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Building Strong® at the Mouth of the Columbia River

The federal navigation channel at the Mouth of the Columbia River is six miles long and lies between the two jetties. It was first authorized in 1884.

The Corps operates and maintains three jetties and the navigation channel that serves as the border between Washington and Oregon. The north jetty, built from 1913 to 1917, is 2.5 miles long. Jetty “A” was built in 1939 and is 0.3 miles long.  The north jetty and jetty “A” are on the Washington side of the Mouth.  On the Oregon side is the south jetty, built from 1885 to 1895 and 6.6 miles long.

Many areas of each structure are severely damaged due to the extreme waves of the Pacific Ocean interacting with the Columbia River.  The structures are routinely exposed to ocean waves ranging from 10 to 20 feet high.  Increased storm activity and the loss of sand shoal material upon which they are built have taken a toll on the structural integrity of the jetties. The Corps is working to restore the system to acceptable levels of reliability. 

Previously interim repairs were completed for the North and South Jetties from fiscal year 2004 to 2007.  The North Jetty interim repair was completed in November 2005 with 58,000 tons of stone placed over 3,000 feet.  The South Jetty interim repair was completed in September of 2007 with 168,000 tons placed over 5,300 feet.  Reach A was finished in 2006 with 82,000 tons of stone placed over 2,200 feet and Reach B was completed in 2007 with 86,000 tons placed over 3,100 feet.

The Corps completed the Columbia River Channel Improvements Project in November 2010. The project deepened the Columbia River by three feet, to 43 feet along a 103-mile stretch of river from the Pacific Ocean to Portland, Ore.  The project took 20 years to complete and was a collaborative effort between the Corps and six lower Columbia River ports (Portland, Vancouver, Kalama, St. Helens, Longview and Woodland) to improve navigation by deepening the navigation channel to accommodate the current fleet of international bulk cargo and container ships and to improve the condition of the Columbia River estuary through the completion of other environmental restoration projects.

The navigation channel is important to the regional and national economy.  The Port of Portland estimates more than 40,000 jobs along the lower Columbia River are dependent upon seaport activity.  Seaport activity in the regions of the lower Columbia generates $208 million in state and local tax revenue and contributes 10 percent toward the state of Oregon’s gross product.  About 1,000 firms export goods via the lower Columbia River and all of these goods must exit the Mouth of the Columbia River.

The Corps of Engineers does not maintain recreation facilities at this location. Please stay off the jetties as they are hazardous and not intended for recreational use. Nearby and/or adjacent recreational facilities fall under the jurisdiction of private, local or state agencies. Learn more about jetties and why they are unsuitable for recreation at Understanding Coastal Jetties.

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Operations: Mouth of the Columbia River

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The Columbia River bar is the second-most treacherous in the world and the most treacherous in the United States.  By maintaining the channel to its authorized depth, the work ensures safer passage for commercial and recreational vessels. 

The project can only be dredged during the calmer weather between June and early November.  Up to 5 feet of allowable over-depth dredging may be accomplished in order to ensure authorized project depth in between dredging cycles.  In some locations 1-2 feet of additional depth may be removed or otherwise disturbed during the dredging process. 

Main Channel:
Channel A (north reach) is 6 miles long, 2,000 feet wide and 55 feet deep.
Channel A (south reach) is 6 miles long, 640 feet wide and 48 feet deep.

North Jetty is 2.5 miles long.
South Jetty is 6.6 miles long.
Spur Jetty A is 0.3 miles long.

The Rivers and Harbors Act of July 5, 1884.