Where Does the Snake River Begin and End

The Snake River runs more than a thousand miles connecting the Pacific Northwest and was once considered one of the most bountiful rivers in the U.S. with salmon, clean water, and healthy habitats for wildlife but is now under watch as one of America’s top endangered rivers. Where does the snake river begin and end?

The Snake River originates in parts of Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming and runs across southern Idaho before turning north climbing in elevation along the Idaho-Oregon border then diving in elevation turning west as it enters Washington State and flows into the Columbia River.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–06 was the first American group to cross the Rocky Mountains and sail down the Snake and Columbia Rivers to the Pacific Ocean. These are some of the most scenic and beautiful spots in North America.

Headwaters of the Snake River


The Snake River near its source in the Teton Mountains
Snake River Headwaters near its Source

The Snake River is a major tributary of the Columbia River and has its headwaters just inside Yellowstone on the Two Ocean Plateau. Various stretches of this important river have had at least 15 different names. The name, which comes from the Snake Shoshone Indians, was applied to the river as early as 1812, making it one of the oldest place names in the park.

The Snake River likely derived its name from the early European explorers who misinterpreted the sign made by the Shoshone people who communicated in sign language by moving their hand in a swimming motion which appeared to these explorers to be a “snake.”

Snake River - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service)It actually signified that they lived near the river with many fish. In the 1950s, the name “Hells Canyon” was borrowed from Hells Canyon Creek, which enters the river near Hells Canyon Dam.

The Snake River Headwaters encompasses parts of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The river lies at the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), often referred to as one of the last intact functioning temperate ecosystems on earth

Rivers including the Snake River protected by Congress by the Headwaters Legacy Act of 2009 (PL 111-11) are among the most pristine in the nation. They have many outstandingly remarkable values and offer myriad recreational opportunities. according to USDA Forestry Service

The Snake River Headwaters is unique in that it is made up of a connected watershed rather than just a single river or a set of isolated rivers spread across a region. The Snake River Headwaters is sourced from 13 rivers and 25 separate river segments totaling 414 miles, with 315 miles within Bridger-Teton National Forest.

These are some of the most scenic and beautiful spots in North America. The largest tributary of the Snake River is the Clearwater River, which discharges approximately 11 million acre-feet of water every year. The second-largest tributary is the Salmon River, which discharges approximately 8 million acre-feet of water every year.

The upper Snake River is used mostly for Irrigation and Hydroelectric power. The main flow is regulated by a series of Dams and Reservoirs the biggest being the American Fall Dam and Reservoir.


Snake River Map


Snake River - American Rivers At 1,078 miles (1,735 km) long, 358 ft. elevation the Snake River is the largest tributary of the Columbia River, in turn, the largest North American river that empties into the Pacific Ocean. The Snake River rises in western Wyoming, then flows through the Snake River Plain of southern Idaho,

the rugged Hells Canyon at the OregonIdaho border, and the rolling Palouse Hills of Washington, before emptying into the Columbia River at the Tri-Cities in the Columbia Basin of Eastern Washington.

The Snake River drainage basin is the 10th largest in North America and covers about 108,000 square miles parts of six U.S. states  Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming

Where Does the Snake River End

Turning north, it forms the boundary between Idaho and Oregon for 216 miles. From the northeastern corner of Oregon, it forms the Washington-Idaho boundary to Lewiston, Idaho, and then turns west to join the Columbia just south of Pasco, Washington, after a course of 1,040 miles.

Runoff from the states of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington combines and empties in the Snake River, which has a drainage basin of some 109,000 square miles. From elevations of 10,000 feet, the river descends to 300 feet at its outflow into the Columbia River.

Snake River Dams


Snake River has 27 dams and reservoirs with a total active capacity of approximately 6.8 million acre-feet, providing water to 83,000 farmers and more than 30,000 farms. Six power plants provide 821,870-megawatt hours of electricity annually.

The four Snake River dams on the lower Snake in southeast Washington were completed in the 1960s and 1970s. Lower Granite Dam is located approximately 40 miles downstream of Lewiston, Idaho. Further downstream are Little Goose Dam, Lower Monumental Dam, and Ice Harbor Dam.

These four Dams are the main ones in question believed to be hampering the migration of young salmon headed out to sea, 

Dams and reservoirs from the Snake have an effect on the natural salmon runs that take place in the upper parts of the Snake River throughout the Columbia River where migratory salmon make their way to the ocean and back. The Dams were built and operated for good reasons like transportation but a lot of people now feel that they are inadequate and antiquated and are only hurting salmon migration which also affects the Columbia River. There are movements to take them down.






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Armchair ExplorerThe Snake River Headwater

USDA- Bridger-Teton National Forest





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