From the National Geographic Sea Bird in the Pacific Northwest
Oct 29, 2012 - National Geographic Sea Bird
As dawn breaks, the doughty National Geographic Sea Bird enters the lock at Little Goose Dam, the first of three dams we are to transit today on our way down the Snake River. In the half-light the deck hands expertly throw a line onto the floating bollard as the bow-thruster is engaged to move our ship close alongside the lock wall. A small group of early-rising guests joined me on the bow to experience the lock transit. The gate behind us rises and water drains from the lock as we drop 100 feet to the level of the river below. Soon the downstream gates opens and we sail forth, on down the Snake River to its confluence with the Palouse. In the lower Palouse River we “drop the hook” and prepare for our morning adventures.
We take turns kayaking or cruising up the Palouse River by Zodiac and driving to Palouse Falls in a big, yellow school bus. On the river we keep an eye out for Mule Deer, Porcupines, Beavers, and birds. The Beaver eludes us, but we see their signs in the form of a lodge and bark-stripped branches. In a willow tree not far from the water a Porcupine gnaws bark from a branch, unperturbed by our presence. Ravens play on the wind rising over the cliffs and a Red-tailed Hawk hangs stationary just over the cliff edge until it suddenly stoops earthward toward some unsuspecting prey. At Palouse Falls we are amazed by the flood-ravaged canyon formed by the Ice Age Missoula Floods, and thrilled as the Palouse River plunges in a white torrent into dark green water 200 feet below. In the afternoon we sail downstream, arriving not long after sunset at the Snake’s confluence with the mighty Columbia, the Great River of the West. Off the stern, a full moon rises over the river.