The Fraser drains a 220,000 km² area. Its source is just below Mount Edith Cavell, and for the first part of its course it runs northwest, past Mount Robson, reaching past 54° north before making a sharp turn to the south. At the town of Prince George it is joined by the Nechako River, then continues south and slightly east until just north of the United States border, passing through the Coast Mountains in a deep canyon. It then turns west, passing by Chilliwack and then forming a large delta where it empties into the Strait of Georgia between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The city of Vancouver, its suburb Burnaby, and other smaller towns all sit on the flat land of the delta. The river's volume at its mouth is 112 km³ each year, and it dumps 20 million tons of sediment into the Pacific.
The Fraser is heavily exploited by humans, especially in its lower reaches. Its banks are rich farmland, its water is used by pulp mills, and a few dams on some tributaries provide hydroelectric power. The main flow of the Fraser has never been dammed.