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mouth of the columbia river

mouth of the columbia river

mouth of the columbia river

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mouth of the columbia river

August 2002: Mouth of the Colombia River, near Astoria, Oregon, with the Pacific Ocean in the background. The end point of David Thompson’s extraordinary travels in the northwestern interior of the continent between 1784 and 1812. One stop in a 26-day, 5,500-kilometre research trip for Epic Wanderer: David Thompson and the Mapping of the Canadian West. Other stops included: Rocky Mountain House, Alta., Kootenay Plain, Saskatchewan River Crossing, Bonner’s Ferry, Sand Point, Idaho, Wenatchee, Wash. and Thompson Falls, Mont., named for the great explorer, who wintered there in 1810 among the Salish Indians.

mouth of the columbia river
mouth of the columbia river

Columbia River

Columbia River, largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America. It is exceeded in discharge on the continent only by the Mississippi, St. Lawrence, and Mackenzie rivers. however, The Columbia is one of the world’s greatest sources of hydroelectric power and, with its tributaries, represents a third of the potential hydropower of the United States. In addition, its mouth provides the first deepwater harbour north of San Francisco. Two-fifths of the river’s course, some 500 miles (800 km) of its 1,240-mile (2,000-km) length,

lies in Canada, between its headwaters in British Columbia and the U.S. border.



Many theories as to the meaning of “Oregon” exist. In 1765 an English Army Officer,

Major Robert Rogers, used the term “Ouragon” (and later “Ourigan” in a 1772 petition) in petitioning for an exploring expedition into the country west of the Great Lakes. In 1766 and 1767 Jonathan Carver, while exploring among the Indians of Minnesota,

wrote about a great river of the West and he called it “Oregon”. According to Oregon Geographic Names (McArthur, 2003), Carver may have taken the name from Major Rogers. Then, an 1883 article written from Father Blanchet say’s it’s from the Spanish word “orejon”, meaning “big ears”.

mouth of the columbia river
mouth of the columbia river

A Geological, Geographical, and Historical Monument

The mouth of the Columbia was the objective of explorers including Lewis and Clark, John Jacob Astor’s trade empire aspirations, moreover, and others who thought the big river would provide a travel route across the continent.

What they didn’t know was that the Columbia comes south out of British Columbia instead of proceeding nicely westward from the U.S. Rockies. The only tributary that does come out of the Rockies is the impassible Snake, which has hundreds of miles of waterfalls, rapids, and formidable canyons. Lewis and Clark had high hopes to take the Salmon River from the continental divide westward to the Columbia, but like the Snake, the Salmon is filled with rapids in impassible canyons that are challenging even today.

Lewis and Clark reached the mouth of the Columbia on November 20th, 1805 via their northern route. An overland expedition sent by John Jacob Astor, later known as the “Astorians,” reached it in January, 1812 after tremendous hardship traveling along the Snake River. The Astorians left a lasting and invaluable contribution to westward migration – discovery of the “South Pass” (as opposed to Lewis and Clark’s more difficult “northern pass” over the Rockies) that would become the Oregon Trail.

The mouth of the Columbia is unusual for a big river because it has no delta. Instead, sediment is transported down subsea canyons to deep water, leaving the river mouth subject to waves, tidal flow, and currents. It’s the most treacherous place for ships on the Pacific coast.

Improvement of Mouth of the Columbia River

This June 30, 1896, map depicts the south jetty of the Columbia River shortly after it was completed by federal engineers in 1895. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the jetty to concentrate the flow of water from the river into the ocean, thereby creating a deeper, more stable channel through which ships could navigate.moreover, The map depicts the jetty’s underwater composition and its location, which extends from Point Adams across Clatsop Spit and into the Pacific Ocean.however, Four “rock groins” short segments of the jetty perpendicular to the main line, are illustrated on the jetty’s north side. Their purpose was to prevent the tide from displacing sand surrounding the jetty.

moreover, Throughout the early history of shipping in the Pacific Northwest, the mouth of the Columbia River was renowned for being treacherous. Severe weather and constantly-shifting water depths made crossing the Columbia bar a dangerous chore.

The problem magnified during the second half of the nineteenth century as ships grew in size and could no longer travel safely through the natural channels of the river’s entrance, which ranged in depth from seventeen to twenty-one feet.moreover, Recognizing that hazardous conditions along such an important transportation artery were potentially detrimental to trade and commerce, Congress answered pleas from shipping lobbyists and other concerned citizens by authorizing the construction of a jetty in 1884.

As a result, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the ambition endeavor in April 1885. After ten years of dangerous work, the south jetty grew to be four and one-half miles long and thirty feet high.moreover, The depth of the channel increased to thirty feet at low tide, the Army Engineers’ goal. The cost of the successful engineering feat was just under $2,025,000-forty-five percent below budget.

mouth of the columbia river
mouth of the columbia river


Modeling the Mouth of the Columbia River is a challenging task due to strong currents, severe wind and wave conditions, and vast river discharge.moreover, Simulations for the present study were carried out using the coupled ocean-atmosphere-wave-sediment transport (COAWST) modeling system [Warner et al., 2010], which consists of four components: a meteorological model (WRF), a circulation model (ROMS), a wave model (SWAN), and a sediment transport model (CSTMS).

As a result,The model components communicate with each other with the use of the Model Coupling Toolkit (MCT) [Larson et al., 2005; Jacob et al., 2005]. The interested reader is referred to Warner et al. [2008, 2010] for the full description of the system. For the purposes of this study,moreover, only the circulation and wave components were used. As for the wave force formulation, McWilliams et al. [2004] developed a theory on the vortex formalism for inclusion of the effect of the waves on currents. moreover, Model implementation of the theory was done by Uchiyama et al. [2010], which was later implemented in the COAWST modeling system by Kumar et al. [2012], which was used also in the present study.

Shipwrecks at the Mouth of the Columbia River

Peter Iredale

The Peter Iredale is one of the most photographed shipwrecks in the Pacific Northwest,

as its wreckage remains visible more than 100 years since it ran aground. A four-masted steel ship, the Iredale grounded on Sept. 26, 1906, in a thick mist and rising tide. Pounded by squalls,

the ship ran aground at Clatsop Spit. The crew and some of the cargo were offloaded,

and it was hoped the ship could be refloated in better weather.moreover, The ship became embedded in the sand and was ultimately sold for scrap leaving behind the portions that are visible today. The rudder of the Peter Iredale can be seen at the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

The Alice

The Alice was a French square-rigged ship that sunk on Jan. 15, 1909 near Ocean Park. The ship was overloaded with cement, which hardened when the ship sunk in shallow waters,

keeping the ship upright for decades. Time and water have deteriorated the wreck to a wooden skeleton that is occasionally visible at low tide.

Admiral Benson

The Admiral Benson, a steamship with a crew of 65 and carrying 39 passengers,

became stranded in the sand on Peacock Spit near the mouth of the Columbia River in February 1930. The passengers were off-loaded in hopes of refloating the ship,

but after several days of gale force winds and waves, the ship began to break apart and ultimately sunk into the sand. The ship remains submerged with its smoke stack visible and is considered dangerous to surface navigation. Additional parts of the ship are visible during extremely low tides.

The Isabella

Sunk in 1830, the Isabella was a Hudson Bay Company supply ship. The ship ran aground, then sank off Sand Island, near the mouth of the Columbia River. The wreck, discovered in 1986, is the second-oldest wreck known in the area and the oldest yet discovered. The Isabella is one of only two intact wooden shipwrecks of the 1830s era in American waters. The shipwreck is a state archeological site and off limits to sport divers.

mouth of the columbia river
mouth of the columbia river

Columbia River South Jetty

Jetties were built in the Columbia river mouth to protect and maintain shipping channels. however,Storm waves and incessant river and shoreline currents move tremendous amounts of sand every day,

and jetties are necessary to control sand movement and stabilize channels. They also reduce the size of waves landward of the jetties. Without them, shipping channels would change unpredictably and would be tremendously expensive to maintain by dredging.


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