The federal navigation channel at the mouth of the Columbia River is six miles long and lies between 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. South jetty, built between 1885 and 1895, is 6.6 miles long and on the Oregon side of the mouth.
Many areas of each structure have been 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 2005 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. South Jetty 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. Jetty A rehabilitation was completed in 2016.
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). The project improved navigation by deepening the 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 the mouth of the Columbia River. 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.