Sep 22, 2018 - National Geographic Quest
As the sun began to climb over the horizon, National Geographic Quest found herself pulling into port in Clarkston, Washington. At the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, this marks the end-point of the journey. It was fitting to arrive here as the sun began to sneak up over the hills behind the city, seeing how we had sailed over 460 river miles and through 8 locks to reach this port. It is because of those 8 locks and dams that this area – Clarkston’s twin city of Lewiston, to be exact – has the distinction of being the most inland ocean-going port on the West Coast.
Although we had found our destination, the adventures were not yet over. The guests had one last day of activities. This area is known for its jet boat industry and there was an opportunity to charge up-river on one of these fantastic vessels. Jet boats substitute the conventional propeller of most stern drive boats for a jet steam of water to launch them through the river. This allows the boats to cruise through water barely a foot deep and push through otherwise impassible rapids going upstream.
The chance to be a passenger on these aquatic-defying vessels was treat enough, but there was the added privilege of exploring Hell’s Canyon on the Snake River in this manner. This canyon is North America’s deepest river gorge. The rugged terrain is breathtaking as it explodes up on either side of the jetboat, climbing from river to sky. Fast-flowing rapids, columnar basalt, and flood shaped topography delight us at every turn. If a rugged and untamed landscape is not enough, the canyon also offers intimate wildlife viewing.
Around nearly every twist is another species to placate our curiosity. Mule deer and big horn sheep compete for our love of mammals while several birds of pry soar effortlessly on the thermals along the canyon rim. The river itself moves common mergansers and mallards along on their daily business while great blue herons stalk unsuspecting aquatic life.
As the Hell’s Canyon adventure draws to a close, and everyone reembarks the ship, there is yet one more surprise in store. A Nez Perce native joined us onboard to share his culture with us. JR told us stories passed down to him by his ancestors about this amazing land we found ourselves lucky enough to visit. He welcomed us into his home and showed us how special this land not only is now, but always has been.
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