Rivers in Washington State 

Wenatchee River in Fall, Washington State
© iStock.com/Mark Lee

Written by Kirstin Harrington

Published: November 21, 2022

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In Washington, there is magnificent natural beauty almost everywhere you go! Our state is full of fantastic locations for kayaking and fishing, from the countless gorgeous lakes to the limitless waterways! There is something absolutely remarkable about these rivers in the Evergreen state, though, among the many sites here in the Northwest. Here is a look at several key rivers in Washington State.

Yakima River

The Yakima River, named after the local Yakama people, is a tributary of the Columbia River in south-central and eastern Washington state. The river is 214 miles long from its source to its mouth, with a drop of nearly 10 feet per mile on average. 

The Yakima River flows in the Cascade Range at Keechelus Dam on Keechelus Lake near Snoqualmie Pass, close to Easton, at an altitude of 2,449 feet. After passing through that area, the river skirts Ellensburg, travels through Yakima, and then proceeds southeast to Richland, where it flows into the Columbia River and forms the Yakima River Delta at a height of 340 feet.

This river is the longest in all of Washington State. At the Umtanum Recreation Site, you can engage in floating and diving for a number of hours. Yakima River has emerged as the premier fly-fishing location as fish populations keep increasing. In reality, participants in competitions travel from all across the nation.

Yakima River, Washington State

The Yakima River is the longest river in Washington State and popular for fly-fishing.


Columbia River

258,000 square miles, or portions of seven states and one Canadian province, make up the Columbia River Basin. Most of it is distributed throughout Washington State. The river drains more water into the Pacific Coast compared to any other river in North or South America along its 1,200-mile journey to the ocean, which passes through four mountain ranges. 

With returns frequently surpassing 30 million fish annually, it previously generated the biggest salmon runs on Earth; currently, just a small portion return to spawning. The river also provides water to over 600,000 acres of farmland and supplies potable water to many villages along its path. 

Numerous anadromous fish species that move between freshwater environments and the salty waters of the Pacific Ocean can be found in the river system. The primary source of food for indigenous peoples was these fish, particularly the salmon type.

Columbia River in Washington State

The Columbia River drains more water into the Pacific Coast compared to any other river in North or South America.

©iStock.com/Sharla Libera

Skykomish River

The Skykomish River, a 29-mile-long river in the U.S. state of Washington, drains the west side of the Cascade Mountains in Snohomish County’s southeast corner and King County’s northeastern corner.

The Sky River or The Sky are other monikers used to reference the Skykomish. South Fork Skykomish and Tye River serve as its headwater tributaries, adding 62.4 miles to the overall length.  A drainage basin for the Skykomish has an area of 834 square miles.

Tubing and canoeing on the Skykomish River are popular summertime activities, particularly near Index, Washington. Depending on the conditions and time of year, the Skykomish River has a majority of Class III and Class III+ rapids, but it also has Boulder Drop, a class IV+ rapid. Recreational fishing is also popular in Skykomish and its tributaries. 

Skykomish River, Washington State

Tubing and canoeing on the Skykomish River are popular summertime activities.

©iStock.com/Cory Maccarrone

Wenatchee River

There are numerous thrilling activities in Washington State just waiting to be explored. The Wenatchee River is among the most beautiful locations close to Leavenworth, Washington. There are many breathtaking sites along the 53-mile Wenatchee River’s course from glacier-fed Lake Wenatchee to the Columbia River. 

Since 1891, water has been redirected from the Wenatchee River and its tributaries for agricultural irrigation, primarily for orchards. The Tumwater Canyon Dam, located about west of the village of Leavenworth, and the Dryden Dam, a limited dam located just beyond the town of Dryden, are the two small dams on the Wenatchee River.

You’ll be astounded by the natural splendor around Leavenworth, which ranges from snow-capped peaks in the winter to blazing autumnal foliage in the fall. One of the greatest areas in the state to practice stand-up paddleboarding is the Wenatchee River. 

You’ll be prepared to go after renting a paddleboard and receiving training from professionals. Depending on your skill level and comfort level, this enjoyable water sport can be as relaxing or as exciting as you wish.

Wenatchee River, Washington State in summer

The Wenatchee River is among the most beautiful locations close to Leavenworth, Washington.

©iStock.com/Cindy Shebley

Spokane River

The Spokane River rises in Coeur d’Alene Lake in Kootenai County, northern Idaho, and flows west across Spokane for about 50 miles to the Columbia River before crossing the Washington border. Long Lake Dam is one of the Spokane’s numerous dams, which total 100 miles in length.

In addition to offering locals and visitors magnificent whitewater river rafting, wonderful family river cruises, and a variety of river adventures, the Spokane River also supplies essential agricultural and drinking water to eastern Washington. The region’s considerable farmland and wood industries are supported by the Spokane River basin.

The renowned Bowl and Pitcher rapid is located in Spokane, Washington. People from all over enjoy water activities here. The Spokane River, which runs through the center of Spokane, Washington, is a genuinely magical urban river. A total of 6,240 square miles, or 3,840 square miles, make up the Spokane River’s drainage area beyond Post Falls Dam at the outflow of Coeur d’Alene Lake.

Spokane River, Washington State

The Spokane River is home to the renowned Bowl and Pitcher rapid popular for whitewater rafting.


Snake River

Though only partially in Washington State, Snake River still deserves a mention. This river flows north along the Idaho-Oregon border after beginning in Wyoming and making an arc through southern Idaho. 

Following Washington, the river runs west to the Columbia River. It is the greatest tributary of the Columbia and a crucial supply of irrigation water for crops like potatoes and sugar beets. Additionally, it helps a thriving recreation sector.

For over 11,000 years, Native Americans have inhabited the Snake River valley. Millions of salmon from the Pacific Ocean spawned in the river, providing a crucial supply of food for those residing on the Snake south of Shoshone Falls. 

In addition to freshwater ecosystems, the Snake River watershed is home to several species of bigger animals, birds, frogs, and lizards. The gray wolf, brown bear, wolverine, mountain lion, and Canada lynx are widespread throughout the watershed but are particularly prevalent in the headwaters and adjacent hilly regions.

Snake River in Washington State

Snake River is the greatest tributary of the Columbia and a crucial supply of irrigation water for crops like potatoes and sugar beets.


Sol Duc River

In the state’s northwest corner is where you’ll find the Sol Duc Valley. By exiting off Highway 101 and onto Sol Duc Road, one can reach the Sol Duc only 40 minutes west of Port Angeles. 

The Sol Duc region is home to thick jungles, subalpine reservoirs, and snow-capped peaks. The Sol Duc River, which flows through the valley and ascends to the lagoons and headwaters in the neighboring mountains, serves as a vital coho salmon migration route.

It runs from the Olympic Mountains in Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to the large Sol Duc Valley in the northwest of the Olympic Peninsula, where it continues west for about 78 miles. The Sol Duc River merges with the Bogachiel River close to the Pacific Ocean to produce the Quillayute River, which travels 4 miles to the Pacific Ocean near La Push.

Sol Duc River, Washington State

Sol Duc River in Washington State serves as a vital coho salmon migration route.

©Robert Montgomery / Flickr – Original / License

Nisqually River

The Nisqually River is approximately 81-miles-long and located in west central Washington in the United States. It flows into the southern end of Puget Sound after draining a portion of the Cascade Range southeast of Tacoma, which includes Mount Rainier’s southern slope. In 1971, the Nisqually Delta National Natural Landmark was established for its exit.

Although the Nisqually tribe, after which it was called, also inhabited southern Puget Sound, the Nisqually River serves as their traditional territorial hub. The water in this convenient location is ideal for wading. 

The Nisqually River, which has a rocky bottom and is enveloped in woods, flows with beautiful, crystal-clear water. It is close to a playground with shaded picnic benches, public bathrooms, and a large expanse of green lawn, which is ideal for recreation.

Nisqually River in Washington State

The Nisqually River, which has a rocky bottom and is enveloped in woods, flows with beautiful, crystal-clear water.


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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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