Columbia River

Feature Type:River - Watercourse of variable size, which has tributaries and flows into a body of water or a larger watercourse.
Status:
Name Authority: BC Geographical Names Office
Relative Location: Flows NW then S through Revelstoke, Castlegar & Trail, across the BC-Washington boundary thence W into Pacific Ocean, Kootenay Land District
Latitude-Longitude: 49°00'00''N, 117°37'57''W at the approximate mouth of this feature.
Datum: NAD83
NTS Map: 82F/4
Related Maps:
82E/16 82E/8 82E/9 82F/13
82F/4 82F/5 82J/5 82K/12
82K/13 82K/16 82K/4 82K/5
82K/8 82K/9 82L/16 82M/1
82M/10 82M/15 82M/16 82M/8
82M/9 82N/11 82N/12 82N/13
82N/2 82N/6 82N/7 83D/1
83D/2

Origin Notes and History:

Adopted in the 9th Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, 30 June 1910, as named on maps and charts since 1795.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

"Columbia River" and the approved French form, "Fleuve Columbia", identified as names of pan-Canadian significance per Treasury Board Circular 1983-58, 23 November 1983.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

Called Oregon River, by Jonathan Carver, 1766. Called Rio de San Roque by Bruno Heceta, who discovered the river's mouth in 1775, and so-labelled on Spanish charts. Named Columbia River in 1792, by Captain Robert Gray of Boston, after his ship "Columbia", which entered the mouth of the river in May of that year. In turn, the name of Gray's vessel honours Christopher Columbus, who 'discovered' America in 1492. Description of c1915 navigation from headwaters at Columbia Lake on file cover T.1.47.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

"...[Captain George Vancouver]... first heard of the river from Robert Gray, the energetic Yankee skipper who had pioneered the sea otter trade to China and who had earlier noted the entrance of a great river at approximately 46 degrees north latitude. When the two first met off Cape Flattery on 29 April 1792, just days after Vancouver had sailed passed the Columbia virtually without notice, Vancouver scoffed at Gray's report; he considered the inlet "not worthy of more attention" despite the fact that, in his own words, "the sea had changed from its natural, to river coloured water". After the meeting, Vancouver continued up the coast.... Gray quickly led his ship back to the Columbia, and on 12 May 1792, a portentous day in the history of North America, he drove his ship through the breakers and entered a broad river flowing from the east, from the mountainous heart of an unexplored land. Alexander Mackenzie was only just setting out from Fort Chipewyan on his epic cross-continental trek, and Lewis and Clark would not reach the Pacific until 1804. No one yet knew what lay between the Mississippi River and the Pacific coast, but Gray's river, named after his ship "Columbia", provided a focal point for future explorations and territorial ambitions. Gray remained at anchor in and around the river's mouth for a week or so, trading with the Chinook Indians, before hoisting sails and heading west to China and then Boston. He was convinced he had found the Great River of the West." (excerpt from "In the Most Faithful Manner: George Vancouver's Great Voyage" by Stephen R. Bown, published in Mercator's World magazine, Vol 4 No 6, November/December 1999 [www.mercatormag.com] )

Source: included with note

David Thompson's description of the source of the river: "I could never pass this singular place without admiring its situation and romantic bold scenery...other rivers have their sources so ramified in rills and brooks that it is not easy to determine the parent stream, this is not the case with the Columbia River, near the foot of a steep secondary mountain, surrounded by a fine grassy plain, lies it's source, in a fine lake of about eleven square miles of area, from which issues its' wild rapid stream, yet navigable to the sea, its' descent is great." (Thompson's Narrative, 1784-1812, Champlain Society, p.458)

Source: included with note