Few rivers define a region like the Columbia, where tribal scientists are making headway in bringing back its most important species: salmon.
Few rivers define a region like the Columbia. Since time immemorial, it’s been a food source, a dividing line and a driver of culture and politics throughout the Pacific Northwest. And since humans have lived on it, we’ve sung about it — from Native hymns to Woody Guthrie’s “Roll On, Columbia.”
Ever since white settlers first came west, people have gone from relying on its seasonal bounty to attempting to tame it for their own purposes. Of those efforts, nothing has transformed the Columbia like the 18 dams that generate low-cost electricity and create reservoirs that support Washington’s year-round agricultural industry. Woody even wrote a song about the largest of those dams, the Grand Coulee — a 500-foot-tall, nearly milelong wall of concrete that is among the largest objects built by human hands.