Columbia River safer and cleaner the pulp and paper mills are putting together a project where they will stop the bleaching of paper which will in turn help in the cleaning up process of the polluted waters.  This will help them both economically and politically now that we are in an age of environmental safety.  They are doing this by using and alternative bleaching substance that is environmentally safe.

    Another project of the Columbia River is the Hanford Project. They are working with many individuals as well as industries to help clean up the river basin.  They hold seminars  where they teach awareness on the river and ideas on how to clean it up.  They are doing this in order to preserve the river and also for the health of the citizens that live along this river.

    They also have the Bingen Wetlands Improvement Project which helps in saving the planets most productive and most diverse ecosystem that there is.  They were successful in winning a $30,000 lawsuit against Columbia Aluminum for their violation of the Clean Water Act.

    Their are a number of fundraising projects that are involved in cleaning up the Columbia River.  some of them are very successful and some are not very successful.  Some of these organizations are taking great strides in making their river clean once again.

Scenic Areas on the Columbia River:
Multnomah Falls:
    Found along the Columbia River Gorge, it is 620 feet in height.  It is the second highest waterfall in the United States.  This waterfall comes from the snow capped Larch mountain and natural springs.  Benson Bridge allows visitors to cross the falls upper and lower cataracts.  This bridge was erected in 1914 by  Simon Benson .

 Five Most Scenic Sights:
   The five most spectacular scenic sights along the river are; Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, Indian Heaven, Trapper Creek or Columbia.  These are places where you can view wildflowers, and beautiful waters.

Pictures of the Columbia River:

Photo taken by  Daniel Dancer
"The care of the river is not a question of rivers, but of the human heart."
Quote by Tanaka Shozo

                                                    The  Columbia River Gorge  is a national scenic area.

                                                            Steam Boat  paddling along the Columbia River.

Once there was a steamship race to Portland.

Industries along the Columbia River may cause chemical problems in the river, and kill wildlife.
References Cited:
Columbia River United, Inspired to Protect the Columbia River. "Major Problems Identified"

Columbia River United, Inspired to Help Protect the Columbia River. "Projects"

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. "Multnomah Falls"

Great Outdoor Recreation Pages. "Destinations: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area"

infoseek. "Columbia Gorge Information"

Gorgnet History-The Columbia River. "Mid-Columbia History, columbia river"

Columbia River United, Inspired To Protect The Columbia River. "The River History/Her Story"