Columbia River BasinExpedition


Expedition Team:
Barbara Folger
(Expedition Lead, NWNL Project Coordinator, Photographer)
Alison M. Jones (NWNL Director, Photographer)
Jasmine Graf (NWNL Assoc. Director, In-Office Expedition Backup)

THE COLUMBIA RIVER BASIN: The Columbia River is North America’s largest river running into the Pacific Ocean and its 4th largest river by volume. The Columbia River (1,243 miles/2000 km) drains water from 1 Canadian province, 7 U.S. states and 11 tribal nations. Over 11 million people rely on its water for livelihood and recreation. This NWNL case-study watershed has eight times the runoff of the Colorado River Basin. The major tributary in the Columbia River Basin is the Snake River.

THE SNAKE RIVER SUB-BASIN: The Snake River rises in Wyoming’s Yellowstone Caldera, runs downstream through the Idaho Plains into Hells Canyon (North America’s deepest gorge) and Palouse Hills, and meets the Columbia near Burbank, Washington. The Snake drains parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Its length (1,078 miles/1,735 km) and elevation drop (358 feet/109 meters) offer many services and values to watershed stakeholders, including hydropower, irrigation waters, and recreation (rafting, hunting, snow-skiing, etc.). Economically, the Lower Snake has served as a crucial transportation corridor for grain. Other watershed elements of economic importance are the basin’s forests, floodplains and dramatic wilderness areas, such as Yellowstone National Park and Hells Canyon. Significant tributaries include the Palouse, Clearwater, Salmon, Owyhee, Salmon Falls, Grays, Henrys Fork and Gros Ventre Rivers. Aquatic species of concern include salmon, steelhead, lamprey and sturgeon.

SNAKE RIVER BASIN FOCUS: NWNL will examine the health of the Snake River, competing demands for water usage, and the agencies and stakeholders responsible for sustainably managing this watershed. The issues include:

Infrastructure: The role and future of Snake River dams and levees

Climate: Impacts of droughts, floods and extreme weather

Biodiversity: Anadromous fish (salmon and trout), gray wolf, elk and pronghorn populations

Pollution: Agricultural runoff, urban runoff, mercury and phosphorus

Agriculture and aquaculture: Water needs and sources, efficiency of technology

Natural Resource Management: Headwaters, floodplain and riparian regions

Nez Perce Tribe: Past, present and future roles in watershed management

Protected Areas: National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and State Parks

EXPEDITION METHODOLOGY: This expedition, informed by scientific research, will create still and video documentation in three states. NWNL will interview stakeholders and stewards involved with the issues mentioned above. Post expedition, NWNL will publish its documentation, share watershed management solutions and create relevant educational tools. As with previous NWNL expeditions, outcomes will be disseminated via print and online media, exhibits and lectures. Three prior NWNL expeditions have covered the Columbia River Basin:

Explorers Club

Global Information Network

EXPEDITION ENDORSEMENTS: NWNL thanks all who have endorsed our 18 watershed expeditions, including American Rivers, The International League of Conservation Photographers, The Explorers Club, and Wings World Quest.