Where Does the Columbia River Start?

The Columbia River starts in southern British Columbia, Canada, at the base of the Rocky Mountains. This river stretches over 1,200 miles through seven northwestern states including Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah. Its journey ends in Oregon and Washington as it drains into the Pacific Ocean.

The Columbia River takes a complex path to the ocean. It flows north for the first 200 miles. From there it turns south and crosses into the United States. Among the Columbia River’s tributaries are the Kootenay, Snake, Lewis and Willamette rivers. Over 400 dams and hydroelectric power structures dot the river’s journey, drawing power from the river’s generating capacity of 21 million kilowatts.