The Columbia River is designated a B.C. Heritage River, and is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America, and the fourth largest river by volume in North America. The river rises from its headwaters near Canal Flats in the Canadian Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. It's source is Columbia Lake at 2,690 ft above sea level. From here it flows approximately 2,000km northwest through Golden to Revelstoke, and then south into the US state of Washington, then turns west to form most of the border between Washington and the state of Oregon, dropping 820 metres before emptying into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon. Along the way, the Columbia River passes through 14 hydroelectric dams on its main stem and many more in its tribuaries, including the Kicking Horse River and Blaeberry River, producing more hydroelectric power than those of any other North American river.
The Columbia is a snow-charged river system, and the volume of water in the river fluctuates seasonally. The highest volumes typically occur between April and September, and the lowest between December and February. Hydrometric data for the Columbia River at Nicholson and Donald is provided by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
Near Golden B.C. the Columbia River is popular for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Local outfits offer guided SUP, canoe or kayak tours and rentals.
The Columbia River is home to the Columbia Wetlands, and provides the life support system for hundreds of thousands of birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. They sustain the second-largest concentration of great blue heron residents in western Canada, more than 300 pairs. Migrating waterfowl — 15,000 each spring and autumn — depend on the wetlands to survive their journeys. Songbirds, shorebirds and birds of prey rely on the Columbia Wetlands, as do Kokanee salmon, Rocky Mountain whitefish, ling cod and several varieties of trout.
Boaters planning to head to the Columbia River need to be aware of the regulations in place to protect the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area (CWWMA) between Fairmount and Donald north of Golden. Please ensure that you abide by these regulations and report any observed violations of Fisheries, Wildlife or Environmental Protection laws to BC Conservation Officers at 1-877-952-7277.
The Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners came together several years ago in order to allow local communities to play a role in stewarding this very important wetland system and have produced a detailed river guide to the Columbia River between Canal Flats and Golden.