Washington State Folk Song

"Roll On, Columbia, Roll On"

Written by Woody Guthrie

Adopted in 1987.

"Roll On, Columbia, Roll On" was adopted in 1987 because of the song's message and popularity.

Washington State Folk Song:
"Roll On, Columbia, Roll On

"Roll On, Columbia, Roll On"

Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
So roll on, Columbia, roll on.

Green Douglas firs where the waters cut through
Down her wild mountains and canyons she flew
Canadian Northwest to the oceans so blue
Roll on Columbia, roll on

Other great rivers add power to you
Yakima, Snake, and the Klickitat, too
Sandy Willamette and Hood River too
So roll on, Columbia, roll on

Tom Jefferson's vision would not let him rest
An empire he saw in the Pacific Northwest
Sent Lewis and Clark and they did the rest
So roll on, Columbia, roll on

It's there on your banks that we fought many a fight
Sheridan's boys in the blockhouse that night
They saw us in death but never in flight
So roll on Columbia, roll on

At Bonneville now there are ships in the locks
The waters have risen and cleared all the rocks
Shiploads of plenty will steam past the docks
So roll on, Columbia, roll on

And on up the river is Grand Coulee Dam
The mightiest thing ever built by a man
To run the great factories and water the land
So roll on, Columbia, roll on

These mighty men labored by day and by night
Matching their strength 'gainst the river's wild flight
Through rapids and falls, they won the hard fight
So roll on, Columbia, roll on

Origin of Folk Song: "Roll On, Columbia, Roll On"

In the early 1940s, the federal Bonneville Power Administration produced a movie encouraging rural residents in the Pacific Northwest to electrify their homes and farms with the power being generated by the newly-built Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams on the Columbia River. As part of the project, BPA hired folksinger Woody Guthrie at $270 for 30 days to write songs for the movie. Guthrie wrote 26 songs, the most popular of which was "Roll On, Columbia, Roll On", an ode to the harnessing of Washington's mightiest river. It was approved as the official Washington state folk song by the Legislature in 1987.

Washington Law

The law designating the folk song, "Roll On Columbia, Roll On," composed by Woody Guthrie as the official Washington state folk song is found in the Revised Code of Washington, Title 1, Chapter 1.20, Section 1.20.073.

Chapter 1.20 RCW
RCW 1.20.073
State folk song.
The legislature recognizes that winter recreational activities are part of the folk tradition of the state of Washington. Winter recreational activities serve to turn the darkness of a northwest winter into the dawn of renewed vitality. As the winter snows dissolve into the torrents of spring, the Columbia river is nourished. The Columbia river is the pride of the northwest and the unifying geographic element of the state. In order to celebrate the river which ties the winter recreation playground of snowcapped mountains and the Yakima, Snake, and the Klickitat rivers to the ocean so blue, the legislature declares that the official state folk song is "Roll On Columbia, Roll On," composed by Woody Guthrie.

[1987 c 526 § 4.]

State Songs
US State Songs
Forty-nine states of the United States (all except New Jersey) have one or more state songs, selected by the state legislature as a symbol of the state.