Columbia River water feature at Vancouver Waterfront Park opens

Vancouver Parks and Recreation Department will maintain the water feature as it draws locals and visitors to enjoy the city’s waterfront for years to come

VANCOUVER — The highly anticipated Columbia River water feature at Vancouver Waterfront Park (695 Waterfront Way) officially opened to the public Friday.

Columbia River water feature at Vancouver Waterfront Park opens
The new Columbia River water feature at the Vancouver Waterfront Park is shown here. Photo courtesy of city of Vancouver

The interactive art installation was gifted to the city of Vancouver by City Council resolution on Mon., Aug. 5. The Vancouver Parks and Recreation Department will maintain the water feature as it draws locals and visitors to enjoy the city’s waterfront for years to come.

“I believe that carefully conceived environments can create places of meaning within communities,” said Larry Kirkland, the artist who designed the Columbia River water feature. “The best of public art can challenge, delight, educate and illuminate. But above all, it can celebrate the qualities that make each place unique and can create a sense of civic ownership. This pride of place is a building block for the future of these communities.”

Design and details

The Columbia River water feature journey begins with the monumental structure called Headwaters. This 12-foot tall and 16-foot wide stone and bronze monolith is oriented north and south to the adjacent Columbia River. 

The east face is a cast bronze bas relief map of the Columbia Basin. The northern Rocky Mountains, Cascades and Coastal mountain ranges and river valleys are rendered in high relief to be touched and traced by human hands.

Columbia River water feature at Vancouver Waterfront Park opens
Vancouver Parks & Recreation day campers play in the Columbia River water feature. Photo courtesy of city of Vancouver

The west face is an engraved stone with a topographic map of the origins of the Columbia, the “Great River of the West.” Water cascades down it in a variable flow, reflecting seasonal changes in the flow of the river. The one-inch deep river flows for 150 feet along a molded riverbed past variable-height stacks of textured granite representing each of the Columbia River’s tributaries. More water flows from between these rocks into the original river. The water is chlorinated and can be waded through and played in by visitors.

Facts about each of the tributaries are engraved on the dry side of each granite grouping. Intermingled with the factual text are quotes from literature that reference water and the flow of rivers. Combined, the facts and writings merge into a poetic and contemplative experience.

The $3.5 million project was paid for by private donors and foundations. They are recognized on the side of the Headwaters structure.

Information provided by city of Vancouver.

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