This last week Rivers for Change helped host the first Gorge Paddling Festival in the Columbia River Gorge. It was an incredible event, filled with epic downwinders, the North American Downwind Championship, and the Wildside Relay.

Connecting to a river and its communities, immersing oneself in its history, in its battles, and in its victories is one of the great opportunities of playing in a new river.

Below is some information on the Columbia River Gorge and some action you can take to help protect the river and communities along the way. A simple way to say Thank You for the river hosting us for such a great event.

The Columbia River 


-The Columbia River basin comprises some 260,000 square miles, and travels 1,243 miles from its headwaters in British Columbia, Canada, to its mouth at Astoria, Ore.

-The basin includes parts of seven states, 13 federally recognized Indian reservations, and one Canadian province.  It is the fourth largest river by volume in the United States.

-There are 14 dams on the mainstem of the Columbia River (4 of which are listed in the top 51 largest power stations in the World and include the top three Hydro Projects in the US (Grand Coulee Dam, Revelstoke Dam (Canada), Chief Joseph Dam, and John Day Dam). In total there are over 450 dams throughout the entire Columbia Basin that provide hydroelectricity and irrigation. Columbia’s generating capacity is more than 21 million kilowatts and about 4.7 million-acre feet of water are withdrawn for agriculture from the mainstem river during the growing season.


-The Columbia once produced the largest salmon runs on earth- with returns often exceeding 30 million salmon per year Most of the modern runs are now composed of hatchery fish and only about one percent of historic individual salmon stock remain with many of those at high risk of extinction. 13 stocks are currently listed under the Endangered Species Act.

-The Columbia River Gorge was named the 2nd Most Endangered River of 2015 by the group American Rivers. With outdated dams and lack of fish passage there is an opportunity to update the 1964 Canadian/American Treaty that manages the river to include an “ecological function” to help improve the health of the waterway.

-The Columbia river and surrounding corridor is used to transport many goods by rail and barge. However, with the current boom in transportation of oil by rail along the river, the chances of a catastrophic spill are increasing. In addition proposed terminals for the conveyance of Coal, Propane, and LNG as well as a giant oil refinery all threaten the banks of the river.

-Managing Water Quality for the health of fish, animals and people includes the need to clean up and monitor industrial and municipal pollution, toxic waste dumps, pesticide and fertilizer runoff. In addition the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (the most contaminated nuclear site in the US) contains at least 1 million gallons of highly radioactive waste traveling through groundwater toward the Columbia River.

Organizations Working toward the protection and revitalization of the river:

Friends of the Columbia Gorge-

Columbia Riverkeeper-

American Rivers-

Action Items:


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) and Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) are taking public comment on potential permits and associated environmental review for Tesoro Savage’s oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, Washington. Tesoro Savage cannot build its terminal without permits from the Army Corps and EFSEC. Comment Deadline: August 1, 2015.


Keep the Momentum going to update the Canadian/American treat that manages the Columbia River to include “ecosystem-based function.” Submit Comments here:

July 16th 2015-In a letter to Senator Patty Murray, the U.S. Department of State indicated that it would include “ecosystem-based function” along with the traditional Treaty purposes of flood risk mitigation and hydropower in its draft negotiating position. – See more at: but keep the momentum going by submitting more comments!