Skip to main content

Snake (river, United States)

Snake, river, 1,038 mi (1,670 km) long, NW United States, the chief tributary of the Columbia; once called the Lewis River. The Snake rises in NW Wyoming, in Yellowstone National Park, flows through Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, then S and W into Idaho and northwest to its junction with the Henrys Fork River. The combined stream runs southwest, then northwest, crossing southern Idaho through the Snake River plain; there are several notable falls. The Snake makes a bend into Oregon and turns north to form the Idaho-Oregon and Idaho-Washington lines (receiving several tributaries, including the Boise and Salmon rivers), then turns at Lewiston, Idaho (at the mouth of the Clearwater River), and flows generally west to join the Columbia River near Pasco, Wash. Hell's Canyon is the greatest of the Snake's many gorges and one of the deepest in the world. Extending c.125 mi (200 km) N along the Oregon-Idaho line, it reaches a maximum depth of c.7,900 ft (2,410 m).

The Snake was explored by the Lewis and Clark expedition (1803–6) and was of major importance in U.S. expansion into the Pacific Northwest. The river is a major source of electricity, having numerous hydroelectric power plants. The upper and middle courses of the Snake and its tributaries are much used for irrigation by private projects (one of the most notable being at Twin Falls) and by projects of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, including the Minidoka project, the Boise project, the Palisades project, and the Owyhee project. Four navigation and hydroelectric power projects along the lower Snake provide slack water navigation from the mouth of the Snake 140 mi (225 km) upstream to Lewiston, Idaho. The projects are linked with the navigation system on the Columbia River. The late 1990s brought efforts to restore portions of the river by removing gravel and establishing new islands.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Snake (river, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 14 Dec. 2018 <>.

"Snake (river, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 14, 2018).

"Snake (river, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 14, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.