The River Highway

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Idaho has many rivers. There are many lakes, streams, and water run-off courses that flow into these rivers. The biggest river in Idaho is the Snake River that takes water from Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho all the way to the Columbia River in Washington. The Columbia then flows into the Pacific Ocean.

The Snake and Columbia Rivers are like a highway for boats and barges. Barges are large containers that float on water. Barges carry wheat, barley, peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, wood products, and other material from Idaho and neighboring states to Portland, Oregon. These products are loaded onto ocean going ships that take the products to be used all over the world.

When the barges are emptied in Portland, they come back up the river to different cities in Oregon, Washington, and to Lewiston with fuel, fertilizer, and other products. Barges are the safest and cheapest form of transportation in the Pacific Northwest and Idaho. Continue...

The red lines are dams on the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers – all of the blue lines are different rivers that flow into the Columbia and eventually the pacific ocean – the Columbia River system is one of the most developed in the world – 80 percent of all the power used in the PNW is from hydro-electric dams.

The Port of Lewiston and grain terminals – wheat is moved from fields during harvest and from country elevators all year to fill barges that take wheat all over the world – 80% of all crops grown in the PNW are shipped overseas.

Barges use the least amount of energy per bushel to move grain – this barge is being filled with wheat that will be shipped to Portland, Oregon – this barge is on the Clearwater River and at Lewiston, Idaho’s only seaport.

This is a lock on the dam – locks are like elevators for barges – water is raised or lowered depending upon the direction the barge is traveling – can you find the gates on the lock?

Spillways are open and releasing the water that is stored up above – the water that is released through the spillway goes through turbines to generate electricity.

The powerhouse on a dam is where the energy that is created by the water goes from the turbines, through the power lines, to houses and business all over the northwest – can you see the power lines?

Dillon, Logan, and Andy are standing by a fish ladder – fish ladders are used to help fish travel around dams – before dams were built, certain fish had to swim and jump up rapids and waterfalls – fish ladders help people and animals work together.

Some dams raise fish from eggs and then release them into the river – some of the fish that are raised are transported towards Portland, Oregon to be released so that they can swim to the ocean – Andy is standing in front of a truck and tanker that moves the young fish.

Inside some of the dams with fish ladders people can go inside and watch the fish swim up and down stream – this is a viewing room where you can watch the fish – there is also another room where a person counts certain types of fish that go upstream from the ocean – the fish you see in the window are Chinook salmon that are headed to redfish lake in Idaho and steelhead – how many fish can you see?

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Lewiston is Idaho’s only seaport and products are taken there from fields, forests, factories and other states to be loaded onto a barge. The reason that agriculture and other businesses are able to ship products by barge is due to dams on the rivers.

Dams on the Snake and Columbia River are very beneficial to people all over the world that depend upon the food and products made in Idaho and other states. A barge holds the equivalent of 16 railcars or 70 trucks. There is over 150 million bushels shipped by barge to Portland each year and that would be the equal to approximately 150,000 trucks on the road.

Dams also provide flood control and energy. By having dams on the river, people are able to be more efficient and their homes and businesses are protected. There are some dams that are barriers to certain fish like salmon and steelhead, but fish ladders have been built so that they can move up and downstream.

There are dams in Idaho and other states that not only provide energy and flood control, but they also store water to be used later for irrigation of crops and to help the salmon and steelhead travel to the ocean. Dams are not only important to people in Idaho, but they are important to the people in the United States and all over the world.


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